To state or not to state

I don’t really set out to write with any particular age group in mind – well, perhaps not ‘kids’ as the language and occasional scenes might not be appropriate – mind you after being told to fuck off by a three year old when I had stopped to tie a shoe-lace outside his gate when I was last in the UK – maybe not . . .

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Anyway, I’ve just been told by someone in the ‘industry’ that it must be stated, categorised, pigeon-holed, marked out and carved in stone – what is the age of the reader? I don’t know. I really don’t. I’ve had readers of twenty through to eighty-five and many in between who all seem to chomp their way through the book and give hearty feedback.

I was greatly pleased to find this wonderful Will Self talking to Will Self ‘interview’ where, amongst other subjects he discusses this very thing and concludes that it is probably a mistake to alienate possible audiences though stating ‘reader age’.


I remember my mother raising an eyebrow when I was in the middle of reading Papillon when I was twelve and then notching the brow a tad higher when I came back with a copy of Sexus, ‘borrowed’ from the shelves where I used to babysit as a fourteen year-old. I don’t think it did me any harm, and how many ‘Oldies’ have I seen on trains reading Harry Potter and teen vampire stuff? I don’t suppose anyone envisaged such a readership crossover at the time of the initial editorial meetings.


The signpost

East, West, love, intrigue, crime: what does the cover need to say. Mmm, very difficult. I tried something that would put across in a fairly literal way, what the story is about. So . . . four characters in front of a view of London. Some kindly folks said ‘that’s nice’ some more frank characters including Mark, my husband, said ‘berk — very nasty, boring’ and other gut reaction words. End result, a painting of mine that I made a few years back, called ‘Lifemap’ which is fact about being in and leaving London. It possibly could lose out on the visual impact in some ways, especially when reduced to the size of a large-ish peanut on the internet, but it feels right.

What books have I picked up and got as far as the till with, on account of a cover. Not many.The only one I can think of off hand was ‘Keep the aspidistra flying’, it was just such a lovely painting of the said plant in a suitably shadowy front room. A cover might intrigue for a moment: turn the book over, scan the blurb then open the book and read the first few lines: is there an impulse to continue, or not. ‘It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. —George Orwell, 1984 (1949) — that’s a good one: read on . . .why were they?

Looking on the internet is a different process. The cover intrigues. You click and are invited to LOOK INSIDE, but for me anyway, there are things missing. The smell of ink, the feel of the pages, the type style used. I don’t actually buy books very often, (Mark compensating for that) but when I do, I wait for the bookshop. Preferably a small one without a chain coffee shop lurking in the corner.

Oh, I’ve just thought of another favourite cover. Will Self’s ‘Book of Dave’ Cleverly printed as if it has faded scumbled edges, in an aged pinky-red colour as if left on the back shelf of a car in the sun.                                                                                                  images

Looks rather more orange here

IMG_0052 Here’s mine, without the text yet.