Some time ago, I was talking to a lady who politely explained why she declined to read any of my books. "After the one and only novel I ever read, I decided never to read fiction again."
"Was it that bad?"
"No, to the contrary, it was excellent. It was 'The Thorn Birds' by Colleen McCullough. I enjoyed it so much I decided no other novel could possibly come close. Since I'd read the best novel ever written, what would be the point in reading any others? It'd be a waste of time. I'm glad the only novel I ever read happened to be the world's best book."
My jaw must have hung slack for a moment. I tried to convince her that there is a wealth of wonderful stories out there which she'd surely love as much, if only she gave them a chance. I can understand 'book hangover', which is when we read such a good novel, we want to spend time savouring the characters in our heads and thoughts before we move on to anything new. I've often had it myself. I've never heard of it lasting 20+ years, as it has been for this lady. As I couldn't convince her, I assume her case might drag on for the rest of her life.
That surprised me enough to wonder how many others her reaction may apply to. Surely not many, I hoped. Yet I began to see less extreme variations of the same thing in others, even within my own family. My 14 year-old daughter, Emma, loves the comedian Tobuscus, aka Toby Turner. She has often been heard to say he must be the funniest guy alive. She has bought a Tobuscus jacket from overseas and had a Tobuscus pair of shoes designed by an artist she knows.
One day, soon after we moved into a nicer house than we'd lived in before, Emma's little brother, Blake, asked her, "If you had your choice, which would you pick? We could live in this great new house but Tobuscus never existed? Or we could still live cramped up in the old house and he does exist?" Kids ask weird questions.
Emma had to think about it. Even though she loved her more spacious new bedroom, she decided that living in the old house and being able to continue enjoying the comedy of Tobuscus would be her preferred option. I suggested to her that she was thinking like the 'Thorn Birds' lady. If Toby Turner didn't exist or she'd never heard of his comedy, she'd be none the wiser and there would surely be some other comic person she'd totally enjoy. Because the fact is, creativity is everywhere and it's sad when we limit ourselves to one person or outlet. God-inspired ideas are floating around and there are many creative people snatching them and crafting them into unique and fantastic offerings with the aid of their God-given imaginations.
I'd love to read all the books I possibly could, starting with the ones which appear on the widget of this blog by creative authors from around the globe. I've read some terrific novels and I'm sure there are many more destined to have me sighing and swooning over emotional roller coaster rides. I'm honoured when people tell me such things as, "I enjoyed all your contemporary novels but didn't think I'd enjoy your fantasy series, yet when I started it, I loved them just as much," or vice versa. Even when a particular genre may not be our cup of tea, there are others written by different authors that surely would be. Reading widely has always been one of my greatest hobbies.
I'm thankful that books are nothing like marriage. I know what I'd tell that 'Thorn Birds' lady if I had the chance to speak to her again. Choosing a novel to read is nothing like choosing a spouse. We don't have to make vows to remain true to them to the exclusion of all others. Such a covenant is not required because God has designed our brains to appreciate any number of stimulating stories. When I co-wrote "The Greenfield Legacy" with fellow Aussie authors, Meredith Resce, Rose Dee and Amanda Deed, we put a page about each of us at the back of the book. That is so readers may find out more about the diverse writing each of us has to offer. We're hoping they'll start there and branch out. I challenge us not to be the sort of readers who blindly stick to our favourite authors. I like to download kindle freebies. I've read a few dodgy ones that I'm happy to delete, but I've also come across some fantastic ones which I'm grateful not to have missed.
Paula Vince lives in South Australia with her family and homeschools her younger children. She writes contemporary romantic dramas set in her own picturesque Adelaide Hills, some of which have won awards. She believes nothing has the power to entertain and inspire as much as a well-written story with lovable characters. Visit her at www.paulavince.com.