Catherine Fox, author of our impending Realms of Glory (published on the 20th of July) recently snuck into the Church of England's General Synod (essentially the Parliament of the Church) to sell some sneaky pre-release copies of the new book, and some very limited edition Lindchester mugs... (This post originally appeared on Catherine's own blog, and is used with permission)
Every novel has an implied reader. The tone of voice adopted by the narrative seems to betray that a certain kind of audience is expected. The book jacket sometimes reinforces this unsubtly, in the manner of a Yorkie Bar: NOT FOR GIRLS. A bold girl will read it anyway, and then find she has to navigate her way through the text's assumptions.
This was rather my experience as I read Thomas F Torrance's excellent Calvin's Doctrine of Man, recently. I try not to have unreasonable expectations about inclusive language in books written in the 50s. I'm prepared to inclusive the text as I go along, but it's hard work trying to map yourself onto a different implied reader for the length of a whole book. It's a bit like trying to use left-handed scissors if you're right handed.
I'm aware that the implied reader of my Lindchester books is Anglican. The trilogy is a bit of a love letter to the C of E, really. But now I stop to think, perhaps I was casting my net a bit wider after all? Maybe my readership is anyone who holds the C of E, or Englishness, or flawed human nature, in some kind of affection? A readership that broad would certainly be good news for my next royalty statement. I know there's a specialist subset of readers who plough on with my books not out of affection, but in order to be repeatedly affronted by the bad language and intrusive narrator. To them I say, Bless you. (In the passive aggressive Evangelical sense.)
Anyway, last Saturday I set out to hunt down my hard core readership in its lair. I visited the General Synod of the Church of England in York, where it was meeting for a mass punch-up over clergy vestments business. I was very well looked after by the Church House bookstall. One of the great things about doing a book signing at Synod, is that everyone is wearing a name tag. This removes at a stroke one of the author's signing nightmares: forgetting the name of a dear friend when inscribing the book for them. We have strategies, of course:
'Who shall I sign this for?'
'Oh, just me.'
This photo was taken sneakily by the Dean of Southwark. I forgive him, because it's rather a flattering shot. It looks as though I'm lit up by heavenly light, a split second before being staked from behind by an archangel with a light sabre.
You can just make out a mug as well. (Insert own joke here). This was one of the six limited edition 'I'D RATHER BE IN LINDCHESTER' mugs I had for sale. They were snapped up almost immediately. I will have more in due course. Would you like one? Bone china and very tasteful. £12 each.
So now you can buy the books, and sip your Monsooned Malabar coffee from your posh Lindchester mug while you read. You'll love it. G'wan, g'wan. There are those who complain that the Lindchester novels 'take cheap shots at Evangelicals'. This is a little harsh. I try very hard to play fair, and take cheap shots at everybody. All alike have the opportunity to be equally offended.