Yesterday I chanced upon a post that was, on the whole, critical of Indie books and the writers thereof. The view of the writer was that most bloggers and Indie authors collude together to give misleading and glowing reviews of each other books and that the books in question are often not worthy of the reviews given. To be fair, this post also mentioned that the writer had read some good Indie books.
I found this post on Sally Cronin’s amazing blog, Smorgasbord. I salute Sally for sharing this post as she is an Indie author herself who writes the most amazing books. You can read Sally’s post and the comments thereon here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/09/13/smorgasbord-blogger-daily-wednesday-september-13th-2017-madelyn-griffith-haynie-janice-spina-and-the-non-smoking-lady-bug/?c=103230#comment-103230
I am prone to reflecting on things and the message in this post stayed in my mind overnight. Today I decided that I should share my views on Indie books, for what they are worth.
When I present to clients, regulators and even senior people within my own organisation, I find that it is useful to provide some background information about myself so that they can access whether what I have to say is worthy of their time and attention.
I have always been a reader. Not just a reader, but a huge reader. When I was four years old, with a little help from others, I taught myself to read and my book adventures started. My family moved frequently during my younger years and I have lived in over twenty houses and attended fourteen different schools. By the time I was nine years old I had worked my way through nearly all the children’s books in both the school and the local library. Even though we moved often, the books at all the schools and libraries tended to be the same so moving didn’t necessarily provide new reading opportunities.
When I was eleven, I started at a convent in the small town of George in the Western Cape. I had a wonderful teacher, Sister Agatha, and she started giving me books that were difficult to come by for a child growing up in South Africa in the 80’s. These books included The Diary of Anne Frank, I am David, Fattipuffs and Thinifers, Helter Skelter, Cry the Beloved Country and many, many more. By the time I was thirteen I had read all of my Mother’s books [in secret behind the couch] and had started reading Dickens and Shakespeare with a dictionary and a modern translation. What wonderful months those were as the delightful worlds of these amazing authors unfolded before my eyes.
I did particularly well in English and Accountancy at school and decided to train to be a chartered accountant. My personal circumstances lent themselves to my studying via a correspondence course at university and working part time rather than attending full time classes at university. I was given a full scholarship for my correspondence course by the university and some additional, fully paid, tuition at a private collage. I passed my degree with distinction within the normal three year period. I then started my articles at a well-known auditing firm and studied for my Honours degree part time. I passed my Honours degree that same year.
I now work in corporate finance and I do regulatory compliance work. This means that I guide clients on the application of company law, corporate governance and listings requirements. I am well know in my field and am considered to be an expert. I also have written seven publications and fourteen news articles on the African Capital Markets and have given significant input into the writing of certain regulatory guidelines.
The purpose of sharing this information with you is to highlight that I am a hard working, educated and well-read person who has been involved in publishing research documents and articles for many years.
How I came to be a reader of Indie books
When I had my little boys, I wanted them to share my love of reading and books. I have a massive collection of books but it didn’t take that long for me to have read every children’s book I own to my boys. They were introduced at an early age to The Famous Five, Secret Seven and every other book I could find written by Enid Blyton. I read them all the books that Sister Agatha introduced me to and some new ones such as When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. I read nursery rhymes, folk tales from around the world and fairy tales. We also read traditional tales from various African countries.
One day, there was nothing new left. I looked around and we found some wonderful modern books, Julia Donaldson’s books, the Winnie the Witch series and the Astrosaurs series. Oh, and I must not forget, the wonderful Humphrey the hamster series of books.
In my searching, however, I also came across some real duds. Books that, to me, advocated and held up as clever, rudeness, bad behaviour, laziness and insolence. These were all traditionally published books. The graphic novel wave hit and I investigated these – my shudder of horror at what I found says it all. Children picking their noses, snooping on neighbours, bunking school and bullying their peers; these were the new order of the day.
I had been dabbling in writing myself and had started a blog and it was through my blog that I first came across the concept of Indie authors. I was not familiar with the idea of self publishing. I started following lots of authors on my blog as the advice and information this community shares on their blogs amazed and helped me with my own writing. I gradually got to know a lot about each of the bloggers whose posts I read regularly and I learned about their books. Some of these bloggers wrote books for children or books that I thought I would like to read with and to my children.
A wonderful new door was opened to me on the day the first Indie book I ever read arrived. My boys and I have subsequently read many Indie books together including, inter alia, Notes from a Small Dog: Four legs on Two by Sue Vincent, Sam, a Shaggy Dog Story by Sally Cronin, Will ‘O the Wisp by C.S. Boyack and Polly’s Piralympics by Jann Weeratunga. I can tell you right here and now that there is no way I could get my son of eleven to read a book that he doesn’t like. Michael is a wonderful boy but he is, first and foremost a real boy, and reading does not feature very high on his to-do list. Michael loved all of these books and many others. The time we spend reading together has increased and my older son, Gregory, often pops in to listed to the stories too. Greg is also a big fan of Indie author Colin Garrow. I am going to mention here that Greg is also a very big reader and was part of the team that represented South Africa at the Kid’s Literature Quiz last year.
Indie books and me
About five years ago, I suffered modern book burn-out. I just could not get through any books that I purchased from a book shop. The books all seemed very similar and I could usually work out the entire plot by the time I was one-third of the way through the book. I stopped buying recent books and reverted to classical books. Over the course of a four year period I read my way through Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, The Scarlett Letter, A Journal of the Plague Year, all the Dickens books, all the Agatha Christie books, John Wyndhams books, War and Peace and a lot more.
At the same time I discovered Indie books for my boys, I also discovered them for myself. Indie books have rekindled my pleasure in reading modern books. I have rediscovered a world of unusual books and books about peoples lives. These books often make me feel as if I have climbed into the very skin of the characters and am walking at their side, feeling their emotions and thinking their thoughts. I have also found so many wonderful poets who blog and who have written books of poetry. I feel I have so much to thank the Indie author community for; their support and kindness but mainly for reigniting in me a love of reading that was slipping away.
One last thing, if you have managed to read this far, the little figurines at the top of this page, Hear No Evil, See No Evil and Say No Evil, were inspired by Teagan Geneviene and her lovely posts about Thistledown – Midsummer Bedlam. You can read the latest post here: https://teagansbooks.com/2017/09/08/thistledown-midsummer-bedlam-9/.
Robbie and Michael Cheadle are the co-authors of the Sir Chocolate Book series and Robbie Cheadle is the author of Silly Willy goes to Cape Town