When Crying is Good

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It’s a strange thing to have written a book with the potential to make people cry. I knew it made me cry – I could hardly edit some sentences for the tears – but I had no real idea if when someone else read Not Thomas it would have the same effect on them.

Before it went to print, four authors read it and gave Honno, my publisher, some lovely endorsements to use on the cover and inside the book. All four authors said they found it sad, and some of them emailed me and told me it had made them cry. That was good news – maybe.

But what about readers that wanted a book for pleasure, rather than to ‘endorse’ it – what would they think when they read it? Would they find it sad? Too sad? I didn’t know what to think.

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Until the other week…

I was holding a signing event with early editions of my novel where a lovely person called Alli came along and bought herself a copy. I was amazed when she messaged me on twitter close to midnight that same day. ‘It was un-put-downable,’ she said. ‘I started crying at page 30 and didn’t stop until the end.’

The next day she wrote about her teary experience on her own blog, and eight other people who read her account bought a copy of the novel or downloaded the e-book. Wow! I was over the moon. That’s the kind of thing I’ve dreamt about: people getting to know about my book by word of mouth – or word of blog. Whichever, it was fabulous!

It was also really interesting to read the comments left on Alli’s blog. Some people were less than keen on a ‘sad’ book, while others were attracted to the idea of a good weep. And there were definitely more in the ‘crying’ camp.

It reminded me of a conversation I’d had with a former teaching colleague in June, when I first had my early copies of Not Thomas. I had taken some into school as gifts and was explaining the setting of the story – how Tomos has been removed from his lovely foster family and sent back to live with his mum; how she’s hiding a drug addiction and so she badly neglects him; and how the story is told from his five-year-old point of view.

And then I gave an apology. ‘It’s a bit of a weepy, I’m afraid. One reviewer said it should be printed on plastic paper so the reader’s tears don’t ruin the pages.’

‘Don’t apologise,’ the ex-colleague said. ‘That’s a bonus. Sometimes life is a pile of manure’ (I’m paraphrasing there) ‘but in real-life you can’t always let your guard down and have a good weep, so I love books that give me permission to cry. It’s a release – like weepy films.’

And she made perfect sense.

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Of course, we shouldn’t feel we have to hide our tears. It ought to be OK to have a cry whenever we want. But most of us are used to packing away the upsetting baggage and just carrying on with life. So maybe she was right – sometimes we do need to give ourselves permission to have a good weep.

Her comment forced me to think again about my own attitude to having written a ‘sad’ book. So now when I explain the set-up for Not Thomas and someone says: ‘Oh dear that sounds very sad’ I don’t apologise anymore. Instead I say, ‘It is a bit of a weepy, but there are some funny moments too. And reviewers have called it “ultimately uplifting”.’

At ‘ultimately uplifting’ the person I’m talking to usually sighs with relief.

And if they do decide to buy the book and dedicate five or six hours to reading it, I hope in that time their mouths will have smiled, as Tomos might say, even if their eyes have cried.

Thanks for reading!

What do you think? Do you like books that make you cry? Does it help to know a sad book is ‘ultimately uplifting’?

I’d love to know your thoughts,

Sara x

Sara’s debut novel Not Thomas is published by Honno Press in paperback and as an e-book, and is available to buy on Amazon.

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9 thoughts on “When Crying is Good

  1. Carol Lovekin

    I love a good sob! Our emotions are triggered by other things too – not only the sad aspects of a book. I do like to know a story is potentially ‘uplifting’ but that too can tug at the heart-strings. Let’s face it Wendy, you’ve written a weepy! And we love it! xXx

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I don’t normally cry at anything, but my partner cries when watching a sad movie. He’s even crying while watching ET!

    When I published my short story collection, I marked it as an adult/mature read because one of the stories in it is very gory. People thanked me for the warning and some even said they didn’t read the story because of the warning. I guess we could lose readers because of a warning, but I rather think it’s better to do that than get a bad review saying there was no warning.

    We should never be afraid of promoting our books, Sara. I think you’ve done the right thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have just finished reading your book, reading for the blog tour and I have to say, although a lump in my throat came up several times. I warmed to poor little innocent Thomas, I just wanted to scoop him up and give him a good home and a better fun life.
    [I have written my review]

    I found it a sad book to read, but also an uplifting book because of the way Thomas coped as a small boy. He shouldn’t have done all that, seen all that, been in all that, but in reality he was. How scared must have been.

    How insignificant he was meant to feel. Of course he didn’t have anything to compare his poor little life to, it was ‘normal’ for him.

    Its so rewarding when we see the teacher looking out for him [we know why too of course but not typing it here as it can spoil it for others ] that was a surprise for me.

    I have to say, if this is your first book, its a brilliant read and highly recommended

    Looking forward to the blog tour

    Like

    1. Thank you so much for your comments, Sue. Thank you for reading Not Thomas too, and for reviwing it. It’s my first novel for adults but I’ve been writing for children for a few years.

      I’m looking forward to your review on the blog tour. Thank you for taking part.

      Have a lovely weekend,
      Sara x

      Liked by 1 person

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