Over the years I have received countless communications from my readers expressing their appreciation for my work. Some of the loveliest letters I've ever had have come from my Young Adult readers. Responding to readers letters and emails is one of the nicest aspects of my job and I do read them all. One theme comes up time and again and readers often say the same thing in their letters;
"I feel as if I know you; as if you are my friend".
I believe that the reason for this consistent reader response, which spans over a decade of writing, is that I write with integrity and I am very honest in my work. This has always been the case since the very beginning of my career. Partly it's because I'm a Yorkshire lass and we are known to just tell it like it is, no sugar-coating. It is also due to the fact that I have never tried to mislead readers in any way. The very last thing I want is for my readers to believe that my life is perfect...that everything just comes so easily to me...that I have never had to work for my success or that I have never suffered loss, disappointment and so on.
I personally write every word of my books, songs, features, columns etc. I am not told what to write by editors...I decide what to write and what topics I am going to cover. I decide which magazine a piece would be best suited to and I submit accordingly. Subject matter is largely based around my own life and what I might be dealing with at any given time. The daily grind can often be very inspirational. It is clear to readers, particularly on my blog and on Twitter, when I am having a bad day, when I'm feeling frustrated and angry or happy and excited. My work is a vital part of me and a piece of me goes into everything I write - including sometimes the bad moods and PMS rants!
Readers might not realize it, but a book or piece of writing is simply a moment in time in the writer's life. I believe that every book is influenced by what the writer was experiencing at the time of writing it. If I were to rewrite my books now, they would probably be very different, because I have grown as a writer and as a person. Although a book has a longevity far beyond the year it was written, usually by the time it is first published the author has already moved on. It's great that the book is out there, inspiring and entertaining people for many years - that is it's purpose and writers love to know their work is being read and enjoyed, hopefully for many years to come. But to the author, it is a project that was completed years ago and there are new projects to concentrate on, new goals to achieve and work towards. To remain consistently published a writer must consistently create new material.
Writing with integrity is the key to touching your reader and creating a connection. Readers are quick to pick up on dishonesty and they will feel cheated by you as an author if your work lacks truth. If your book is ghost written - say so. If you have used a professional researcher, or you had a publisher's writer working alongside you - own up to it. It will be discovered anyway at some stage, so you might as well be honest from the beginning.
Taking all the credit for someone else's work is childish. Trying to get ahead on the back of someone else's success is underhand. This is why piggy-backing just doesn't work - because it is dishonest and underhand. The publishing industry is unlikely to publish someone who tries to make use of another writer's track record in order to force their foot in through the back door. Why would they commission the Copy-Cat when they are already working with the Original? Piggy-backing demonstrates a lack of integrity and integrity is vital if you want to be a successful writer.
Readers enjoy the work of truthful authors. Take the 'Misery Memoir' genre as an example; while I am personally not a fan of such books, it has become a very successful sub-genre. These books are marketed as honest accounts of courage in adversity; of victims who survive very traumatic circumstances and win through in the end. The material might not be everyone's cup of tea; it might make for a rather depressing read at times; but the uncomfortable truth related with integrity is what draws the reader in, thus making misery commercial. Sadness is part of the human condition, an emotion each of us has experienced, something we can all relate to and the publishing industry are quick to market it!
The old writer's adage states "Write what you know". I would go further and say "Write what you know to be true, based on your own personal life experience". Don't try to emulate other books; don't try to copy other authors and writers. Write from your own well of experience, with an honest pen...
Write with integrity