Rereading a book

Anne here, and today I’m talking about rereading my own books. I’m doing copyedits of my newest book (The Secret Daughter) at the moment. That means going through the manuscript with a fine-tooth comb, looking at where the copyeditor has flagged a problem or a question and deciding what to do with each little thing.

Mainly it’s to do with deleting commas, correcting spelling where I’ve used the English/Australian spelling instead of US spelling, and the occasional repetition of a word that the copyeditor thinks might jar on readers. It’s generally the same word used in one paragraph, or perhaps two consecutive ones. Sometimes I change the word but in other cases I want it there for emphasis.

And sometimes they flag a glitch where I have confused the reader, or changed some character’s eye color, or even name. Copy editors are very nit-picky, and I’m grateful for that, as I want my books to be as error-free as we can make it. But I can only do an hour or so at a time, as that very nit-pickiness also does my head in.

After that’s all done, and the editor has approved the changes I’ve made, it will be laid out in book format, and then go to a proofreader — and back to me for a final check. Reading through the final proofs of a book is usually the last time I read the book. Once it’s published I don’t touch it again, I think because I worry that I’ll spot something terrible or want to change something.

At the moment, because the book that’s being copyedited is the last book in the contract, and the end of the Brides of Bellaire Gardens series, I’m working on a sequel to an older series of mine in my spare time, a series that I finished in 2011 — The Devil Riders. I’ve had hundreds of people writing to ask for it. (Yes, I’m writing Marcus’s story.)

But to do that, I need to refresh my memory of the nuts and bolts of that series — minor characters, places, things Marcus said, and did, etc. and having no access to my old notes, which were on a much older computer, I’m having to buy and read the other books in that series to refresh my memory.

I’ve only read one so far — To Catch a Bride — and far from it being a cringeworthy experience, I found to my surprise I really enjoyed it. And because it’s more than a decade since I wrote it, I discovered things about my writing process that I’d never really noticed. It also aroused a few memories of things that must have been in my mind and life at the time.

For instance, people often ask me whether I base my characters on real people, and I’ve always said no. Trying to use real people gets in the way of character creation, I find.  But though I don’t use real people for characters, I do sometimes pinch people’s surnames, mainly for minor characters, and I did it quite a lot in this book. There was a Rev. and Mrs Payne — my niece, who’s a churchgoer, though neither she nor her husband is a minister. There’s a character called Ferris — my old geography teacher, another was a Mrs. Todd — named after the mother of a writing friend of mine. And a whole slew of sailors were named after kids I’d taught — it was a multicultural crew so I needed Arabic, Greek and Italian names, and so I appropriated a few surnames. They were nice kids, too, so there was no agenda, just a useful name. I never name a villain after anyone I know.

In the story, the heroine had to leave her beloved elderly cat behind with friends, and she was sad, so the hero bought her a kitten that would adapt better to travel on a ship and ride in carriages and be in a cage for some of the time. (It was an Egyptian Mau kitten — they look like little leopards or tigers.) Cleo being an adventurous kitten, the heroine worried it might fall overboard, so one of the sailors makes the kitten a little harness and a long lead.

This is how the kitten reacted:

         For the rest of the day the entertainment was in watching Cleo fight her harness. She fought it, rolling and growling and getting mightily tangled. She tried to run away from it and turned around spitting furiously when it followed. She resisted it, planting paws and bottom firmly on the deck and refusing to budge when Ayisha tried to lead her. “It’s like taking a loaf of bread for a walk.” Ayisha laughed.

That scene was clearly inspired by my Chloe-dog when as a small, stubborn puppy, she first encountered a collar and lead. It was exactly like taking a loaf of bread for a walk, but until I read the scene above, I’d forgotten about Chloe’s issues with her lead. As you can see in this pic — she wasn’t too impressed.

So this reread turned out to be a treat, instead of a chore. And you know what? While I was reading it, FaceBook showed me this old post, which I’d quite forgotten about. And which thrilled me all over again.

And now my question for you: Do you like reading books that have animal scenes in them? Do you have a favorite? And do you prefer stories with cats, dogs or other creatures?

22 thoughts on “Rereading a book”

  1. I only recently read this series and it was fab. And so I think your early books have definitely stood the test of time. I am very much looking forward to another instalment. The fact you had to buy copies of something you had written made me laugh! Animals are a great point of lightheartedness in books and so always a good thing for me. Possibly Lufra in Georgette here’s Frederica might be a stand out

    • Thanks for your kind comment, Alice. I hope the new installment pleases you — but it’s early days yet. I have to write it in my spare time.
      I bought the book as these days I prefer to read on kindle. The small print in books makes my eyes ache. And yes Lufra is wonderful — how can anyone not love a Baluchistan Hound/

  2. Not sure I have all the books from THE DEVIL RIDERS series – I don’t remember Marcus. I’m on a mission now (smile).

    I do enjoy stories with animals and my all time favorite author for including animals in stories is Barbara Metzger. Her stories almost always include an animal or two. Of those, my all time favorite is A LOYAL COMPANION. In that book, Fitz the dog offers narration at the beginning of each chapter. Fantastical but entertaining.

    Looking forward to THE SECRET DAUGHTER too.

    • Thanks, Mary. Marcus was the oldest of the Renfew brothers — the Earl of Alveleigh. When I dreamed up that series, he was supposed to be a distant, slightly villainous character, but over the series he emerged as a possible hero, and lots of people have written to me asking for his story. I explained it here:
      Yes, Barbara Metzger’s books and animals in them are very popular, aren’t they?

  3. Amazon is telling me The Stolen Princess is the first in the series, and since it’s the only one I don’t seem to own, I just ordered it😍 I always love an animal (or more) in a book, but I think it’s because I, probably like many of your readers, can’t imagine life without an animal (or two, or three . . !) My life-long love affair with reading was no doubt cemented by my innumerable readings of The Little Princess, and the monkey was an integral part of that story. And then, of course, there’s always Reepicheep . . .

    • Thank you Meg. I loved the Little Princess as a kid, read it so many times. It probably helped make me a lifelong reader, too.
      And yes, when I get home after being away, the house seems so empty without my dog, until I pick her up from the kennels. I’ve always had at least one animal, often more, all my life. When I was a child we had a couple of dogs, a cat, a cockatoo, and I often had a lamb to raise, and a few times a rabbit.

  4. I am a pet lover. And in a book it could be either a dog or a cat – or a cat or a dog – or pretty much any furry critter. In fact, reptiles are ok as long as it is not a snake ( sorry but I have my limits). Like the comment above, I am a fan of Barbara Metzger because she always makes me laugh and there are pets as well.

    And when it comes to rereading – I have been packing books for my move and there are some which are going away. But, there are many which I hope to reread because they gave me joy. I will probably be gone before I get the chance to reread all of them, but I will give it a try.

    As always, I thank you for your post. It is sad that you could not find a friend to loan you the book so you would not have to purchase it. You could have asked me, I mean how far is Texas – soon to be Arizona – from the South Pacific?

    Take care and thanks again for the interesting post.

    • Thanks, Annette. I’m with you in the ‘no snakes please’ group — except that when I was a child, my grandfather’s friend had a big old carpet snake that I petted a few times. He was warm, and his patented skin was so beautiful. But I wouldn’t want one in the house, that’s for sure.
      Hugs on the packing up getting ready to move. It’s such a hard thing to do, and having to cull books and possessions is even harder.
      Thanks for the offer of the loan of the book. I do have the paperback, but the print is small and my eyes are tired by the end of the day after working on computer most of the day, so it’s easier to read in my kindle, where I can enlarge the print.

  5. What a fun post, Anne. I can identify with your disinclination to read one of your past books as, after sweating over every word, comma, and table in many proofreads of my thesis, I feared seeing what I might have overlooked. Like Alice above, I was amused that you had to buy copies of your own book!
    Yes, I do like animal scenes in books. And, I favor no animal in particular. A fun series if you ever read to children (five and up) is Hank the Cowdog which is narrated by the title character.

    • I’ll second Hank the Cowdog, Kareni – I have very fond memories of listening to my brother-in-law read those books to his 2 boys one vacation at the beach, when it rained every day!

    • Kareni, yes, that’s it exactly — “sweating over every word, comma, and table . . . I feared seeing what I might have overlooked.” And as I explained to Alice, it’s easier for me to read on kindle these days.
      I don’t know Hank the Cowdog — might have to investigate.

  6. Having recently re-read the Devil Riders series, Anne, I am even happier to hear that we’ll finally have Marcus’s story – he needs a very special someone! No pressure! 😉 And that series features the 3 animals I like best in romances: cats, dogs and horses. I fear trying to choose one would require even more re-reading, so I’ll defer to others.

    • Thank you, Constance. We’ll see whether Marcus’s bride is special enough. I’ve had her in my head for years.
      And yes to cats, dogs and horses in books. I never can choose just one favorite of anything. In the Enid Blyton series I read often as child, there was almost always at least special animal character in the stories and I loved them for that.

  7. Now I’ll have to reread the Devil Riders series to refresh my memory on who Marcus is!
    I’ve read a lot of books with great dog characters, but what comes to mind immediately is my favorite cat character, Manegold. I’ve probably mentioned him here before. He’s in “Once Upon a Christmas” by Diane Farr.

    • Thanks, Karin. There’s a little more about Marcus and why I didn’t write his book here:

      And thank you for the mention of Diane Farr’s book — I don’t have it, but I like Diane’s regencies. She and I were both RITA finalists for Best First Book, and I met her when we both attended the RWAmerica conference that year. I’ve just bought “Once Upon a Christmas.”

  8. I like animals in stories. Timmy from the Famous Five was my favourite book dog when growing up. Like Alice above, I too enjoyed Lufra’s antics in Frederica.

    • Thanks, Teresa — yes, I loved Timmy too. And in Enid Blyton’s “Adventure” stories there was Kiki the cockatoo who was hilarious, and another character _ Phillip? — who had a strange attraction for all kinds of animals. And yes, I think a few of us here are fans of the Baluchistan Hound. I would also put in a vote for Ulysses.

  9. As you know, Anne, I’m a fan of animals in books. While I’m heavily cat-centric, I’ve had dogs on occasion when they were a better fit because dogs are wonderful too. Is it a sign of narcissism that I’ve enjoyed reading my old books? While they could all use some tweaks and tightening, I find that I still like the characters and story lines, for which I’m grateful!

    • Not narcissistic at all, Mary Jo. I think we’re lucky in that historicals don’t age in the way that contemporaries do. And I often reread your books and find fresh enjoyment every time.
      And yes, probably my book could have been tightened a bit — tastes have changed in regard to setting and other descriptions — but since I wasn’t reading it to edit it, just for connections to my new story, I didn’t notice anything that made me want to rewrite/cut/edit it.

  10. I am so glad to hear that Marcus will get his story. I liked him and hoped you had a book for him – even just a little novella. (I have a brother by that name.) I think I have all your books in paper and often re-read a series. When Marcus is ready – I will read his series first then enjoy his story.
    I understand that once the book has been written, checked over and over before going to others who review and edit, then back to the author. By that time, I would be happy to see the last of it and know that others are reading it and I hope the love it. I am not a writer at all but can empathize.
    As for animals in a story – sure as long as they are looked after well. I often wonder who is looking after their pet when they go off on a trip with no mention of who is caring for the animal.

    • Thanks, Margot. I’m not sure how long Marcus’s story will be — I’m just writing it and letting it be as long as it needs to be. I will cross the “length” issue once it’s finished.
      As for who is looking after the animal when the owner is away — yes indeed. I loved that in Heyer’s Arabella, the dog Ulysses pined so badly when his master was away that the staff who had been looking after him were panicking. The very fancy French chef was even cooking the dog special meals to tempt his appetite.


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