Friday, June 20, 2008

My Favorite Reader

--- Lynn York

I am just back from my annual trip to the San Francisco Bay area where I visited my college friends Kathy and Bill Dorran. They have an amazing house on the side of a hill in Marin County. Kathy, a designer, has somehow transformed a fifties ranch into a California Mission with sweeping views of the bay. Kathy and Bill have guest rooms, and they love my kids.

And no, they cannot be your friends.

This year, they installed a hot tub—above their bank of lavender bushes, just to the right of their citrus trees. I was going to insert a photo here of Kathy and I sitting in the hot tub drinking wine, but it came out blurry. Imagine that. However, you get the idea—a week in paradise.

And no, I did not make any progress on my novel.

At least, I didn’t make the kind of progress that my nice editor, sitting at her desk in that stuffy East Coast office would like to see: I didn’t write a single page up there in the Dorran microclimate. However, I have returned to my desk this morning with something else—a renewed sense of what I am doing here. This happens to me every year after my visit because Kathy Dorran is my ideal reader.

Kathy does not get this label just because she is a fan of my books. She is, thank goodness. This year, she finished my latest novel, THE SWEET LIFE, just before I arrived. She spent most of the drive from the airport telling me in detail about all the little parts of it that she loved. “I could just picture that Delrina driving that big old tour bus,” she said. Then she teased my son about having a mother who could see into the mind of a 17 year old boy. Of course, I loved this.

In fact, Kathy’s comments are important to me not only because she is my friend, but because she is the very best kind of reader: she reads constantly, three to five books a week. She reads widely, from literary fiction to pulp thrillers. She has the jacket of a time-travel, Viking romance by Sandra Hill on her screensaver. She reads people who’ve never appeared on any best seller list, she searches beyond the front placement tables, she never reads reviews. Her favorite novel is Ann Pachett’s BEL CANTO. She bought this book not because it was a hit was with the critics, but because she first read THE MAGICIAN’S ASSISTANT and thought the book was marvelous. Once Kathy finds an author she likes, she goes out and purchases all of that person’s books. Be still my heart.

In the last year, Kathy has discovered and now does her chores listening to books. “I get so engrossed in a story that I find myself cleaning the TV remotes just so that I can listen until the end of a chapter,” she says. As an author, this is what I want to accomplish, this is why I am at my desk. I want readers like Kathy Dorran to grace my book with eight hours of her reading time. I want them cleaning their remotes. I want the Kathy Dorrans that I don’t know rushing out to buy everything I’ve written.

So, I’m writing this week. I’ve returned home determined to get that next book out on the shelf because, as Kathy told me last week, she’s waiting for it.

Lynn York is the author of The Piano Teacher (2004) and The Sweet Life (2007). She lives in Carrboro, NC. Her website is


A Good Blog Is Hard to Find said...

Ok, that would be Kathy and ME sitting in the hot tub (not Kathy and I). Let's chalk that up to jet lag. Lynn

A Good Blog Is Hard to Find said...

Lynn, there are lots of readers out there waiting for your next book. I know, because they're all the time coming up and asking me when you're going to have another book out. FG, baby! Pam