As an active and voracious reader, one of the very little delights I have is the anticipation of a new book by a favorite author. Waiting impatiently for the release is a harrowing ordeal; I must avoid previews at all costs because as a reader I fall into the category of “finish the book in one sitting.” So reading a preview doesn’t just whet my appetite—it makes me mad. And I don’t want to get too mad, because then I start to imagine what the book is really going to be like, including the plot and the characters and I almost finish it in my head. So when I get the book, I’m very disappointed with either the déjà vu of the unfolding or it’s nothing like I imagined. I know many readers who never read an excerpt; my reason is I can’t stand the suspense of knowing I may never get to find the book. I will read an excerpt if I have the next book ready to read in my hand or my e-reader. Some say it’s strange that I can start a series mid-book, but I think people who read excerpts and then patiently wait for years are the weird ones.
Another growing phenomenon, the reading of passages, has been adopted by romance authors from the science fiction and fantasy authors. I usually never attend the reading, not because I don’t want to hear the author’s voice reading the rest of their books forever in my head unless I feel the pressure to do so by a friend. Because for me a reading is an ordeal akin to listening to an audio book. My first exposure to this torture was Lois McMaster Bujold reading at a small gathering in Austin, Tex. I was so excited until I realized she was reading a passage from a book NOT FINISHED. Do you realize how long it was going to be before I could read the rest? Was this some kind of reader tease-torture? First, I have no say over what is being read. I may be a control freak, but sometimes I like skipping parts. You know, the boring bits, and for each book there are boring bits, let’s be honest here. On the other hand, as a re-reader, I love to discover little gems I may have missed the first time around. Then it’s the length of the excerpt being read. If I am really getting into the story, then leaving me with a cliff hanger is tantamount to torture. Not particularly bad if I can then go and BUY the book, but if it’s a work in progress which I have to wait months or years for the author to finish, I am not happy. And we want readers to be happy, right? So I learned to stay far far away from authors reading from their works.
So let’s say this is a normally published book, and I have it in my hands, and I’m reading along with very few boring bits and have a free night with nothing pressing to do the next day—it’s a night just for reading, or a lazy Sunday afternoon. I sit in my favorite reading chair, everyone can tell I’m not to be disturbed, and I start to read. The boring bits are few, the enchanting passages of prose make me pause and re-read to savor the plot twists delightfully and if it’s a paper book, the ratio of read to unread pages is still in the favor of unread. I’m happy. But as the number of pages left to read shrink in heft, I begin to get anxious. And the reader anxiety grows with each chapter’s twists and turns, the building resolution almost in hand but not quite. Re-reading is left behind as I rush to finish and sometimes, about two chapters from the end, I can’t stand it anymore and I pause. It might be akin to taking a deep breath. I usually get up from my cocoon and answer nature’s call, or get a drink. But I spend a few minutes thinking about the story. The characters are familiar now and I may cluck over their stupidities or exult in their successes. I feel part of their universe. Then it’s back to settle in for the last chapter of reading. And this is when the remorse strikes.
The knowledge is tough that only a few pages remain of what has been a wondrous time, a time I’ll never ever be able to recapture no matter how many times I re-read the book, the thrill of the roller coaster of the plot, the peeling of the character’s life, learning their hopes and desires, their triumphs and mistakes. And reading slows down because I’m in the midst of remorse. I know on one hand the book is almost done, but on the other hand I want to know what happens next. So I push on. And trust me, this is NOT the time to interrupt me. Fortunately, over the years of reading, I have trained the people around me to read the signs, and only new strangers have the nerve to interrupt. Perhaps it’s why I like to start reading in the evening when work is done and I have a whole night to finish a book. Because no one would call or stop me in any way, except maybe a canine needing a quick rub, or to be let out. But I digress. Now I come to the decision point. Do I finish in a rush to grab my well-deserved conclusion or do I really draw it out? You know, go back and read a favorite passage, double-check a section I didn’t quite understand in the first reading, or wallow in some scene that tugs at my soft heart. But being short on time and temper, I usually rush through the ending to get my well-deserved dessert.
Point in hand, I have Wolf With Benefits by Shelly Laurenston. I’m on the last chapter. I’ve been on the last chapter for two nights now. I don’t want to finish because I know she writes two series and only one book per series each year. My estimated wait on the next book is a year. A YEAR! Sure, she might toss me a short story if I’m good (which I usually am) but she’s a tease—the short story is NEVER enough. So I’m savoring by re-reading some of the parts of Wolf, postponing the inevitable ending, which I know will be satisfactory because I trust Laurenston. We’re pals. And I don’t want to face reader’s remorse. But it’s coming and when it does I’ll be sad.
Sometimes even devastated. The story is finished. The author is rude because they write slow. Publishing takes time. What seems to be an eternity stretches before me. Life returns with a passion. I’m usually tired or too excited to sleep. So I face a dilemma: start another book, never good if I’ve been on a marathon and time is short, or face a sleepless night while I replay the book in my head. Ah, reader’s remorse sets in with a vengeance. Sigh. I should have waited to finish. Surely I could have finished the next day. I read too fast; I should have slowed down. I should have savored it more. Because it’s done. I remember finishing The Witness by Nora Roberts last year (in paperback in April) and felt my world coming to an abrupt halt. I wanted more even after the triple double-crossing conclusion, which is almost a worse tease than an excerpt because I have no control not to read the epilogue. It’s the ending of a book.
I love reader’s remorse. What about you? Do you postpone the finish of a book because you just don’t want to let go? Or are you a steady plodder? I’m always curious to hear about reader’s habits when they read a book they’ve waited for a long time to read.
Sara Reyes is the founder and partner at FreshFiction.com a popular fiction web site for today's reader with new titles, contests, over 50,000 genre fiction author profiles with backlists, and permanently archived reviews, plus all the industry buzz. Fresh Fiction has a biweekly segment (Buy the Book) on WFAA Channel 8 Good Morning Texas to talk about new books not to miss. Believing face-to-face interaction is as important as virtual communities, Fresh Fiction sponsors an annual readers conference, monthly literary events, and book clubs. Join us in February for our inaugural YA Reader luncheon with Rachel Caine and other best-selling young adult authors. It's an adventure worth taking. Follow Sara at @FreshFiction on Twitter or Facebook.com/FreshFiction.