Compliments are the meat and bones of destruction. Were I to indulge them, the weight of even the smallest one would crush me eventually, yet were I to ignore them completely, I would dismiss their secret, though only occasional hidden value.
I’ve always been a vain man. I can’t help it. Well I can but I choose not to. However there are all kinds of vanity and I hope my particular route to self-examination, is of a kind that hurts no one but me. I am not vain in that I think myself special or beautiful, though there are many to whom I gladly offer that impression as a force field to my natural insecurity. That people might sometimes think I have cockiness or a sense of confidence and self-assurance does me no real harm. Those that know me or care to spend enough time with me to get to know me, will all know the truth of me.
I grew up with harsh realities as a child, in a different and difficult world. I was loved and taught well by those who loved me and as a result, I know that beauty is in the heart and on the lips of a smile, not in a mirror. I say I’m vain I guess, in that I care about my appearance, have standards and try my best to be well presented to the world. My vanity does not lie in a belief that I carry any beauty except if I’m lucky, in my soul. That I can’t see, when I look at this increasingly craggy face each morning.
So when I write my books, it is a challenge not to slip into something akin to false modesty or worse still, into self-loathing. It is very hard to offer up your soul on a page and not be hurt by criticism and likewise not to have your head turned by flattery. I have looked back for the first time really, at all my reviews for Darkly Wood in an effort to come to a connection for my prologue to its sequel. Reading them all at once is quite a shock.
To be compared to Alfred Hitchcock, Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, Dennis Wheatley, Howard Lovecroft, Lewis Carroll and Charles Dickens is all very well, but one could easily be mistaken and believe that in just receiving such compliments they must in some part be true. It is pride that blinds and modesty that acts as a blindfold, so wherein lays the truth?
That is not to say I don’t take a moment to smile when I first read them. Indeed why not you might ask? But the devil is in transition from smile to acceptance or denial. I am a big fan of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, I love the works of Poe and grew up on Hitchcock so it would be the easiest thing in the world to indulge myself in such praise. My particular favourite is a reference to a lesser known Irish writer, Sheridan Le Fanu as I grew up within sight of the house in which he lived, on a street named after him. Stephen King, Grimm’s fairy tales, Hans Christian Anderson are all referenced in my reviews somewhere for this strange book that I have written and when I look at my other book reviews, I find a similar pattern, Frank Mc Court for Little Big Boy for example, Stephen King for Bad Blood and a comparison to the wonderful TV Series Love Hate for Larry Flynn. But of course there it is. In considering these comparisons I see the truth.
Here we have readers trying to express to other readers what they like or dislike about my books. Darkly Wood in particular is a book like no other. I find it hard to describe so how do readers cope? Reviewers have simply used familiar reference points, landmarks if you will to guide others to understand some hint of what to expect. I am no literary mastermind it seems, just another Indie author doing my best and fortunately not getting carried away by an occasional snippet of high praise.
I am fortunate to understand this particular piece of wisdom, that many compliments are no more than spider webs to entrap you. The more you get excited by them, the tighter they ensnare you. It should be a lesson for all of us I guess. As a writer I get openly praised and critiqued, so it is vital to take both with an equal measure of common sense. The trap of the compliment can be the bait of the criticism.
While I never plagiarise, I do quite intentionally pay homage to many writers, indeed I have carefully interwoven quite a few in my books. Joseph Conrad, Antoinne Du St Expury, Bram Stoker and Sheridan Le Fanu for sure, Harper Lee, John Steinbeck, Dahl, Hemmingway and even George Elliot and Shakespeare among others. However, my little personal tributes are nothing more that, homage as I said and I suspect most people will never even notice my own secret compliments paid to the writers I love in my own very personal way. But if you find yourself reading a Max Power book then go on…I dare you to find them…
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Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Larry Flynn Bad Blood and Little Big Boy
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