In a couple of hours I'll be heading into Derbyshire to meet a book group. I'm going at the invitation of two good friends of mine from university days (please don't ask how long ago that was.)
During 2007 and 2008, when I was making the documentary 'Yarn', I visited book groups all over the East Midlands, trying to find out what motivated people to take part. I discovered how much people like to talk about books. Even if the book was a complete dud (from their point of view) the discussion gave them great pleasure. I suspect for some people the discussion gave them greater pleasure if they hated the book because they could tear it to pieces (metaphorically speaking).
Happily for me, the groups weren't talking about anything I had written. But tonight I face a group who have just read my first novel, Backlash. Will they hate it? Some will, I'm sure. But others will probably enjoy it. Hopefully one or two may love it. We will see.
Belonging to a book group forces people to read outside their comfort zone. Inevitably they come across books they dislike, but also they make surprising discoveries. Unexpected gems.
As a novelist, my aim is not to write a book that 100% of people quite like. Such a book would never be published and would never be loved. My aim is to write a book that 20% of people adore with a passion. The rest may hate it or feel indifferent - it doesn't matter which. They are not the audience.