Reading reviews for Training Season has been a bemusing and fascinating experience. There is, of course, no way to please all the people all the time, and what one reader likes another reader hates. It’s wild to watch many people declare a character real, perfect, amazing and say they’ve fallen in love with him, and then to see another person declare that character boring, badly drawn, or unbearable. At this point, the positive outweighs the negative, and I’m hopeful it stays that way, but, as I said, it’s been a wild ride.
Given that Training Season was in, or hovered around the edges of, Amazon’s Top Ten Gay Romances for over two weeks in December, I think that I must have done something right along the way. And one thing that I’ve been mulling over during all of this hoopla is reader expectations and how they seem to play into the reception of the book. Some readers are disappointed that ranching or skating doesn’t take front and center, though most seem fine with how both things are presented. The thing is, I did a ton more research on ranching and skating than reveals itself in the book itself. And there’s a reason for that.
See, the book was never about those things. Sure, I could’ve written a book about the ins and outs of figure skating, with a lot of competitions, and scenes of skating on the ice. I could’ve written a book about ranching, featuring thrilling moments of escaped or wounded cattle, encounters with dangerous wild animals, or life-or-death adventures on the range. Instead, I wrote a book about something else entirely.
I wrote a book about a romance and about a young man’s emotional growth. I suppose some readers who say this book is more of a coming of age novel, might have a point, though the romance being central definitely makes it a romance in my book. But the book was never about the world of figure skating, or the adventures of ranching. It was always about how a person falls in love, makes choices, processes loss and pain, and moves into a stronger, better place in his life.
There were points when I was writing when I felt like I could take the book in another direction, something more sports or more ranch, but when it came down to it, I realized the book I was really writing and stayed true to it. I think that’s part of why this book has been so surprisingly successful in the scheme of things. Not that readers don’t want books about sports or about ranching! But rather, I think readers want a story that it is told true all the way through, and if I’d wavered from the direction the characters originally set out in, I think the book would have been a failure.
Thank you to all the readers out there–every last one!–who have loved or hated it so far. Y’all are the best. Thank you for letting these characters into your life for even just a little while.