Thursday, September 04, 2008

Thursday Talk-Time - Dedications

Natasha's back and she's been shopping already! And she's talking about book dedications ...

I've sinned! I have mentioned my Amazon habit here, haven't I? Hmm, well there I was happily shuffling my 'want' list and I inadvertantly clicked the 'buy now with 1-click' option and the deed was done. I'm about to become the proud owner of Bloomsbury's 'Dictionary of Dedications'. Just the thing for reading in a hot bubble bath I thought.

It all began when my 'Wanted: White Wedding' got a wonderful 5 star review on Amazon. It's still there if you want to read it. And, at the bottom of it is this, 'The author notes and dedication are very heart-moving too. Don't skip them. A powerful romance all the way around!'.

Apart from being a lovely review to read, it started me thinking. I never really bothered to read the dedications in books until I had to start thinking about dedicating mine. It's a tricky business dedicating books and I have to confess I'm rubbish at it. Sometimes I haven't dedicated them to anyone. I think it must be the Brit in me. Those wonderfully gushing dedications other authors seem to manage so effortlessly feel yukky when I try it.

My RITA nominated book, 'The Tycoon's Princess Bride' I dedicated to our very own 'Trish, Ally and Nic' because they didn't laugh too much during my hours of MSNing 'B-b-but WHY would Princess Isabella go to Mont Avellana?????' Not that they were particularly helpful either, may I say! They seemed to feel it was my problem and my own fault for agreeing to write an editor led continuity.

'Wanted: White Wedding' I dedicated to my editor, Jenny Hutton, and I could have been very much more effusive without any effort at all. That book was a tough write for all kinds of non-writerly reasons. My mum was dying from ovarian cancer and I'd moved back to 'home' to care for her during its creation. Without Jenny's support and encouragement I may well have disappeared under my duvet never to reappear. So, when she asked me who I wanted to dedicate my book to the answer was obvious. But ... did I expect anyone would notice??? No. I can't say I did.

It turns out, though, that dedications can be as fascinating as wills - and just as illuminating. In the beginning they weren't 'personal'. More a showcase for how absolutely necessary it was for an author to flatter the rich and famous.

The one in the King James Bible, for example, begins:
'Great and manifold were the blessings, most dread Sovereign, which Almighty God, the father of all mercies, bestowed upon the people of England, when first he sent Your Majesty's Royal Person to rule and reign over us .... ' And it goes on ... and on .... and on.

Jane Austen dedicated 'Emma' to the Prince Regent, not because she wished to, but because the prince's circle let it be known that George would 'appreciate' a dedication. She reluctantly did her best but her words were changed by her publishers into something more gushing.

These days you can dedicate your books to anything or anyone.

Some authors dedicate all their books to the same person - as in, 'For Steve'. It's a bit dull, perhaps, but quite lovely if you think that must mean the author is still in love with her 'Steve' as the years pass. Other authors give you a glimpse of more traumatic private lives. 'For Laura, with my love' becomes 'For Claire', 'For Rebecca' ... You get the picture? And, being the person I am, I sooooooo want to know what has happened to Laura!

Of course, if you are Graham Greene and that happens you change the dedication. His 1936 'Journey Without Maps' was dedicated, 'To my wife: 'I carry you like a passport everywhere.' ' Later editions had, 'To my cousin Barbara Strachwitz.'

When the dedication is to a partner there's often a kind of apology - 'To John, without whose help this book could not have been written'. Apparently one American writer dedicated his book to his wife and family, 'but for whom it would have been finished in half the time' which is kinda fun and much more appropriate for me. Must nick that some time.

I love the one from 'The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe':
My dear Lucy,
I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it. I shall probably be too deaf to hear, and too old to understand a word you say, but I shall still be
your affectionate Godfather,

Shannon Hale's in 'Austenland' - 'For Colin Firth--You're a really great guy, but I'm married, so I think we should just be friends.' is fun.

Then there's Ellen Wittlinger's in 'Hard Love': 'For Kate and Morgan and for everyone whose first love was a hard love.' And Charles de Lint's in 'The Onion Girl' 'For all those who against all odds made the right choice.'

I'm beginning to really look forward to my new book arriving!

One of the most pompous dedications I've ever read appeared in one of my school set texts. Ford Maddox Ford in 'The Good Soldier' wrote: 'My dear Stella, I have always regarded this as my best book - at any rate as the best book of mine of a pre-war period; and between its writing and the appearance of my next novel nearly 10 years have elapsed, so that whatever I may have since written may be regarded as the work of a different man - as the work of your man. For it is certain that without the incentive to live that you offered me I should scarcely have survived the war-period and it is more certain still that without your spurring me again to write it I should never have written it again. And it happens that, by a queer chance, The Good Soldier is almost alone amongst my books in being dedicated to no-one: Fate must have elected to let it wait the 10 years that it waited - for this dedication ... And so I subscribe myself in all truth and in the hope that you will accept at once the particular dedication of this book and the general dedication of this edition. Your FMF.'

Sadly, Stella Bowen was pretty soon out of her FMF's affections. Perhaps she read that dedication and ran?????

Anyway, here's my question - Do you read dedications? And if you do, do you ever imagine what the story behind them might be? Have you a favourite one? And, finally, who would get your dedication?

Much love

Natasha's latest Harlequin Romance 'Wanted: White Wedding' is available in the UK here and in NA here!

Romantic Times Magazine says: 'Natasha Oakley's Wanted: White Wedding (4.5) has its share of deeply touching moments, but what makes it stand out are the humor and the wonderful characters.'

You can find out more about it on her website and you can hear her moan about 'life, the universe and everything' if you visit her blog.


  1. I love reading the dedications! I have a friend who reads them because she says, "it makes me feel I'm given an insight into the author's private life" (do I need to say she's an aspiring writer?)
    I've dedicated all my own books with one exception. My book on Sexually Transmitted Infections posed a problem. Who should I dedicate that one to? Erm...I thought it might cause a problem, so I left that page blank!

  2. Dedications and acknowldgements are the first thing I read, and absolutely adore them! Especially so in a work of fiction, it's the author speaking directly I like to think - rather than through an imagined world. One of my absolute favourites is Jerome K. Jerome in his book Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow, he dedicated it to his 'oldest and strongest' pipe. You can read it here -

  3. Hey, waddya mean I wasn't helpful? ;)

    I love reading dedications, gives a glimpse into the author's life...

  4. I always read the dedication and especially enjoy the ones that are slightly different and amusing.

  5. I glance at them, but I only pay attention to the longer ones really... I never notice if an author dedicates each book to different people...I know one author who has a list of people she needs to dedicate a book to because once you give one sister the nod you're obliged to go on down the line...

  6. Great post Natasha!!!!!! I love writing dedications, love reading them, and can't ever forget the name of Janet Evanovich and Jenny Crusie's editor as they always dedicate their books to her!

    BTW it's Jen Enderlin.

    (Yeah and I'm with Nic, I remember being VERY helpful!!!)


  7. I always read dedications, Natasha. And you've reminded me of times when my dedications have been left OUT of books, and then editors come along and say, "Well, you can just stick it in the next one, can't you?" as if every book meant the same. Er, no. But then, life isn't fair -- and apparently the frequency of dedications appearing in the right books isn't either!