First time writers can shimmy between paralysing insecurity and gauche cockiness. A happy ground might exist between the extremes, so I sent early versions of my novel “We Make Our Own Light” to a few people. Responses have been excellent, and I’d like to share their words.

Wow!! I really got into it. I love the world you’ve created, it felt so real and you really are a very talented writer. I read the first few chapters and now I want to read the whole thing, which is a very good sign because I don’t usually go for science fiction but it has a historical almost 18th century feel to it which I really enjoyed.

There are many positives and I could go on forever about them so I’ll just select a couple – The way the church controls so much that they even control light and light being a precious commodity was a really interesting idea and I’ve never seen that used in a story before, very original.

I also think you describe the world beautifully and you always have a perfect balance of giving details of the ‘scene’ without it getting boring. You also manage to have the right mixture of dialogue compared to description which makes it flow really well. Caliper’s voice is very good, I always felt what he was feeling.

Basically I thought your writing is just of a very high quality and I really did feel like I was reading a published book.

Danni, Oxford Writer’s Circle.

I really enjoyed this. I found it very readable – if I hadn’t known how long it was I wouldn’t have guessed it was nearly novel-length as it was very well-paced. Your sentences all seem to fit very well, there were very few that struck me as off, and that was just nitpicking.

I like your characters. I was most interested in Caliper and Christina and I like how slowly you are bringing out the details about her. I like the subtlety of his affection for her, and the tension where he doesn’t fully understand what she’s capable of.

I‘m not a big sci-fi reader so I can’t comment that much on how this works from that point of view. But I found the world-building to be written really well. This is all bedded in well.  Though I can see things are still unfolding.

Tiffany, Oxford Writer’s Circle.

‘We Make Our Own Light’ starts in a pastoral landscape that will feel familiar to readers of standard fantasy, and it stays there for all of about two paragraphs before things start getting steadily stranger and more interesting. The process through which the novel’s characters learn about, and respond to, the unfolding nature of their environment is sustained from beginning to end.

It’s difficult to do justice to it without giving too much away, which I won’t because this is a story that deserves to be read without spoilers. Suffice it to say that the themes explored here are fresh enough to stand up to discussion at any dinner party (if that’s the sort of thing you like to do) but also that the scope and reach of the imagination will strike a chord with any die-hard SF fan (so if you are invited to a dinner party, I suggest you politely decline and read this book instead).

Michael, IT Services, Oxford University

Tiffany and Danni also made recommendations, which I’ve taken on board. More feedback to come.

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