Oscar Wilde said “a poet can survive everything but a missprint.” I suspect that that’s a slight overstatement. And yet, there’s no denying that a typo can really mess with the rhythm, the weight, the meaning of your words. And sometimes it can really stick in your craw.
Mumblety years ago Althea, my first Regency, was published. In the fullness of time my editor called and said, do you want to write more? And I said “yes please,” and wrote My Dear Jenny. Reading Jenny now pleases me because I can see that my writing improved between book one and book two. And I’m delighted that the ebook of Jenny joins Althea on the virtual sales shelves of Book View Café this week. But along with the general delight of seeing the book made available again, there’s a very specific pleasure of fixing something that’s been annoying me for years.
When I wrote Jenny I used one of the tropes of Romance: the heroine who does not realize her own worth, but whose worth is recognized by the hero. Miss Iphegenia Prydd is a poor relation, not as poor, plain, obscure and friendless as Jane Eyre, but destined in her own mind to be a worthy spinster aunt. But of course the book, and I, and eventually the hero, have other ideas. The thing is, somewhere close to the end of the book there is a sentence that read “He was, she felt, rather above her touch.” Meaning, of course, that he was too good for her.
Only, see, when I got the galleys from my editor, there on page 187 or whatever it was, the pronouns had been flopped by the typesetter: “She was, she felt, rather above his touch.” Suddenly she’s too good for him! So I circled this, marked the error, and in my cover letter to my editor implored her please to fix it. Six pages set upside down or in Pashto would at least not look as if I had suddenly lost track of my characters and my story. So I sent the corrected galleys back to my editor, certain that the error would be fixed.
You can see where this is going. When I got the book I turned to page 187 and there, once again, poor Jenny Prydd thinks she’s too good for the hero. As tactfully as possible I pointed out to my editor that this repair had not been made, and she patted and soothed me (telephonically, as I was in Boston and she was in New York) and told me that when it was reprinted they would fix the error, no problem. Only, of course, Jenny never was reprinted. And for several decades the typo has niggled at me.
Thus, the first thing I did, when I had scanned the book in and fixed all the input errors, was to restore Jenny to her sense of inadequacy. So that the hero can explain her error to her, and they can live happily ever after. I cannot tell you how very satisfying it is to have that typo fixed!