On Turning 100. Mary O'Regan interviews John H Carmichael

Drunks and Monks by John H Carmichael

Q: So you garnered 100 Amazon Reviews in 9 months, almost all of them quite good. How do you feel about it?

A: It is strange to think one would in any way “mark” or take note of “100 Amazon Reviews.”

But Amazon in general and their reader reviews in particular have become important in our time.

And what a strange time it is.

What did we do before we could express our opinions so freely and so permanently about books?

We were at the mercy of professional reviewers, with their dry, arch, sometimes too-clever-by-half musings, meant not just to promote or demote a book, but also to reveal the professional reviewer's acumen, to contribute to an alternative genre of literature -- the literary review. Not so with the reader reviews on Amazon, which sometimes blurt out painful truths akin to “This book sucks!” Or, “Meh. I just couldn't get into it. Two hours I will never get back. I should’ve watched Dancing With The Stars instead.” To be clear, I respect professional reviewers but the reader reviews have a guileless and immediate quality that cannot be denied.

As you said, most of the reviews for Drunks & Monks have been good so far, so that makes it easier to take and I am very appreciative of each and every one.

Q: How important do you think the reviews are?

A: A book marketing expert I know says that after about “100 reviews on Amazon” there tends to be a snowball effect that takes place, so he recommends offering the book to beta-readers for honest reviews to get those numbers. I read somewhere recently that since we are inherently social creatures, we do prefer to read things that other people are also reading. So in that sense, perhaps, nothing succeeds like success. I know I read the customer reviews of books I'm interested in and probably put a little more stock in them than I do the professional reviews. That may or may not be a good thing, but that’s the way it seems to be now.  

Q: What are some of your favorite ones?

A: It is true that more than a few have stood out and touched me on a personal level.

I like the ones where somebody says they went back to Church, or tried to quit drinking, or thought more deeply about the Sacraments because it affirms my hope that I am doing something serious for a serious purpose.

The reviews that praise the writing or the style are very gratifying because I put a lot of effort into the imagery, rhythm and diction and that was the enjoyable part of it for me. 

I combined a lot of post-modern elements with very old techniques and just sort of hurled it out there, with your fine editing, hoping it would fall well on the reader’s ear and release some power at the end. 

A few reviewers objected to the post-modern style, but many more than that liked it. I am not a fan of post-modernism for its own sake but it suited this story somehow. The most important thing is I tried to write about human brokenness and how the Catholic Faith helped me and to offer that to other people. Even if they don't like the “Catholic part” of it I hope they feel some companionship and some hope for healing, or for having a better life, for being less self-destructive. 

When the reviews say that they felt my compassion toward their own sufferings or longings, those are my favorite ones.  

Q: Any other thoughts?

A: It is a common dream to be able to make a living as a writer, or any kind of artist really. Many people have that dream and I certainly have it. I don't know if that will be possible for me long term, but I do know I am not holding anything back in this effort.
The only way to really make a living as a writer is with a contingent of readers, so each individual reader becomes like gold to me.
Each review is of vital importance. That anyone would even take the time to read a book at all these days in between all the distractions and pressures of modern life, is really quite astonishing. 
I hope Drunks & Monks is well received and that I am able to write more books. I have immense tenderness for those people who have written to me and have had more than a few very moving personal interactions.
The reviews are a form of communication and I read each one carefully. I’ve written back to a few people but don’t remark on reviews very often because many people wish to just leave their review and be done with it. I hope the book marketing expert is right and the triple digit reviews spark a buying, reading and reviewing frenzy. Further deponent sayeth not.


  1. Mary, good to find your blog on British Catholic Blogs. This interview was really good. I enjoyed it.


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