It’s a hard thing for a newly published writer not to live and die by reviews.
You’re told, over and over, by those who’ve gone before not to read them, or if you read them to not take them to heart, or if you take them to heart to not allow them to worm their way into your psyche so that you question what you’re doing and where you’re going (especially if your book is the first in a series).
That’s a hard thing. It’s so hard that we need to create a mantra to remind us that it’s okay to keep plugging away, much like “It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon” reminds us to keep our focus on the long view (and writing more) and not get swallowed up by the immediacy of a new release.
It can be particularly hard when the review isn’t a terrible one. When the reviewer expresses that they loved the book, wanted to give it a higher rating…except…EXCEPT…
It’s no secret that Spark Rising has been the lucky recipient of rave reviews. How can it be, when I’ve devoured them like a hungry bird and then flew back to the nest (okay, to Facebook!) to share the delicious news? So why is it that a mostly complimentary, honest and heartfelt three-star review is haunting me?
Perhaps because it is all of those things?
Perhaps because it’s hard to read a very thoughtful and intelligent but not altogether positive review and not respond in a quick comment to the reviewer (Responding is bad form. It’s VERY BAD FORM.) If I could respond, I’d say that you are meant to be uncomfortable with certain decisions and dynamics…that there is a core story there, and an arrival for the characters (and hopefully the readers) that has to be revealed slowly, layer by layer, over the course of several books…and that a love story that begins under dubious circumstances can (perhaps must?) survive serious growing pains, but that pain provides the fuel for both tension and story as the Progenitor Saga moves along to its conclusion. I’d say that any book that attempts to handle sexuality and the male/female dynamic (and later on will add faith and female roles to the series) will make one uncomfortable, but I tried so very hard to make sure that none of it feels gratuitous. I’d say that though Spark Rising is a heavy, action-packed read that makes the romance feel secondary, the Saga itself is very much intended to be a love story on several levels (And yes, I know love story =/= romance. *grin*).
But I can’t, and that’s mostly a good thing. Because ultimately it boils down to one fact–I created a book and then released it into the wild where it would be read by people who bring their own ideals and issues to the world and use them to breathe life into it according to their own thoughts and feelings. That was the goal. Who am I to come back now and question her experience of it? Who am I to attempt to say, “But no…look, if you could only see…?” She did see. My hopes for the book do not make her experience of it any less valid.
That’s the whole point of a review: to allow a reader to express her experience with a book. She did that.
And I am both a lucky writer and a grateful one that her “negative” review was just as heartfelt, honest, and thoughtful as the exuberant praise that went before it.
If only we could come up with a mantra to mumble as a reminder that none of it, not the bad nor the good, should change our stories. Any takers??