I can see the allure of the writing life—spend all day in your pajamas clicking out words which make scenes which make books that people can’t put down, bothering to shower only when you have to go out to cash those big royalty checks. What they don’t tell you about (besides the lie to all of that) are the angry reader emails.
I’ve gotten a handful in my three-year writing career, fewer than five but more than I need. Here’s an excerpt from the most recent one, which I received while on vacation with my boyfriend this past weekend:
“I just read September Fair, and it started out strong but then got stupid…why is it always the business owner who is the murderer? And your language? ‘FU’--yuck! And one of your characters had multiple sex partners!!!”
First, don’t be worried that I’ve given away the ending by sharing this slam. There is more than one small business owner in the novel, the small business owner(s) didn’t do it, and no small business owner in any of my previous books was the killer. But that’s the danger—dissecting these slams and all the ways they’re wrong and might be right, feeling that icky green anger burble up from my stomach caused by someone disliking my writing enough to seek out my email address and tell me how terrible I am--it’s the trap that lures me in every time.
I’d previously received a different slam for September Fair, telling me that while the book was fine, this reader was sick of “you people” telling her what to eat and what not to eat, and she wanted to know where “you people” got off controlling her life. In the novel, there is an animal rights activist who talks about how meat and dairy products are produced, and it is pretty gross, but I’m fine with my readers eating whatever they enjoy. And I sent her an email letting her know that. (Read here to find out why that wasn’t a good idea.)
I get that some people aren’t going to like my books, either my writing style or the content, and I understand that a certain percentage of the population feels compelled to use their personal opinions as weapons, but I still don’t know how to distance myself from the pain of random, oddly personal reader criticism (which, for the record, I separate from valid and constructive criticism of my writing, which is a blessing I’ve learned to appreciate). Any suggestions? If not, any war stories to add company to my misery?