Let’s face it. Writing isn’t rocket science. You can’t count on a set number of chemical chain reactions to send a book on its way, roaring into the stratosphere.
After all, books are written by people. Earlier this week, a woman, claiming to be a great fan of mine, who is disappointed in one of my series, wrote to say that I must be a: senile or b: have hired someone “untalented” to do my writing for me. It didn’t help her case that she MISSPELLED MY NAME in the body of her e-mail. Talk about untalented!!! I seem to remember my mother saying something about motes in eyes, but let’s not go there.
I write my own books and I write my own blogs to the best of my ability. The books and blogs are published as I wrote them. Complaining about a book after the fact doesn’t accomplish a whole lot. It’s not as though I can go back to the computer and rewrite the 100,000 words contained therein to satisfy the complainer’s inner editor. (I believe there used to be a set of books like that. Wasn’t there a series once called Write Your Own Adventure, where the reader could make choices along the way and have the book end HIS way?)
But most books aren’t like that. My books aren’t like that. And people who are readers–who are the bread and butter of my business–get to have their own opinion about my books. And they get to let me know what they like and don’t like. Most of the time I can be philosophical about the critical comments. Here’s my mother again: You can’t please all the people all the time. And I know that’s true.
I usually try to respond promptly and politely to all e-mails–good, bad, or indifferent. My standard reply to critical e-mails is to say that I’m sorry they were disappointed–because I am. But if they send me a second e-mail with even more vituperative complaints, I have no compunction about deleting that one without even reading it. (Note to readers: If you’re complaining about a book, be sure to take all your best shots in the FIRST e-mail!)
Occasionally, however, when someone sends me a note like that–an e-mail filled with the kind of stuff that no one would have nerve enough to say to someone’s face–I can’t shrug it off. I’m reminded of the e-mail correspondent named Melissa G, who wrote to me years ago, telling me that since I was so incredibly ugly she hoped that when I went on tour I would wear a bag over my head so I wouldn’t frighten people. Yes. That is what she said–verbatim! And those of you who are close readers of my work may recall that I used that VERY e-mail in one of my books. (This is how writers make revenge!)
I’m afraid that the lady who called me senile the other day got my goat, too, very much like Melissa G. It happened that her note arrived at a time when I was having a particularly bad e-mail day. I suspect that I responded with a bit more heat than I should have when I suggested that sending insulting e-mails to complete strangers might be an indication that she has some possibly age-related mental deficiencies of her own.
Yes, next time I’ll take a deep breath, follow my mother’s very good advice about motes and eyes, and stick to “Sorry you were disappointed.”
We’ll all be happier that way.
J.A. Jance is the New York Times bestselling author of the Ali Reynolds series, the J.P. Beaumont series, the Joanna Brady series, and four interrelated Southwestern thrillers featuring the Walker family. Born in South Dakota and brought up in Bisbee, Arizona, Jance lives with her husband in Seattle, Washington and Tuscon, Arizona. Find out more about J.A. Jance and her novels on her website at http://www.jajance.com/jajance.com/Welcome.html.
(The Killer Nashville Guest Blog series is coordinated by KN Executive Director Beth Terrell (http://www.elizabethterrell.com/). To be a part of this series, contact Beth at firstname.lastname@example.org.)