I had always heard that authors have problems with hate mail, grumpy fans, people who just don’t “get it.” But for a long time I thought maybe this was only an occurrence for some authors or for some books. I was rather naïve. The fact is that no matter what you write, someone out there (if you have a big enough audience) will think it’s terrible. Someone will think it’s trash. Someone will be very vocal about it.
I first experienced this myself when I wrote a short story that I thought was merely humorous and silly. When a few strangers read it, I discovered that what I thought was fun and light-hearted they perceived to be selfish and cruel. It was utterly surprising to me, but I could see how they interpreted it that way. It made me realize I would either have to be much more careful about what I wrote or just not care if it was misinterpreted.
At least, that’s what I thought at first. Recently, however, I have decided to amend my opinion. It is impossible to write carefully enough that no one will misunderstand you. Recently a lovely, very G-rated book by a fantastic author was reviewed on Amazon as being “soft porn” and “highly inappropriate.” We’re talking about a book that had, I think, a quick peck on the cheek. That’s it. Now, I have no way of knowing why the reviewer felt this way about the book. Was she particularly sensitive to any sort of physical contact? Does she have just absolutely no tolerance for any sort of romance in a book at all? Was she confusing this title with another book? I don’t know. But the fact is that the review exists.
You will be misunderstood. No matter what.
I’m sorry to say that I have, at times, been on the giving end of this phenomenon. I have read books that I thought were dreadful, and I kind of blasted them. I don’t do this anymore, unless the author is very very dead (I’m fairly sure Shakespeare really doesn’t care what I thought of Romeo and Juliet). Authors don’t need it or deserve it, and if you’re trying to warn your friends away from a book, you can do it gently.
And if you’re on the receiving end, if you felt that you wrote something meaningful or lovely or good or just fun, ignore the reviews that tell you that what you wrote isn’t good enough. It’s yours and it is.