Taking it personally

 

Writer’s Diary: Stardate: 08.11.2013

An unfunny thing happened on the way to the…classroom yesterday. I was a few minutes early for the first lesson in my ‘day of death’ and as I passed by the computer lab I noticed that there was no one using the computer that works. (The ‘day of death’ is eight straight hours and a lunch duty. When I say lunch duty I mean I have to sit with the last class that I teach before lunch and break bread with them. I shouldn’t name them. Individually they are mostly edible. But the class ‘dines’ in the geographical centre of the dinning hall. (Yes, I know how to spell dining.) Because of the central location I usually end up leaving the experience with blood trickling out of both ears and children’s dinners spattering my shirt. Nice it isn’t.) But I digress.

I thought I’d take a quick peek at my emails before going into battle. I poked the hamster with my biro and after a bit of hamster grumbling it began to trot in its wheel. Power. I logged on. Really great and friendly and email from a gentleman who has been making his way through the Romney and Marsh Files. He’d finished the third and seemed to have enjoyed it. Fantastic.

Take a quick peek at Amazon while I’m there. Oh, a new comment on Joint Enterprise. I wonder if that was him, too. No. It was a one star comment from a reader who was clearly unimpressed with the reading experience. It’s the first one star comment on that particular title I’ve received. And it goes like this:

‘Having read ‘Making A Killing’ I was really looking forward to this, but it quickly descended into a blank featureless read. The plot was feeble, and there was no sense of suspense at all. I kept reading expecting it to pick up pace, but it faded into oblivion. I’ll not be buying any more of this author, unless I need a cure for insomnia.’

That set the tone for the day. Joint Enterprise is many things but it is not a one star book. Yes, the direction that I took this book in has disappointed a couple of readers who had enjoyed the previous books. I accept that. But this? No.

I’ve had three one star comments for one of my other books, Rope Enough, and of course as the author they are not nice to receive. (Unless  you are a creative type you cannot truly empathise with how it feels to have your work rubbished. I really don’t mean to come across as condescending.) But so far I have always managed to understand them. I try to understand them. I want to understand them. If I can understand them the dismay at receiving them is dissipated. One way of doing this is to see what comments the readers have left on other book purchases on Amazon.

Of the three I had already received for Rope Enough one didn’t like the sex. (OK I can deal with that. Still a bit harsh. There wasn’t much of it.) One has never left another comment on anything (still) so it’s probably someone I was married to or a member of my family. And one reader took exception to the rape theme. She was quite scathing. It was clear that she found the subject matter entirely distasteful and by her own admission wouldn’t have downloaded the book if she had known that rape featured as a theme. I understand. Understanding helps. It doesn’t make it all right but it helps.

So, to this new comment. I looked over other comments the reader in question has left. He has left a few of the negative two and one star variety. He expresses himself well. He writes well. Clearly, he is not an idiot and IMHO you’d have to be an idiot or vindictive to give Joint Enterprise one star and leave the remarks that he did. So he must have taken exception to something in the book. A part of the story upset him, perhaps. (I’m just looking for ways to try to understand this shredding of my book without actually asking him. He doesn’t appear to respond to comments, so I’m left to work it out.) And walking to school today I think I did. It hit me why he responded in the way he did. I think that he took exception to something that I made light of. It’s related to a purchase that he made. It’s the only thing that makes sense. I have made sense of it and that’s good enough for me. What was it? I’m not saying. It’s very personal. I could be wrong. But right now that doesn’t matter. I’ve found a way to deal with it. I’ve moved on.