"Should an Author Read Their Own Reviews" (the short answer: it depends!) When I wrote that post, I had received a few *ahem* constructive reviews for my debut novel, Close To You, but hadn't yet managed to achieve that ultimate basement one-star ranking.
Well, that was soon fixed! The same week as I wrote that post I received two one-star reviews on the same day. GULP. I had to go back and read my own blog post to take my own advice. Especially having perspective and not relying on reviews as my primary validation as a writer.
Ultimately, writers have a choice about what they read. Just because you know your book got a one-star review doesn't make it compulsory to read it. I did (because I'm a sucker for punishment like that) and I'm glad I did because parts were actually quite funny. For example:
Two people find love on a Tolkien tour of New Zealand. That seemed like a must read for me! Boy, how I wish this was a lousy, cheesy Hallmark movie. I would only have wasted an hour and a half of my life. Seriously. The story had some potential, but it fell shorter than a hobbit.
I laughed out loud. I write romantic comedy so I can appreciate funny even when it's skewering my own book.
Then there was the criticism I'd been waiting for...
When the characters started speaking directly to God and God began answering, I just about threw the book across the room. I can't believe I finished it.
I'd been expecting this one. The truth is there is nothing on the back cover blurb that tells a reader there is a faith element to the story (above the barcode there is a Fiction/Christian/Romance classification but let's be honest - who looks at that?)
That was a discussion my editor and I had during the formulation of the back cover blurb and ultimately my publisher decided not to include it because (a) there is more of a cultural element to faith in the US than there is in NZ/Australia so people are generally less offended of it being mentioned and (b) the primary target audience for the book is the US.
I talked about how here Down Under, there isn't that kind of culturally ingrained Christianity and so there was the risk that we would get some kick back from readers who purchased the book and would feel blindsided to there being a faith element.
Now, I have no idea if that reviewer was an American or a New Zealander or from somewhere else but I can totally understand it. For some people, buying what they expected to be a light hearted romantic comedy and finding halfway through reading it that it has a "religious" component would be offensive. On the flip side, I've also heard from readers who would never in a million years pick up a book that was clearly marketed as "Christian fiction" who have loved Close To You.
Writing this blog post I discovered I'd recently added another one-star to my collection with what was deemed to be offensive content to readers on the other side of the divide...
There was a line that seemed to be a hint at lesbianism, which is something I never expect to be in Christian fiction books, because it goes against the faith the genre was built upon. The line was, "Her sister couldn't have stunned her more if she'd announced she was leaving Grant for the nanny." It's insinuations such as this one that can destroy an otherwise charming tale.
Um, yup, it's true, that line is in there. I'm going to be honest, having watching some of my fellow romance authors get skewered by conservative readers for things that didn't even get me raising an eyebrow, I had thought about all the things in Close To You that might potentially cause that kind of reaction. That line was not even on my pretty long list! But that doesn't mean her point is invalid.
As an author, I want to be as open to correction and constructive criticism. As a Christian author, even more so. Ultimately, I'm accountable to God for all the words that end up in my books - the ones that offend liberal readers because my characters have a faith and the ones that unintentionally offend Christian readers, alike!
Reviews that touch on the faith or Christian/moral content of my books always resonates more than any other comment because, for most of us, there is nothing more personal than our faith and desiring to be a good witness with our writing. My biggest learning from my one-star reviews is that first and foremost, those elements need to always be an open conversation between me and God. I am far from perfect - as a writer or as a Christian but ultimately the only thing that I can do is continually check my conscience on what I am writing and leave the rest up to Him.
And be thankful that out there in writer land some genius author started a tradition that you get to indulge in the dessert of your choice when you receive your first one star review for every book!
Kara Isaac lives in Wellington, New Zealand. Her debut romantic comedy, Close To You, is about a disillusioned academic-turned-tour-guide and an entrepreneur who knows nothing about Tolkien who fall in love on a Tolkien themed tour of New Zealand and was an April 2016 release from Howard Books. When she's not working her day job as a public servant, chasing around a ninja preschooler and his feisty toddler sister, she spends her time writing horribly bad first drafts and wishing you could get Double Stuf Oreos in New Zealand. She loves to connnect on her website, on Facebook at Kara Isaac - Writer and Twitter @KaraIsaac