I received the following email this morning:
I enjoy these books — mostly. The characters are believable, the setting and descriptions lush, the plots not requiring too much “suspension of disbelief” and of course, the cats. I have read only three of the series and want to read more; however, I am tired of stories relying on the woman-in-peril endings and am ready to give up the rest of the series if they all end this way.
That’s the email in its entirety. Now, first of all, let me just say that I get lots of letters and emails from readers — really wonderful emails, full of encouragement and constructive criticism. I love them. I’m thankful for them. Truly. An email from a reader can totally make my day.
Does it go without saying that a letter like this does not make my day?
Perhaps I’m too sensitive. If I wasn’t so sensitive, I could “mostly” focus on the nice comments. Lush descriptions and settings… believable characters… And anyway, I should be grateful anybody even cares enough about my work to write me in the first place. Right?
But it’s not enough…
This letter bums me out.
Maybe, I tell myself, it’s just the letter-writer’s tone, lacking as it is in the common niceties of polite etiquette. There’s no finesse. No one is Dear in this letter. No one closes Sincerely or Truly.
But that’s not it. I know exactly what it is. The vague, sinking lypophrenia I get from a letter like this comes from the bald, ugly threat at its core — the manifesto of every bully, every despot, every abuser:
“Do what I want, or I’ll do something to hurt you.”
You can trace the origins of just about everything bad that’s ever happened in the history of mankind to that simple sentiment… war, genocide, terrorism, slavery, spousal abuse, child abuse, abandonment, blackmail, murder.
Am I over-reacting? Am I crazy to think that all the world’s evil begins with a careless thought, like a tiny hemlock seed in the fertile soil of our collective consciousness?
Ha. Or maybe I’m just too sensitive. I’d hate to think what kind of writer I’d be if I wasn’t.
Thank you so much for your email. I appreciate your thoughts. I have to admit, at first I was kind of hurt by your bluntness, but then I got over it. I’ll definitely think about the whole “woman-in-peril” thing. Although it’s tricky… I write murder mysteries. About a woman. Throw a woman in the ring with a murderer and it’s damn near impossible to avoid some good old-fashioned woman-on-peril action, but I promise I’ll try as hard as I can to make it as thrilling and entertaining as possible. If, in the end, you’re still unhappy, I’m sure you’ll find something you’ll love. There are so many good writers and good books out there. Maybe stick to the ones with a male protagonist? Or if that doesn’t help, maybe a different genre? I’m rereading Tobias Wolff’s “The Night In Question” and oh my gosh it’s so good. Thanks again and happy reading!