Friday, October 1, 2010

Guest post by Author Carolyn Crane & A Double Cross Giveaway


I'm so excited today to have Carolyn Crane, author of Mind Games and Double Cross here talking about what it's like to go from being a book blogger to author. I love Double Cross so much that I'm giving away one copy of Double Cross. See how to enter below!

Unexpected and helpful things I’ve learned from reviews

A lot has been said about book reviews and the relationships between authors and reviewers. especially around author responses to critical reviews, to positive reviews, and just reviews at all. It has been suggested, and I think with some sense, that authors lurking around and contributing comments can chill free discussion, making people who have negative opinions feel weird about voicing them, particularly on smaller blogs where the experience is more intimate.

Because of this, I do try to keep my nose out of the comment sections of reviews, even though, back when I was a blogger who was an aspiring-to-be-published writer,  I would be SO excited when an author would come and comment on a review I did. I remember when Linnea Sinclair commented on a raving post I did on one of her books. I was so excited. There was a way in which I had written the review for her. But that wasn’t true of all reviews I wrote. Obviously, most reviews are written for readers.

Moving from blogger to the author side of the equation is strange and has made me a bit schizo. Because, on the one hand, I know reviewers have put time, often money, and generally a lot of work into a review. Whether the review is positive or negative, it represents an investment a reviewer has made into my book. So, from my point of view, a reviewer is a type of collaborator who I want to thank. At the same time, going around thanking reviewers, especially those who don’t tell me directly about their reviews, or wrote negatively, feels like saying, “Hey reviewer! Carolyn Crane has her eagle eye on YOU!”

So I’m of two minds. These days I keep my nose out of reviews unless I get sent a link, or magically stumble onto the review (I rarely have Google Alerts on) or like if we’re Twitter pals (BUCKEYE GIRL! Eagle eye on you! lol.) Tho, if I am deep into writing a book, I won’t read reviews at all.

The part where I am getting to an actual point!

Since moving over to the author side of the fence, I have learned some new things about reviews and how they operate for an author. Or at least, for this author. Consider me speaking for myself here, though I’d be surprised if I’m totally alone on this stuff

Reviews provide new views on what a book is about

Reviewers tend to be artful describers and characterizers of things—describing the book, their reactions, and more. For both Mind Games and Double Cross, I have read descriptions that are way better than what I was going around saying, and those reviews made me totally alter how I talk about my work.

And here’s the thing: when you talk about a thing differently, it changes how you think about it.  That is definitely true in my case, not in terms of “is the book good or bad,” but reviews can shift my thinking on what it is really about. In a lot of ways, reviews and comments have led me to see new aspects of what I wrote about. Sometimes even to know more clearly what I wrote about.

Reviews illuminate possibilities
Example: I think about Midcity as a character much more now because of reviews that mentioned liking Midcity; in books #2 and #3, Midcity is stronger. There are other things like that too, that I focus on now because reviews alerted me. In reviews of Mind Games, in both positive and negative reviews, reviewers pointed out character tics in my heroine, and those observations made me think about her character journey in new ways, and led me to add dimension to her journey. 

No, you really really really can’t please everyone

There is this one pretty negative review of Mind Games I stumbled on once, where the reviewer was creeped out about the “hot tub” scene and also thought the sexual dynamics in Mind Games were terrible. And, I could see her point, though my taste in the whole “dangerous sexy fun” thing is clearly totally different And it was freeing, like I could never change this book or make it better in a way she would like. This one sensible but negative review helped me to feel okay about all the negative reviews; some people just won’t like a certain book, and it’s about their taste and worldview, not the book. I knew it in my head before, but it helped me “get” it.

Don’t be a jerk of a novelist!

Back when I was a night salad bar girl at a restaurant, I wrote a really mean letter to the day salad girl because she was blowing off the stocking, which totally screwed me during dinner rushes. But, it was a sarcastic mean letter, written on a very bad day, and I remember being totally shocked at how hard she took it (it made her cry!) I didn’t want her to cry, I just wanted there to be enough tomatoes. I felt bad.

So, I was thinking about that recently, because, I did something dramatic in Double Cross, and I knew people would be surprised, but the effect was more emotional than I realized. As a writer, I feel very emotional about my characters, but there is insulation because I also control their world. Reader don’t have that control. I don’t regret that dramatic thing—it had to happen for the moral universe of the story to be right, but reader reactions have affected me as a writer of future books. Don't get me wrong, strong reactions to Double Cross have been huge compliments, but they also remind me that, when you publish a book, it’s not just you and the book, there’s a reader involved, and I have to always remember that.

Nothing is under control

The thing about writing a book is that, a book is like an enclosed biosphere that you tend in secret and isolation and have extreme control over, then you release it and every shred of control is gone. Sometimes I wonder if it’s like a kid going to college, and you did your best, but now the kid’s on her own. And some bad things will happen in a book’s life, and some excellent things, and it’s out of your hands. The review process has helped me “get” this in a new and good way. 

A serious post!

But it’s something I have been thinking a lot about lately. Reviewers and readers are involved with authors in more ways than they think. Or, at least this author. Often in cool, helpful ways.

Thanks again Carolyn for stopping by and talking about going from reviewer to author!!

The Giveaway:
To win a copy of Double Cross all you have to do is be a blog follower. The contest is open only to US Residents. It's open until 11:59pm Friday, October 8th. Please state that you want to be entered in the giveaway, and have a way for me to get in touch with you if you win. If you do not have your email on your blogger profile, please leave it in the comments. If I don't hear from the winner by 11:59pm October 10th, I will pick a new winner.

Where to find Carolyn: