Spoiler Alert: This post discusses early plot points in FALLING. You may want to save this post for after you read the book. If you have read the book, then you are the awesomest person ever. Carry on…
There are a lot of things I’d rather do than read reviews of my books. Most things, actually. Ride a rollercoaster. Watch the grass grow. Manual labor. Even go to a baby shower. Yeah, reading reviews is that bad.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s a thrill to read reviews by readers who totally, utterly “got” my book, who loved my characters as much as I did and who cried for their wounds (of body and soul) just like me. However, where such golden treasure lurks, so does danger.
A writer’s ego is a fragile thing, and while a dozen amazing reviews can prop it up on a high marble pedestal, a single bad review can kick out the bottom stone sending the whole thing crashing to the ground.
So, it was quite by accident that my eye wandered over a review when I was checking my book data for FALLING on Kobo. Of course it had to be a one star review.
One star reviews exist for one purpose only. The affliction of pain and devastation. No book I have ever read – and I’ve read a lot – has truly deserved a one star review. Seriously. A one star book, in my opinion, means that an author hasn’t grasped fundamentals, like sentences. A teenager’s angst-ridden diary, where every page is a cringe-worthy soliloquy on the injustice of the world mixed in with doodles of hearts around the name of the football quarterback is still worthy of at least two stars for emotional output alone.
It is my experience that readers give one star reviews out only as a form of punishment, to make a gleefully self-righteous point, and/or to wound. In the case of the one star review I received, the reader had a bone to pick with me, and the reason was simple.
I killed a puppy.
Okay, it wasn’t actually me who did the puppy killing, and I should probably mention right upfront that it wasn’t a real puppy either. One of the characters in my book, FALLING does the unhappy deed.
In FALLING, my main character, Maya, changes into a hybrid angel who needs to feed on the life energy of living creatures to survive. During the transition process, she is in desperate need of a quick source of energy or she’ll die. Her two erstwhile rescuers find themselves scrambling, and what Gabe comes up with is to break into a pet store and bring Maya a puppy for her consumption.
It wasn’t bloody or gory, but it still isn’t a very pleasant scene. I felt a little queasy writing it, and my characters certainly didn’t feel any better. Gabe – a fan of all things cute and cuddly – was less than thrilled and Maya was disgusted with herself when she got over the whole starving-to-death-need-food-now-now-NOW situation.
For my upset one-star-giving reader, it was all about the puppy. That was it for her. The end. Book closed. Never trying that author again. How could anyone ever write about killing a puppy? What was wrong with that sicko author?
In a weird way, I understand where this reader is coming from. I also love animals, and I hate watching any type of animal violence. (Game of Thrones is a challenge on so many levels.) Just as this reader didn’t like reading that puppy scene, I really didn’t like writing about it. In fact, I pretty much hated writing any of the scenes in my Girl With Broken Wings series when Maya drains energy out of animals.
…but here’s the thing. As much as it personally made me uncomfortable, I had to do it for the story.
The foundation of Maya’s story is her struggle to maintain her humanity while fighting the hunger and the need to drain the life force out of others. Maya’s condition means that she can’t just grab a burger and fries when she gets peckish.
As an author, I am obligated to stay true to the characters in my novels and to represent their real actions. When I saw that one star review, a part of me was tempted to go back and rewrite the puppy scene in FALLING, but I stopped myself. That scene is supposed to be uncomfortable to my characters and my readers. It is supposed to showcase that Maya is a new thing.
I watch Game of Thrones, which burns, slices, decapitates, and abuses animals and humans alike with sensational glee, because it is an amazing show that depicts the violence of war and royal politics with a type of gruesome truth that I appreciate when I am not wincing and biting my lip.
So, I want to state right here, right now for the record that I am very, truly, and utterly sorry for the imaginary puppy that I killed, but I am not sorry for that scene or my novel or anything that I write. I know that I cannot please everyone, but I hope that I can entertain, captivate, and please some of you.