Once you let it go, it’s no longer yours

I get to see most of the online reviews of my books, courtesy of Google Alerts, which is a useful free service, though with titles like Principles of Angels and Consorts of Heaven I don’t half get some odd pages coming up (the religious fundamentalism I expected, but there’s also a surprising amount of baseball and childcare).

This (slightly spoilery) review of Consorts briefly tempted me to respond to the reviewer, something I’ve decided never to do simply because I don’t have the time. If I had responded then I wouldn’t have been complaining that my genius was being misunderstood, as with one exception (which I’ll never divulge – unless plied with champagne and chocolates), every review I’ve so far seen of my stuff has raised valid and interesting points. I thought this was a particularly succinct and accurate review (he got all the names right, for a start …).

What I wanted to do was firstly to award a (slightly patronising) gold star, as the reviewer spotted the reason why description in the final third of the book is rather sparse; I won’t explain, but it’s there if you think about it, and he did. I like it when people pick up the hidden reasoning under the story, just as I enjoy working out the whys and wherefores when I read someone else’s work.

Mainly, however, I wanted to answer his points about my world-building. They concerned linguistic drift and genetics and were entirely valid quibbles for a reader to have. The problem is, I know why things are like that, but the characters experiencing the story don’t. One of the issues raised could possibly be extrapolated (though the reader would have to make certain assumptions), but the other they have no way of knowing about (though I do mention it in Guardians of Paradise).

All this has reminded me of the price an author has to pay for letting her darling words go out into the world alone. These stories aren’t mine any more. At one level this is fantastic, and nothing brightens my day like an email from a stranger saying that he or she enjoyed something I wrote. But I have to remember that they’re also quite entitled to hate it, or, perhaps even more annoyingly, to miss points I thought I was making. Or, for that matter, to misspell my character’s names. 

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