SPEC. TAC. U. LAR.
Okay, so here's a secret I've been keeping to myself: mostly, I wish people would just lie to me.
Not, like, all the time. For example, "Is my skirt tucked into my underwear?"- this is a serious question that requires a truthful answer. Likewise, "Did you poison my cup of mead?" and "Is that Robert Pattinson at the next table over?"
But when it comes to my books- if you're unhappy, please lie to me. It's not rational, but I take all kinds of things personally. You think the typeface inside my book is ugly? I feel bad and I had nothing to do with it. You hate every inch of my cover with the fire of a thousand Venusian Suns? I feel bad and I had nothing to do with it. You're furious that they've filed my book at your library under supernatural instead of mysteries? I swear to you, I'll feel bad- and yep, I had nothing to do with it.
I can't control where my book is filed, how it's covered, what the catalogue description says, how people review it, whether or not it's in audio book or $yourparticularlanguage or large print or graphic novel form. If it becomes a movie, a television show, a four-part a capella opera- it won't be because I did anything- some subrights agent and/or producer thought it might be a good idea and they moved on it.
This is whining and I admit it. But since we're admitting things- it also makes me feel bad when somebody feels compelled to write and tell me they hated my book. True- I'd prefer that nobody hate my book, but if they're going to, I don't need to know about it. Factual errors, I welcome- if I said that Pluto is a planet (AND IT IS, YOU BASTIDS!) but an astronomer were to write to correct me- I'll be glad to know.
But if you hate my characters for being too-somethingy or not-enoughingly, or the way I pick my words, or the length of the book, or how I ended the story, write a review. Vent to your friends. But please don't tell me. Because yes, I'll feel bad and while I had everything to do with it, there's no changing it now.
Even if I were inclined to change it, once the book is in covers, it is what it is. I may ask my editor to change a word or two to indicate Pluto is not a planet (EVEN THOUGH IT PLAINLY IS,) but I can't ever go to my editor and say, "How about I completely rewrite this subplot?"
Well, I could. But then she'd laugh and throw heavy things at my head, and I'd deserve it.
Because a book is mainly a finished thing. I've done my half by writing it. You'll do your half by reading it. And if you hate what I've done in my half, that's totally legitimate. I invite you to forget it, or make a life's work of dissecting it, or something more reasonably in between.
But whatever you do, please, don't tell me. Much as you wouldn't tell a stranger in a grocery line that the clothes they're wearing are very ugly, and you find the cut of their hair unappealing, please, I beg you- please don't tell me how ugly and stupid you find me. I mean my books. There's nothing wrong with silence! I'm good with silence.
After all, I'm a tongue-in-cheek, but not-entirely-lying special snowflake and delicate flower- and I thank you for your silent support.
by Saundra Mitchell
In paperback June 8, 2010