Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Reviews and Such

Writers love reviews. Most of the time. Okay, to be a little more detailed, we love getting reviews when they're Good! Or, when the reader "gets us." We hate it when they don't.

I was reading some of the reviews for Things Left Unspoken last night and came across one that interested me on a number of levels. First, the book was given four out of five stars. This was good. But then the reviewer said that the book was "not what I expected." Reading on, I discovered that what she expected was another Potluck Club book.

I had to smile. The reader/reviewer stated that because this was first person point of view but not multiple first person points of view, she was disappointed. When Linda Evans Shepherd (my coauthor for the Potluck books) sent out the first proposals for the book/then series, we were told that multiple first person points of view would be a problem. Or, so the editors thought. Eventually, of course, Baker/Revell took a chance. Some reviewers said that "at first it was hard to distinguish the character speaking" and things like that. But that "after two or three chapters I was hooked."

Linda and I were thrilled! And, perhaps we "started something new."

I'm starting something new again. No, Things Left Unspoken is not a "Potluck Club" book. There is some humor in it but the underlying feel is not that of tongue-in-cheek to address serious issues within the church. Rather, my new focus with this new line of Southern Fiction for Baker/Revell is to draw people into the lives and the places of the people I know best: southerners.

So far I have received two emails telling me that there was some concern when the plotline went to a dark place in Southern history and they didn't want it to go there. Well, I understand. I wish it didn't have to go there either. And I wonder if perhaps Margaret Mitchell felt the same way when she wrote Gone With the Wind. Or, Kyle Onstott when he wrote Mandingo (which will forever remain one of the most haunting books I've ever read.)

Now, for anyone who has yet to start reading Things Left Unspoken, allow me to assure you that this is not a "slave and plantation" book. We don't discuss the "War of Northern Aggression," either.

Even if it were, it would be about more than that. It's about Southern Legacy. It's about leaving something to the generations that come after you. It's about family history (a huge to-do in the Southern lifestyle). It's about believing in yourself and what you stand for.

And it's about secrets. Every family has them. Some are best left unspoken and some -- when they eek out -- become freeing agents.

But enough of the negative elements of reviews. Do you want me to tell you my favorite reviews? The ones that read, "I stayed up all night so I could finish it." I like those because I used to read that kind of book and I always wanted to write that kind of book! I also like the reviews that say, "I felt like I was the character." This tells me I have done my job. And have done it well.

So far, my favorite review was from a dear, dear friend who told me privately how much I've grown as a writer. If I haven't, then I truly have not done my job well. That meant more to me than all the five-star ratings the book could possible receive!

Well, now it's time to write some more and to scan the Internet in search of more reviews. I can't wait!