Sigh. It didn’t used to matter.
I mean, it always mattered to ME, but I could console myself that strikingly nasty or baffling reader reviews didn’t matter in the big picture.
Of course, now reader rankings matter a whole lot, and one or two ugly ones can really skew the curve and affect sales.
And they still matter to me.
A nasty review is pretty obvious, both to readers and the author. A baffling review…not so much. Recognizing those takes knowing what’s in the book in the first place.
It’s one where you wonder if the reader was even looking at the same book.
A Feral Darkness just got one of those. Someone is terribly upset at me for making certain statements about religion that…
Well, that wasn’t the book I wrote.
In fact, it was the book I assiduously steered away from writing.
It would be easy to put this down to different folks/different strokes if the Catholic religion wasn’t specifically referenced several times in the review…along with the assertion that my intent is to make fun of that faith. To mock it.
Now watch me scratch my head. There isn’t any true presence of the Catholic church in this book (there’s a character who’s a lapsed Catholic, on the whole because of the conflict with the pagan elements). There’s a pastor in the story, a thoughtful guy who happens to be very protestant, in his very protestant church. I was rather fond of him, actually–I thought he tried to do his best to handle a difficult situation.
But the truth is, the book has pagan elements and pagan magic. That’s kind of the whole point. I wove together enough of those historical pagan elements across cultures (never mind the book learning…I called a monastary!)–to catch the eye of a British scholar, who interviewed me a couple of years ago and included A Feral Darkness in the resulting publication. (I was beyond excited about that, yes I was!) There’re ancient Celtic gods, ancient Celtic dogs…and one contemporary woman who has to make it all come together in the context of her rather practical life.
I hadn’t meant to examine the interface of religions, but the character went there (she rode her bike there, actually), and I had to follow. It was not easy writing…but maybe that’s why the book has connected with so many people over the years (and boy am I grateful for that!).
Sometimes, in order to make that connection, you have to reach far deeper than is truly comfortable. It’s a vulnerable, vulnerable place to be as a writer.
So it does baffle (and ouch!) me that anyone could take the resulting book as a mockery of any given religion, and it makes me a little sad. On the other hand, I think what also surprises me–a lot–is that someone who feels this strongly about the (“disturbing”) interface of religions would not only pick up the (“sickening”) book in the first place, but would read it through to the (“pathetic”) end.
It still matters to me, though.