I can admit the worst thing a reader ever wrote to me. It was 2007, I was 16, my publisher at the time had released my first novel, and Honesty Box was the hottest app on Facebook. My high school self was naïve enough to have one of these, and one day, I found myself staring at this. Message:
“You are the bastardization of the English language.”
I’ve tried not to think about this message often. In fact, I confess I’ve tried to completely cut it out of my memory—especially since I think it had more to do with high school bullying than anything notable—but the most common type of bullying I faced for writing a book in high school followed this script:
A fellow student would say, “Go write a book.”
Normally, I never responded, but sometimes I snapped and stupidly said, “I already did.”
Which almost always got, “Now, go write a good one.”
Perhaps, this affected me more than I would like to admit. A few months later, when I ran into issues with my publisher, I didn’t fight it much, and in turn, my book was taken off of the market. I can’t say I minded much. I think I was a little relieved. That’s probably why seven years passed between my first and second publication. Now that I’m 24, my coping skills have definitely grown.
Writers always get responses—both good and bad—and some days are more uplifting than others. Some days are even downright hilarious. Not in the mocking way, of course, but in the this-reader-could-be-my-best-friend sort of way. Some days, readers make your day, and other days, a reader’s comment inspires your next piece of work. Sometimes, they teach you by pointing out levels of confusion or confliction, and other times, they talk about how your work taught them something about life. The combination is a beautiful thing.
I have plenty of stories I wish I could tell you about all of the wonderful readers who have reviewed my novels, shared quotes, tweeted encouraging messages, and sent me an email just to explain their emotions, but the important part is how the uplifting readers always overcome the negative ones. I could share hundreds, but I would like to share a few to show types:
The Encouraging Reader
Meagan from The Book Forums recently read an exclusive sneak peek of my upcoming duology, Bad Bloods, and she took the time to e-mail an encouraging message about how excited she is about November Rain and November Snow. I cannot begin to explain how much these moments mean to me. Releasing work—no matter how many times you’ve done it—is nerve-wracking, and in the end, all we want to do is release a story readers will enjoy. To hear they enjoyed it, is priceless. To connect and talk to readers as friends is the best part of the gig. Joking about my own work with someone is surreal. The friendship between a reader and an author is unlike any other type of friendship I’ve ever had, but it brings me just as much love, comfort, and joy.
The Confused Reader That Brings Laughter To My Laugh:
I want to clarify that this is not condescending laughter. This is more like a friend, even if the reader never knows it. I actually enjoy moments where readers have pointed out confusion or mislabeled something because it’s often something I (and many editors) overlooked. My favorite example came from numerous readers over Take Me Tomorrow. (I know. I know. That book isn’t available any longer, but I promise I’m working on it!) This reader story is still priceless. A few readers have compared the dictator, Wheston Phelps to Michael Phelps—the Olympic swimmer—instead of who I intended—Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church—and I’ve had a great giggle over that image-switch. If you’re one of the readers who thought of Michael Phelps instead of Fred, please don’t worry! I had a great giggle, and I feel like it’s more of an inside joke than anything else. Also, more people thought of Michael than Fred. (A handshake goes out to Just Another Girl and Her Books who pointed out many topics, including Fred Phelps, that went overlooked in Take Me Tomorrow. If you’re curious what the sequels might show, this review definitely foreshadows a lot of it. And, of course, Take Me Yesterday is complete. I plan on editing it and then working on Take Me Never ASAP.)
The Critical Reader
Of course, sometimes the negative can help me take a step back and laugh at myself. In fact, these have begun to remind me of my initial editing process. The clearest example I can think of was when my first editor for Seconds Before Sunrise was going through the first chapter and saw, “Robb grabbed his plaid sh*t” instead of his shirt. Yep. That editing mistake happened. That’s embarrassing. And—trust me—I will never, EVER make that mistake again. Every time I write the word shirt I will cringe. (And then, I will laugh uncontrollably). Thank the publishing gods it was caught during the editing process.
Me as a Reader
I am a reader, too, and while I’m not everyone’s reader, my day is made when I tweet to an author and they actually tweet back to me. This recently happened to me with one of my all-time favorite authors, Cassandra Clare. We even spoke about it person when I went to event later that week. My life was complete. No matter how many readers authors come in contact with, I think we find ourselves in their reviews, but more importantly, we connect with friends.
To think that I might be able to bring joy to a reader in the way Cassandra Clare brought joy to me, fills me with a lot of hope and understanding that I didn’t have when I was 16.
I am very grateful for all the readers who have helped me grow since then, and I continue to love my readers more than anything else. It’s also nice to have reviews on Amazon and Barnes & Noble instead of Honesty Box.
Original posted February 18, 2015
Pre-Order Bad Bloods today!