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February 22, 2013


Pepper Smith

I think it can be so unrelentingly nasty because people's egos are involved, and because before we reach the level of maturity as writers that means success, we often think we're much, much better at what we're doing than we really are. Every rejection can feel like a stab at your very core, because so much of ourselves ends up on the page. It leads to ill-advised actions and commentary that can come back to bite us once we've 'grown up'.

Then there are the misdirected loyalties of fans who see success by other authors as a diminishing of their own favorites. Could some be embracing the world built by their favorite so completely that they see it as a personal affront, a comment on themselves, when other authors have greater success building worlds they don't personally care for? Maybe they think they're somehow helping their favorites?

How many one-star reviews do you suppose arose from the reviewer's perception of the author or of the book and not from the reviewer having read it? Probably way more than we'd believe. It seems to be human nature for some to disparage a thing based on prejudice rather than experience.

When you invite the world to make comment, they will. Unfortunately many have their own agendas, and will act on them.

AGATHO RESPONDS: Thank you. Beautifully said.

Kathleen Mutch

Perhaps all of us can do more to encourage the sharing of positive, satisfying or enjoyable book experiences by posting reviews or recommendations for the well-written books we read. I admit I am more motivated to post comments when a book disappoints (especially when the book has been super-hyped!) than I am when the book meets expectations and those, of course, tend to be negative reviews. In an web-dependent world, actual word-of-mouth, person-to-person, is not enough to create an effective viral buzz for books. I always recommend books I like to librarians. They have been very receptive to suggestions to add recommended books to their collections. Public libraries are the places where I have discovered many of the authors whose other works I have added to my own collection. It is also thanks to public libraries that I have saved money buy borrowing, not buying, some books that promised so much and delivered nothing but aggravation. (The Art Thief, for example.)

So, taking my own advice, let me say I just discovered Linda Castillo's Amish mystery series and am catching up, hoping subsequent books live up to the expectations set by the first one. The violence perpetrated against the victims is extreme, and it is graphic, but (for me anyway), it is balanced by the many ways in which Castillo's Police Chief Katie Burkholder's respect and obligations to the victims is shown and her dedication to achieving justice for them is unyielding. Comparisons have been made to Lee Child, and Castillo knows how to create memorable characters, unrelenting tension, and intricate but satisfying plots, but Jack Reacher and Katie Burkholder are not at all alike. I am unlikely to read Castillo's earlier books (different genre), but I do look forward to the reading the rest of this series. I'd be interested in how Agatho would critique this series.

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