Monday, October 28, 2013

Strong reactions

*disclaimer* There are no plot spoilers in this post, however there ARE emotional responses discussed, so if you wish to avoid ANY possible reference to a certain third book in a certain trilogy with a main character named Tris, you may want to read this after you've finished the book. *warning over*

So I'm still in recovery mode over here today. I read a certain book last weekend, and without being too spoilery, it left me feeling a little shell-shocked. I'm sure you've heard (unless your head is under a rock or you have adamantly been refusing to look at anything online) that reactions to this book have been VERY strong, and not all of them have been positive.

As an author, my reaction is complicated. I think many reviews that I've seen have been knee-jerk reactions. But I've forced myself to sit on this for a bit, to think it through--to let the immediate strong emotions to simmer a bit. Whether you like the ending or not, there is one thing I think we can all agree on, Veronica Roth is an amazing author. If she weren't, she wouldn't have elicited this strong of a response by what she chose to do. And she wrote a fantastic (and brave) response to the questions about the ending of her series HERE.

As authors, we are constantly making choices. We are trying to stay true to the story in our hearts, and the voices of our characters in our heads. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: the fact that reading is so subjective is simultaneously one of the most wonderful and terrifying aspects of being an author. No author, not even J.K. Rowling, can make every reader happy with what happens within the pages of their book. (Although she's probably come the closest of any author I've read.) But she still has the one and two star reviews, and people who were mad about one thing or another in the Harry Potter series. On the whole though, most authors don't come anywhere near the kind of universal adoration that her books received. Do we all dream of that? Probably. I think we'd be lying if we said no.

The bottom line is that both Roth and Rowling accomplished something great: they elicited very strong reactions in their readers, and that means they made us care. And not just care, but care deeply.

Here's a true confession. I don't know if it's because of my internal editor, or just that I read SO MUCH, or being a writer myself, but for some reason, it has become incredibly hard to make me cry in a book. The only two fiction novels that have done it (that I can think of off the top of my head, and excluding writing my own, which can be very emotional) in the last ten years were The Deathly Hallows and Code Name Verity. Until last weekend. So, what does that mean to me? Regardless of whether I liked or didn't like the ending, Veronica Roth made me cry, and that means she did something right.

With my own book on the verge of being released (just over two months left!!), I have both excitement and trepidation for what lies ahead. I know that not everyone will understand my story the way I intended it to be understood, and not everyone will love my characters the way I love them. That's just the nature of our jobs as authors. We give our readers our best effort, we give them a piece of us, and they take and do with it what they will. Even though I know that, I also know it will still be hard to see or hear about negative reviews. Our books are such a part of us, that of course it stings if someone doesn't "get" them, or if they did but still didn't like it. (I wrote another post about that recently that you can read HERE.) But I also know that there will be those out there who will meet Alexa and Marcel, Rylan and Damian, and they will fall in love with all of them. Maybe some of you will even come to love them the way I do. And that is what sharing my book with the world is all about.

We all have books that reached out to us, past our minds, straight into our hearts and souls. The books that transported us out of our own lives to reside, at least for a time, somewhere else. Somewhere different. Somewhere unique and wonderful, with characters who felt completely real to us. We yearned with those characters, we ached with them. We triumphed with them. We fell in love right alongside them. And we warred with the need to finish and the desire to savor the experience, as we flipped page after page after page, our hearts racing.

That's what I hope for the most. I long to have someone, somewhere experience that through the pages of DEFY. But second to that, I hope that you feel something when you read it. Whether you love it or hate it, devour it or want to throw it at the wall, my job as a writer is to make you feel. Veronica Roth did that, J.K. Rowling did, Elizabeth Wein, and so many others--and all in different ways. I could compile a huge list here of authors who I admire and whose books have touched my life and inspired me, but this post is long enough.

In the end, that's what it all comes down to, isn't it? The desire to understand each other better, to feel connected, or validated, or not quite so alone, even if it's through a boy wizard, or a WWII POW, or a girl living in factions in an experimental future society. Or maybe even a young woman forced to disguise herself and use her skills at sword-fighting to carve out the best life she can, in the depths of a jungle kingdom immersed in a brutal war against magic.

So tell me, what are some of the books that have touched you the most--or made you feel the strongest reactions?



Katy Glemser said...

It takes a lot for a book to make me cry too - and I mean CRY - but there are a few that just get me blubbering like a blubber face: The Book Thief, Speak, A Tale of Two Cities, and The Host. (Yes, I sobbed in The Host. Yes, I'm a sap.) Then there are other books that elicit some crazy mixtures of emotions from me, like The Chosen One, Stolen, and The Breakaway. In a good way. Stories that mess with my mind and put me on an emotional roller coaster.

I think you nailed it though: "That's just the nature of our jobs as authors. We give our readers our best effort, we give them a piece of us, and they take and do with it what they will." I recite this almost word-for-word to myself every day!

Can't wait for DEFY to release, and to experience what you've worked so hard to express. :)

Leandra Wallace said...

Harry Potter gets me everytime. But the Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness is prolly the last time a book 'bout made me nuts. I was hyperventilating there at the end of Monsters of Men! =)

Natalie Aguirre said...

I have heard rumblings about this. I'm about a third into Allegiant, but am prepared that the ending may not be what I expect. I agree with you that it says something about Veronica Roth as a writer that she's gotten such a huge response to this. I think any author has to be true to her story and that not all stories, like life, wrap up with a happy ending.

Can't wait to read DEFY, BTW.

Anne Riley said...

I am...struggling...with the end of Allegiant. But I totally get what you're saying! Yes, she wrote a fabulous series; I just think that, for me, the way it all wrapped up has greatly diminished my enjoyment of the story as a whole.