I LOVE receiving emails from readers. Whether they've loved one of my books or have something they want to point out about them - if it's a grammar or spelling mistake, and especially if it's from book 1, then it's usually deserved (!) and I take note. After all, if someone has taken the time and energy to let me have their opinion then I should show my gratitude by reading what they have to say, responding to them and learning from my mistakes.
Well, this week I received 4 emails which really shook me.
All four were in the same vein - basically I was accused of 'corrupting the minds of teenagers' by writing 'filth and blasphemy' and 'coercing young adults' into 'following dark paths' by 'documenting how to practice satanic rituals'. It was pointed out to me that as a mother I should be concerned with keeping the minds of young people healthy instead of 'insidiously leading them into immoral activities' etc. etc. There was a ton more which got more disturbing as time went on but I'm sure you get the gist. I put off replying because I knew that any of my first reactions (flippant - 'did you know that I was off work this week and wanted to give me something to worry about?' or argumentative 'did you actually read any of the books?') would have been a mistake.
After receiving the first email I was a bit disturbed but put it down to someone seeing the titles of my books and making an assumption about their contents...like the lady who came along to my first book signing, handed me a card for one of my local churches and whispered that 'God loves you anyway'. I kept the card.
I've seen author melt-downs on Goodreads etc. where they defend their books vehemently, raging against reviews and comments in a way that makes me cringe and turns the blogging/ reviewer community against authors...and quite rightly so. Most authors would agree that when you put your work into the public domain you have to accept that not all the responses you receive will be positive, but you have to turn the other cheek and let it go.I think the same should go for one-to-one emails. Of course I have strong feelings about my books, characters, settings, storyline etc. etc. but that doesn't mean that everyone who reads them will like them or approve of them. As I've said before, criticism can be constructive and if it is then I welcome it; these emails, however, freaked me out and, yeah, they hurt.
After the fourth email in as many days I lost my cool a little and (yeah, I'm not proud that I gave in and ignored my own advice!) posted on Facebook (on my personal account):
Dear Haters, It would be great if you could put 'Hate Mail' or something in the subject line of your emails from now on, rather than just the titles of my books, so that I know not to read your messages before fortifying myself with coffee and chocolate. Many thanks
Wrong thing to do? Maybe, but getting it off my chest helped. And the emails stopped - coincidence? Maybe.
I deleted the emails.