Sunday, November 4, 2018
When Reviews Get It Wrong - *Really* Wrong
Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is "Dealing with an almost willful misinterpretation of the text."
It happens to every author. Probably to other artists, too. Hell, I even remember this sort of thing happening in the corporate world. Someone points to a problem in a document you produced, explains how it's wrong and why. And then you sit there, blinking at them, and wondering how on earth to respond since they ENTIRELY MISUNDERSTOOD AND IT'S NOT INCORRECT AT ALL.
It's kind of bizarre when it happens in a book review - and can be super upsetting when the reviewer pans the book because of it. I'm not talking about the reviews where the reviewer misspells the characters' names or gets some nuance wrong. Those are irritating, but whatever.
This is this kind of thing where they say "I hated this book because in the end it turned out to be all a dream and that kind of thing kills the story for me." An understandable critique in most circumstances.
It DIDN'T turn out to be all a dream and they misread.
Or willfully misinterpreted?
Sometimes I wonder. And it's not just with my books. I've seen willful misinterpretations of classics or famous books that have me shaking my head. Sometimes I wonder if they're trying to gaslight people - give wrong information to create confusion.
When it happens with my books? Yeah - I often *really really really* want to explain. Not even to refute the negative review, because whatever, but to clear up their obvious confusion. But, the author rule of thumb not to respond to reviews unless invited to holds true.
Also, I do believe that most interpretations of a story belong to the reader. If the story lives in their head in a certain way, that's up to them.
BUT... I do have a little trick for dealing with stuff that feels like willful misinterpretations. At my next opportunity, I blog about or otherwise discuss that plot point or character, explaining something about it that refutes the misinterpretation, or explains that aspect of the story as I intended it. Just my little way of fact-checking and putting the good information out there, in case anyone wants it.
Jeffe Kennedy is a multi-award-winning and best-selling author of romantic fantasy. She is the current President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) and is a member of Novelists, Inc. (NINC). She is best known for her RITA® Award-winning novel, The Pages of the Mind, the recent trilogy, The Forgotten Empires, and the wildly popular, Dark Wizard. Jeffe lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is represented by Sarah Younger of Nancy Yost Literary Agency.