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Child of Fire reviews, part 15

I’m only going to link to one this time: Compelling Women Who Kick Ass: Child of Fire by Harry Connolly written by Casey Lybrand.

I really enjoyed reading that review (and not just because it’s positive). It hits on a number of things I tried to do in the book, and also on ways that I know the book falls short. It’s also interesting in the way that a reader’s completely reasonable perception of a character can be so different from what I intended. There are still a lot of lessons to learn.

I’m also unsure if I should respond, and if so, how. I don’t want to be defensive, because the book has to stand for itself. I don’t want to talk about “Dumbledores” because if the author is the only one who knows a particular character is gay then does that even count[1]?

I don’t even know.

But this review touches on something that I’ve been trying to focus on: it’s easy to populate books with tv/movie types–good-looking folks who are pleasant to look at. I know why they cast roles that way, and I don’t blame them. I like looking at pretty people the same as anyone else.

There’s no reason to do that in a book, though. In books, you can “cast” a fat person in that dignified role as easily as a model, and you can include older folks, or whatever. You can show a truer representation of the world, because you’re working with words instead of faces.

But I’m not really sure how to talk about that.

[1] Toward a more accurate representation of the world, I mean.

Mirrored from Twenty Palaces. You can comment here or there.


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 9th, 2010 11:05 pm (UTC)
Speaking as an amateur reviewer myself, there are upsides and downsides to an author responding to reviews. For a positive one, a quick "Hi, I'm glad you liked the book!" would feel good, no doubt about it. An interested discussion about issues (if the author actually has time for that!) would be bonus. On the other hand, it does tend to make one nervous to realize that somebody other than one's friends might actually be reading one's book reviews!

For a negative review it's trickier - because naturally, the author tends to disagree. If both parties can be trusted to be calm about issues, it's probably not so bad; but in general I think it's unwise for an author to take issue with what is almost always a highly personal reaction to their work.

Oh, and that'll be two bits. ;-)
Jul. 10th, 2010 05:14 am (UTC)
One thing that concerns me is that an author, even when they're behaving themselves, can squelch conversation just by speaking up in comments. That's why I drop links and then forget about it (until today, of course).
Jul. 10th, 2010 12:11 am (UTC)
I just skimmed that review. I've been meaning for a very long time to write my own review of your book so I don't really want to be influenced by others thoughts. At this point I'm going to need to read it again. Not a hardship. I love your book.

Anyway, one of the things I like about your book is your more accurate representation of the world and the women in it. I'm not a feminist (at all) but it's nice when every woman is not "traditionally attractive".

I picked up Child of Fire for 2 reasons: Saw a local author on lj, wanted to support you; and I realized I had been avoiding male authors and male protagonists and I really wanted to see if I could rectify that. You did good, Mr.
Jul. 10th, 2010 05:19 am (UTC)
Thank you. I'm glad you liked it.

It's funny, but I've had a number of people say they only read my book because they wanted to give a male author with a male protagonist a chance. How things have improved from when I was young, when it was hard to find a book that wasn't like that.
Jul. 10th, 2010 01:50 am (UTC)
Hi there! I don't know the rule about not discussing book reviews, so if I'm crossing a line here, someone's going to need to tell me; I'm not sure I even know where the lines are.

First, I really enjoyed the book. Tremendously. Just want to be very clear about that. I could not stop thinking about it or talking about it. Or blogging about it, as it turns out.

I am *thrilled* to learn I was wrong about whether or not there are any queer people in your book. Thrilled. I chose my language deliberately on that point: I did not *notice* any queer people -- and that's true enough; I didn't. Thank you for taking that point as one reader's perception, which is of course what it is. And I will now adjust my perception.

Would it be wrong to ask for a hint? (Or a short story? Kidding. Sort of.) Okay, I'm putting down the non-fiction (research!) as we speak, and picking up Child of Fire again. Now that I know, I'm going to find your gay character(s)! (I have some ideas, or at least some questions I'm beginning to ask myself about the characters.)

I'm glad you enjoyed the review overall. I love your cast -- your characters are all captivating and real. I enjoyed Child of Fire very much, and I have already pre-ordered Game of Cages. I also really respect what you are doing as a writer, beyond just the writing -- engaging with a community of writers and readers.

And here's the deal. I hope someday to be in the position you are -- with people reading my (yet to be finished) books, and talking about them, and blogging about them. Yes, this was my first (public) book review, but I wrote it as an aspiring writer. I think you were considering broader issues when you wondered about responding, but I want to let you know, if you do wish to respond to anything in the review, I'm game.
Jul. 10th, 2010 05:43 am (UTC)
I'm glad you enjoyed it and I hope you enjoy book two twice as much. And I don't mind dropping a hint. Tell you what, you make your guesses and when you're ready you can ROT 13 the answer: Crgre Yrzyl naq Noyr Xngm. Gurer jnf fhccbfrq gb or n fprar jurer Enl jrag gb Noyr'f ubhfr gb gel gb trg Unzzre'f ybpngvba sebz uvz, naq gurer ur ena vagb uvf ybatgvzr cnegare, n thl jub tnir hc Arj Lbex gb sbyybj uvf cnegare'f penml qernz. Gur fgbel arire jrag gurer, hasbeghangryl.

Actually, difference of perception was the character with a "heart of gold." I saw her as someone with a lot of common sense and almost no shame, but I can see how that would come across as the stereotype. It's an expectation I should have been more careful about managing. There's always something to learn.

Anyway, I thought you wrote a terrific review (obviously) and I wish you luck on your own writing. It's crazy hard, I know, and the work that seemed so impossible when I was trying to break in has become even more intense. You probably haven't seen this, but: "For me, being an unpublished novelist was like being stranded on a desert island...".

Good luck.
Jul. 10th, 2010 03:39 am (UTC)
On reviews
Thanks for linking to that review, it was very enjoyable to read. I appreciate you linking to reviews, good or bad. Not that my opinion counts, but I think that's just the right amount of engagement: bringing reviews to the attention of your readers through your livejournal, but not engaging in discussions on the reviewers' forums. Trackback software will make the reviewer aware of your awareness of them. If you did feel the need to comment, I favor the gracious and classy "Thank you for taking the time to think about and write about my book" and definitely oppose attempts to set the record straight, or explain how someone is wrong about the contents of their own brains, or that sort of foolishness.

Letting the book speak for itself feels to me like the real-world equivalent of NOT having the secret society members in the book busily spilling their secrets to the POV character as expository dumps. I really liked the way you leave things to the reader's own ability to put the bits and pieces together. I like ambiguity and leaving room for interpretation.

[Last paragraph of unfounded speculation omitted for sanity of the reader.]
Jul. 10th, 2010 05:46 am (UTC)
Re: On reviews
Thank you. It's funny, but I feel like I'm cheating if I talk about Dumbledores in my book. Everyone brings their own assumptions and defaults to a novel, and if the character doesn't do anything in the book to counteract those assumptions, does it matter what the author secretly knows about their background?

The real character is in the book, not in the author's notes.

And future books will clear up that ambiguity (a little), I promise.
Jul. 10th, 2010 06:28 am (UTC)
Re: On reviews
I totally agree!

"Every book is three books, after all:
the one the writer intended,
the one the reader expected,
and the one that casts its shadow when the first two meet by moonlight."

-- John M. Ford, "Rules of Engagement"
Jul. 10th, 2010 12:13 pm (UTC)
Re: On reviews
Damn. He was so smart.
Jul. 10th, 2010 07:31 pm (UTC)
I think that is a great review.
Jul. 11th, 2010 03:36 am (UTC)
I gotta agree.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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    Oh, yeah, excellent point.
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    This reminds me of the time my wife was injured and the insurance guy handling her case did everything possible to deny and stall the payment. We had to put her surgery on a credit card because this…
  • 14 Jan 2019, 19:24
    The creepiest part is that some of them are actually well meaning.
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    Yeah. It's godawful what people will do when they have authority and no fear about using it.
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