Near the Edge. While writing my latest historical, Lady Maybe, I needed to find a road in England dangerously near a cliff’s edge overlooking the sea. Initially, I searched for the location using Google Earth and old maps. I finally found the ideal setting—a coastal road in North Devon along the Bristol Channel.
Over the Edge. I wrote my first draft before I ever visited the area. Then, last year, an old friend and I had the privilege of traveling there. We drove on winding, breathtakingly-narrow roads as far as we could, then continued on by foot, walking on a carriage road hundreds of years old. Wind whipped hair in our faces and drowned out our voices as we searched for the perfect spot to send a carriage careening down into the water far below. Standing on the edge of that cliff, overlooking the sun-streaked water, the opening scenes of the book began to play like a movie in my mind: a lady’s companion, a carriage accident, and a desperate woman trying to rescue her child…
Edgy. Lady Maybe is my first book published with a general market (vs. Christian) publisher. My goal in doing so is to reach new readers who would never think of shopping in the Christian fiction aisle. So yes, Lady Maybe is slightly edgier than my other books. It contains more mature themes and one or two scenes in the PG to PG13 range. Is the book for kids? No. But it’s nothing most adults would blink twice at; and nothing I would be embarrassed for my Mom to read (were she still alive).
On Edge. But since the book’s release, I feel like I am standing on that precarious cliff again. I have been receiving emails and reviews that range from “Your best book yet…amazing…I couldn’t put it down” to “Do you believe you need to dumb down your novels to get people to read them? Why did you write such a trashy scene? I am really disappointed…not just in the story, but in you as a person…” and worse. Now, I understand that not every book is going to be well-received by every reader, and that’s fine. But wow. I have been taken aback and discouraged by harsh personal attacks from some sisters in the faith–thankfully, a minority. But a highly vocal one. 🙁
Falling. When I speak to groups I often explain that I write with a world-view that God exists, good and evil exists, but my characters are not perfect. They make mistakes–many mistakes sometimes–but they find forgiveness and second chances through Christ, just as I have in my own life. Ever since my first novel was published (Lady of Milkweed Manor, which deals with a situation similar to Lady Maybe), my books have extolled God’s mercy and forgiveness, and how He brings good from bad situations. Even if the message of God’s grace is more subtle in this book, I believe it is still there to offer hope.
Saving Grace. Don’t get me wrong. I am very aware that I am not perfect. I am sure I have made mistakes in this book, in this writing journey, and in my life. I readily acknowledge that I am only a sinner saved by grace and am continuing to learn and grow both as a believer and a writer. I trust God will teach me something through this season of discouragement. And bring good from it, as only He can. (I did receive a gentle reader email which I appreciated and took to heart. And I am truly thankful for everyone who took the time to let me know they liked the book or to write positive reviews.)
What about you? How do you handle criticism? Do you believe “anything goes” in writing reviews? Or do you believe in offering grace to flawed fictional characters…and to authors, too? 🙂
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