Today I like: Watership Down
Not So Much: Bartholomew and the Oobleck
It’s finally going to happen! The third novel in The Cracked Slipper Series, A Ring in Blue, should be out within two weeks. I have a cover (soon to be revealed)! I’m super excited! Yippee, whoo-hoo, all that jazz! Since I need to write a book blurb for A Ring in Blue (oh, the horror), I visited Amazon and reread the blurbs for The Cracked Slipper and The Red Choker. This led me to peruse some of the reviews, which I don’t do on a regular basis. The good ones make an author’s day, but the not-so-good ones can feel like criticism of one’s children. The author gets defensive and feels guilty all at once… I love this book! But wait… did I raise it right?
As much as authors want all readers to love our work, fiction is endlessly subjective, and what sings for one person screeches for another. I’m happy to say that most of the harshest criticism of my books is positive in a strange way… because it tells me that I’m delivering my message.
The first one-star review I received for The Cracked Slipper (and thankfully one of only a few such reviews! Whew…) said something to the following effect, “This book ruins everything I’ve ever thought about happily-ever-after.”
The Cracked Slipper Series isn’t meant to be happily-ever-after. It’s meant to be real life for the characters, life within the constraints of their own culture and laws, both magical and mundane. Real life is messy. The relationship between Eleanor, Dorian and Gregory is full of so much moral ambiguity; even I don’t know which side I really take. After my divorce, I would often ask other divorced people, “How would your ex-spouse say you contributed to the end of your marriage?” If he or she wholly blamed the other person, I wasn’t too keen on getting to know him or her much better.
I’m not a black and white person, and neither are my characters. In Eleanor’s case, as would have been the case of say, Anne Boleyn, she is married to a megalomaniac with absolute authority. She uses the power she has, whether that powers manifests itself intellectually or at times sexually, to make the most of her situation. This is her reality, and at times, her reality really sucks.
Fair warning: it will suck more in A Ring in Blue. These are dark times for Eleanor and her loved ones and her country. In my personal experience, the hardest times force the most critical choices. Those choices aren’t usually between something “good” and something “bad.” We must often select the lesser of two evils. Those are the conundrums Eleanor and Dorian have ahead of them, but I hope those dilemmas will force them to evolve in a way black and white could not.
I still don’t know exactly how it will all turn out for Eleanor. I hope she’ll end with a great triumph in the fourth and final book… but I can’t guarantee she’ll get a perfectly packaged happy ending that will please everyone. So, I apologize in advance if frustrating, heartbreaking, morally ambiguous life gets in my characters’ way… real life with dragons and unicorns, and of course, one very snarky parrot.