One of the most daunting parts of publication is the wait for reviews. As with all greatly anticipated events in my life, I found the hardest part to bear was the anticipation itself. Knowing people were reading the novel I had spent four years pouring my soul into was like waiting outside the headmaster’s office at school, uncertain as to whether you’re lining up for a rap on the knuckles or a pat on the back.
The anxiety was thankfully unfounded. To date, the reviews are predominantly positive, as you can see for yourself on Amazon. They are not, however, all positive. Oh no, no, no. My novel is exceptionally dark. Some find it too dark to be comfortable, some find it not nearly dark enough and some, gulp, hate it. One-star review hate it.
The lone-star review has become something of a badge of honour among authors. I try to take the few negative reviews I’ve received with the sanguinity of one who has, themselves, not enjoyed every book they have ever read**. The beauty of art, be it a painting, or, in this case, commercial fiction, is the fact it is open to such interpretation and everyone is entitled to their opinion. Even Crimson Petal And The White by Faber, one of the most captivating books I’ve read in a long while, has its share of haters. (Though, seriously, how you could one-star that bad boy is quite beyond me.)
My other source of comfort is that those who left me negative reviews rarely left positive reviews for anyone. The most vitriolic were left by people who are equally vitriolic about other writers. Best of all, they left awful reviews for books I absolutely adore and whose authors I greatly admire. Sarah Pinborough, Alice Feeney and Jo Spain all received one-star reviews from the people who left them for me. To be frank, I’m so overjoyed at being considered in the same league as these talented women, that the league itself completely unfazed me.
Never in a million years, as I sat waiting with bitten-down fingernails for the reviews to come in, did I think I would find such joy in a joyless soul’s one-star.
** This is an out an out lie, made in an effort to appear nonchalant. My journey to sanguinity has four stages. The first is an abject shame. How could I release something into the world that is so despised? That people hate? My god, does this mean they hate me? (Yes, I’m that bad. Creative types are, as a rule, excruciatingly sensitive.)
The second stage is denial. If I do not load that Amazon page, I will not see the review. If I do not see it, it does not exist. And if by accident, I do see it then it’s not real but a figment of my overly active imagination.
The third is high-and-mighty anger. This person is clearly a buffoon, who wouldn’t know a good book if it smacked them on the bottom and gave them a paper cut.
And eventually, I come around to acceptance. Hardly sanguine really, but that sounds far more impressive than a writer wrought with anxiety and neurosis.