Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Lost Fan - What's an Author to Do?

I received an e-mail yesterday from a woman who signed her e-mail "Lost Fan." She had fallen in love with my Odelia Grey character after reading Too Big To Miss, the first book in the series, and went on to buy several more books. She wasn't as pleased with the rest of them and has vowed to read no more.

Was her vow to be a Lost Fan due to uneven plotting or weak characters? No.

Because she didn't like humor mixed with her mystery? No.

Or because the main character is fat and middle-aged? Certainly not.

 Lost Fan was leaving Odelia in the dust because I married Odelia off to Greg Stevens at the end of book #3, Thugs and Kisses. In her own words, Greg is "[N]ot a good match." She cited that Greg Stevens is too young for Odelia and wants children. Lost Fan wanted Odelia to hook up with Dev Frye, the homicide detective who met Odelia about the same time Greg met her, and boldly stated that she "will more than likely not read any more Odelia Grey unless I find out that Greg is out of the picture for some reason or the other."


First of all, I don't like being threatened or goaded into releasing information about future books, or into making changes not in my master plan for a series for the purpose of keeping a reader. And I do operate with master plans. As I stated to Lost Fan in my reply e-mail, I am under contract for 12 books in the Odelia series and have plotted Odelia's life throughout those books. Those plans include changes in her relationships, family, job, etc. Some of those changes have already taken place, with a major one happening in Hide and Snoop, book #7 due out in just a few weeks. 

It always surprises me how invested people become in my characters. Then again, why am I surprised when that is exactly my goal when writing. I want my readers to embrace Odelia, as well as Emma Whitecastle and Granny from the Ghost of Granny Apples series, and Madison and her vampire friends. I even want readers to become part of the dysfunctional Bowen family in my Holidays From Hell series. My books are character driven, and Lost Fan's emotional turmoil over Odelia's marriage is evidence I'm doing my job.

If there is one thing I've noticed during my writing career, it's how very personal readers take the romances of characters they love.  When Odelia married Greg in Thugs and Kisses, I did receive several e-mails from readers saying they had been rooting for Dev Frye. Even before that book came out, I received notes declaring preferences of one suitor over the other. Maybe some of those readers did stop reading, but none wrote to declare their stand.  Most, I'm sure, trusted my writing judgment and kept moving forward with the series.

The biggest outcry I've received so far about romantic turmoil did not come from the Odelia series. (Most readers love Greg Stevens and he has become a favorite character.) The biggest cry of foul play received to date was triggered by the end of Gem of a Ghost, the 3rd Ghost of Granny Apples book, when Emma Whitecastle kisses someone who is not Phil Bowers. Wow! Did I ever receive comments about that!  One Amazon reviewer even went so far as to call Emma a "tramp." Again, my readers will just have to trust me.

I don't expect all of my readers to love everything I write or to embrace all decisions I make as I journey through each series. But in the end, those are my decisions, and most readers understand that. As a reader myself, I really enjoy when a favorite author turns me on my head and gives me something to gnaw on while I wait for the next book in the series. It's all part of them doing their job.

I'm glad Lost Fan wrote to air her opinion. Readers should feel free to write authors and tell them what they like and don't like. I receive quite a few e-mails from readers on a daily basis, and some of those do contain criticism of one kind or another, as well as praise.  But readers, please don't end your e-mails with ultimatums. It never works.

If Lost Fan can't bear to read any more books because Greg is married to Odelia, then perhaps that is best.

UPDATE:  I just heard from Lost Fan who, based on my e-mail reply to her, has decided not to abandon Odelia. Great news!


Jenni's Whimsies said...

I trust where you are going and cannot wait for the next Odelia book!!! Don't let one person's opinion get you down. I continue to share your books whenever possible so she'll be replaced by a new fan soon :)

Mark said...

If you don't have a character named Mark Baker in the next Odelia book, I'm going to quit reading the series. :)

(Now that I know ultimatums work, I'll have to try it with lots of authors.)

JM said...

Oh, slightly! I've seen this before, especially when authors include romantic interests for their protagonists -- people loathed, but loathed, Lucy Chenier in Robert Crais' Elvis Cole series. She was eventually written out (except for the occasional reference or two). There were good reasons to write her out, and Crais is far too secure and good of a writer to cave to the whims of a handful of fans, but I thought it was so strange that people got so vehement over her -- mostly female fans, too, lol -- like Cole was their guy and they were jealous girlfriends!

Lynne DeVenny said...

Well, if we're getting to dictate your plot lines, I'd like to see more emphasis on puppies in future Odelia books :P

Peeps are funny. I attended a video replay CLE last week, and when some attendees became outraged at the idea of using social media to research jurors during voir dire, they started yelling at the speakers. Who. Were. Not. There. :P