I’m a people-pleaser.
There, I said it. It is one of the (probably many!) failings I exhibit in my every day life. I want people to be happy. I want people to be pleased with the books I write. Oh yes, and I want harmony and world peace 😉
Unfortunately, having been a published author for three years now, I’ve learnt the hard way that there’s no such thing as keeping everyone happy. I write steamy romance, and I’m told I write the sex scenes well. But a story is obviously so much more than that; it requires plot, depth, a few twists, and living, breathing characters.
I’m probably guilty of making most of my main characters very physically attractive but then, if I’m going to spend hundreds of hours in their company while I write them, I can live with that 🙂 But, although my characters all basically have a good heart, I still don’t want them to be boring or one-dimensional. They need to spark my interest…and yours. They need to make the occasional mistake. They sometimes need to say the wrong thing at the wrong time – another “feature” I exhibit!
Last year I released ‘Three Times Moor Pleasure’, which was my first Reverse Harem. It contains three lead guys and one woman. I thought this was a great opportunity to have a range of male personalities. As Tim himself explains to the heroine, Alice, in the book:
“Between the three of us, you have the best of all worlds. Me, the doctor. Kind and empathetic. Jay,’ he continued, nodding towards his best mate. ‘A policeman. The playful enforcer. And finally David. A strong Army man. The dominant.”
Personally, I liked this range of characters; there was a chance to have some lighthearted fun in some scenes, whilst some more sultry, anticipation-building activity elsewhere. Now, some readers agreed with me and others did not. Here is a little of the feedback I’ve received so far:
“The love scenes are good, but the drama between the heroine and one of the men (David) dragged the book down for me. Her insecurities, his rigid inscrutability didn’t do it for me. The other two guys were pretty hot though, so that was something.”
“I need less of Moor.”
“What would you do if you were trapped with not one, but three fascinating and uber attractive men? Wonderful story and I pray that this is one that will eventually be continued.”
“OH MY GOOOOODDDD!!!! I think this is absolutely amazing! The details and the way the three interact is so brilliant! I have not found a harem or reverse harem that I have been able to get into, but the way this one has unfolded is just freaking brilliant!”
It’s confusing, right? And a complete nightmare for a people-pleaser 🙂
Similarly today, I’ve discovered a 2* review for Right Hand Man – one of my personal favourites and the book I’ve had the most support for in 2021. Here it is:
It’s probably not worth me trying to explain that the hero is making out with another woman, for a very specific reason, which the heroine knows about and understands. He is doing it in order to take the heat off them and ultimately protect her and their relationship. I can attempt to justify the plot as much as I like but at the end of the day, “gross” is what this reader took away, and that may be my fault for failing to communicate well enough. The result of which, a two star review has been logged, even after months of painstaking work and pouring my heart into the characters.
I can say it doesn’t matter what people think. I can say it doesn’t hurt. I can say it’s like water off a duck’s back and it doesn’t hit me in the gut when I read reviews like this, but I’d be lying. When I first read poor reviews, my reflex reaction is that perhaps I should stop writing…which I know is crazy, but it’s the truth. Just jack it all in and go back to having a “proper” job where I won’t be required to share my soul. Then I just feel sad and lack focus for a while; I might find it difficult to write for a few hours, maybe a day, until I can get it out of my mind.
Of course, the counter to this is a positive review, but the powers that be reckon only something like 1% of readers take the time to leave a review. And of course, it requires a lot more than one good review, to counteract one bad. That’s just human psychology! The bad stuff is easier to believe.
But the truth of the matter is, I will never write something that everybody likes. Some books will receive a 1 star review and some will receive a 5 star review, and that’s okay. It has to be. My options are to toughen up, stop writing, stop reading the reviews, or simply allow negative reviews to take their toll. The thing that makes it even more difficult is that I honestly do want to know what my reader’s think, for that’s what will allow me to continually improve, and ultimately write better books for them. Or at least, that’s the theory.
And then, I go and get this message from a lovely friend of mine, which has cheered me up enormously! Trust me when I say, everybody needs a friend like this guy!
“I read a novel writer who said “I don’t read reviews because if I believe the good ones then I have to believe the bad ones.” Just ignore them and put out the best stories you can. Which are lovely.”
Fenella Ashworth is a British author of contemporary erotic fiction. All of her stories are available from Amazon and free for those with Kindle Unlimited access. Her bestselling novels are ‘To Love, Honour and Oh Pay’, ‘One Hot Wynter’s Night’ and the Daniel Lawson series.
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