I listened to a radio show once – not on a country station – but on NPR, I’m pretty sure, about the science of country music. See, they’d actually done these studies to determine what people liked to listen to on their favorite country stations. The most salient finding revealed that the songs people rated as their most favorite, an equal number of people would rate as the songs they hated the most. The songs that people rated as neutral or mediocre, though, were rarely chosen as wonderful or awful. Now, it’s not a surprise, I’m sure, that a hated song coming on the radio prompted people to turn the dial. Even though an equal number of people would be thrilled to hear the song, all their shadow-selves would drop out. Meanwhile, if a song is meh, people would take no action.
You can see where this is going, right? As a result of these studies, country music stations went to playing music that created no strong reaction, so people wouldn’t change the dial.
I think about this a lot with writing. We all have this idea that we’d like to have our work universally loved. We have this fantasy that people will read our new book and shower it with praise. Five-star reviews will rain down like manna from the heavens and small children will dance in the playgrounds singing happy songs about us. When we see a negative review, we feel like we’ve failed somehow. Like that’s a bad thing.
I’d like to put forth that getting strongly negative reviews says just as much about the strength of our stories as the strongly positive ones. It means we accomplished something. People don’t react strongly to nothing. And, according to the studies, for every person who hates it, there is another who loves it with equal fervor.
I’m reminding myself of this with my new release from Carina Press, SAPPHIRE. Granted the topic isn’t for everyone. Still, some of the early reviewers don’t like it at all. Other people are writing to me, saying how much they love it. One reviewer hated my hero with a fiery passion. I started to feel bad about it, then I saw that on the next book she said “she could barely remember what happened” in it. And I thought to myself, “Aha!” I would much rather have the dramatic reaction over the barely remember one.
It’s nice to have your song played on the radio, but if it’s only there to keep people from waking up and looking for something more, then is that what we really want?
I think not. It’s time to embrace the negative review for what it is: a visceral response to something real and vital.
That’s what I want to create.
Jeffe took the crooked road to writing, stopping off at neurobiology, religious studies and environmental consulting before her creative writing began appearing in places like Redbook, Puerto del Sol, Wyoming Wildlife, Under the Sun and Aeon. An erotic novella, Petals and Thorns, came out under her pen name of Jennifer Paris in 2010, heralding yet another branch of her path, into erotica and romantic fantasy fiction. Jeffe lives in Santa Fe, with two Maine coon cats, a border collie, plentiful free-range lizards and frequently serves as a guinea pig for an acupuncturist-in-training.
A successful executive, M. Taylor Hamilton is on track with her ten-year plan. Too bad her personal life consists of hitting the gym and grocery shopping.Enter the seductive Adam Kirliss. They may have a working relationship, but everything changes at an office party when he handcuffs her to the rail of a yacht.
Taylor writes the adventure off as too much champagne, but when Adam challenges her to a date, she agrees to meet up with him. And follow his rules. They share a night of exquisite intimacy, brimming with both pain and pleasure. But afterwards, fearful of losing her heart, Taylor pulls back emotionally.
Adam is determined to prove that she longs for the loss of control he can give her – and the passionate release it provides. How can he make her see that he wants her, and not just her body?