Can We Talk?

I have been blessed this past month with receiving a bunch of fan mail – more than I have ever received at one time in the past. I have been brought to tears by two emails. I’ve always felt blessed that some people like my books. That people take the time to write me and say such lovely things is another big blessing. I never take it for granted.

However, I recently received an email that set me back on my heels.

I’ve told you, in the past, that I have a weird sleep schedule. I get up in the middle of the night – every night – and I’ve learned to live around it. I honestly think the reason is because I worked in the corporate world for so many years and was writing at the same time. I would get up at 2 o’clock in the morning and work until six when I started to get ready for work. I did this for about 15 years. I think it set my weird sleep schedule in stone.

Anyway, last night I got up again around 2 o’clock and while I was up I checked my email. Well, lucky me, I received… I’m hesitating here because I don’t know exactly how to describe it.

The woman told me that she had read all of my books and had loved every single one of them, but that one book had made her tear the cover off and destroy it page by page.

I have to admit that I’m not the world’s most brilliant thinker at 2 o’clock in the morning. I don’t write at that hour anymore. What I’m doing is trying to fall back to sleep most of the time.

The woman’s email went on and on and on. Evidently, there was some plot point that she disliked in this particular book. Something that had happened to a character as part of his back story. She took umbrage to it. She took great umbrage to it. I think she went on for about four pages, but at that hour the morning I tend to skim. So I skimmed lots of details, things that had happened to members of her family. I remember someone losing an arm and someone else screaming at night. I think.

Here’s another confession: I don’t remember the plot of the book she referenced. The same one she tore apart page by page. Y’all, I often don’t remember things from one book to the other and that’s because I’ve got all of these characters and plots in my mind and once they are put down on the page, they are out of my brain. Plus, I’ve written over 60 books. I couldn’t possibly keep things straight.

I spent about five minutes trying to figure out what she was talking about, but since I couldn’t even remember the plot of the book, let alone the characters, I gave up.

I won’t read her email again.

However, this gets to the nitty-gritty of this post. Y’all, I am not my characters. Yes, there are some values that I share with characters, but I am not them. Lots of things happen to the people in my books. 99% of them have never happened to me.

If someone has made a bad choice in their past, that is not my choice. My characters are a product of my imagination.

I’ll confess something else: some of my characters have gone through hell. That is a personal decision on my part. I believe that sometimes we do go through hell in life, but I also believe that love is transformative. The ability to love is transformative.

Because I have chosen not to reread that woman’s email, I can’t speak to all of the issues she raised. Like I said, I skimmed. However, I do remember that she was telling me that I was insensitive to all of the pain her family went through because of a similar situation.

Fiction will do that. Sometimes, fiction cuts too close to the bone and when that happens, it’s better to just close the book and choose something else to read. I’ve had the same situation happen to me.

I regret that she feels my decisions as a writer were an effort to deliberately hurt her. Evidently, it made her feel better to write a four page email to castigate me. However, I don’t think she would see the irony of her action.

30 thoughts on “Can We Talk?”

  1. I have read all your books and thoroughly enjoy your writing.

    Fiction means just that fiction. If your writing but close to home than ‘s the readers problem. Again fiction is fiction. There is no reason to write a letter to slap you in the face because the story brought back bad memories.

    I am sorry that this happened. You stories are enjoyable and should taken for what they are fiction.

    Looking forward to reading more.

    • Thank you, Margaret. I agree with you. Fiction is, well, fiction.

      Writers write things, sometimes, to reveal our own demons and help us cope with them. At least I have. However, in my case, the character having issues will always have a happy ever after. (That’s why I don’t read “literary” books. They almost never have an HEA.)

  2. I feel badly that you became exposed to this person’s hatred and I am even sorrier that you allowed yourself to be exposed. I live by the motto that people can only do to us what we allow. This may not always be reasonable but, in this case, I believe it holds. I am an avid reader and, yes, I too have read all of your books and can’t remember finding anything in your stories that I personally found offensive. Normally I rate a 5 to what I read but only if I really loved the story. Occasionally I give a 4 but never anything less because if once I get into a book I find I am not enjoying what I read I put it down. I began a new book yesterday written by another author I absolutely love. Normally I cannot put her books down but I did this because I am bothered by the subject matter. I am not blaming the author wee maybe a little because she chose to write about this period in time. I will no doubt finish this story but on another day when not so much is happening around us. Will I rate this book and leave a message for her? Honestly I don’t know. Should I tell her I was bothered because this was not another delightful love story? I probably won’t because it is my choice to continue to read it or not. Instead of reading hateful e mails work a litle faster on your next novel. I, for one, cannot wait to read it. Stay safe!

    • I absolutely agree with your theory, Barbara. She honestly didn’t disturb me, but she did confuse me.

      I want to understand people and when someone does something that I find incomprehensible, I truly want to figure it out.

  3. Karen, I love your books! When I
    read, it’s like the old commercial, “Calgon,Take me away.” I read and
    get away from the stress of life!

    Thank you, for your Stanley updates.
    I’m sorry this happened. As Scarlett
    O’Hara said, “Tomorrow is another day.”

    • Thank you, Patricia.

      I think what really surprised me was that she hated a book on which I’ve never gotten bad reviews – not the one that people normally hate. 🙂

  4. I’m not a medical professional, but she sounds like she has some serious issues. Blaming you and the book is not the problem. Her attempt to punish you by destroying the book… her problem she’s deflecting. She needs medical help.

    • I’ve never destroyed a book like that. I have tossed one in the garbage can, however. I didn’t tell the author, though.

  5. Don’t worry about it. Everyone with a media presence will eventually get some questionable comments from people. I learned from Oprah that my platform, my rules, so I delete any comments I don’t like or agree with and I don’t need to explain my reasons for this. Then I saw this blog post from a famous blogger (https://tim.blog/2020/02/02/reasons-to-not-become-famous/) and realized that while being a famous media personality looks fun and exciting, the down sides he lists in his post are pretty shocking!

    • What a great post, April. I had no idea the author of that book was only 29 when he wrote it.

      When I was on Facebook in the past, I received two death threats. FB refused to do anything about them which is why I left (the first time). I guess that’s what you get when you pop your head out of the rabbit hole. However, I wouldn’t call myself famous.

  6. Dear Karen, your books have brought me many hours of enjoyment. I passed them along to my mother-in-law who was going through cancer treatments at the time, she would stay up at night reading your books, she has recovered but eagerly is awaiting more of your books. Thank you! I’m sorry you had to experience such a negative person:( ..but on behalf of myself and my mother in law you brought us joy and entertainment! So thank you! Forever your fan, with heart felt thanks , Jackie

    • Jackie, what a phenomenal compliment – thank you.

      (Tell your mother-in-law that I hope she continues to recover and that I’m writing as fast as I can. 🙂 )

  7. Oh my goodness! If she is reading this that is so nuts! And honestly it makes me think of the movie Misery. Kind of scary. I can see
    How your plots would fade in your mind especially since you have written so many books. I sure hope you don’t feel bad about this Karen. That someone would be angry and take it personally is on them. I know you are not your books or characters—-but I do believe you write the heroine strong just like you are. And I love that.😊

    • I could not watch that movie. Even the premise of it scared me to death. When I see snippets of it, I close my eyes. Shudder.

      There is a poem by William Ross Wallace that has the greatest line: For the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world. Isn’t that the truth?

  8. OK, first of all, I apologize for laughing. Not at you, Ma’am, but at the situation.

    We all understand that there are times when as my old friend June used to say, “That just flew all over me!” Something, we know not what, just flew all over her.

    I think that we all need to recognize that this woman has had recent trauma. And since we are in a time when we are separated from people who we love and/or depend on, she was venting.

    I must admit, that because of my personal history, there are now books and films and TV shows I am no longer able to view. But, I have yet to write to anyone about how unfair they are to have produced their product – book – film – TV show.

    So, as surprising and uncomfortable this must have been for you, just keep in mind…this is not about you or a character or a plot point. It is because she is in a difficult time and she may be going through it alone, without her normal support system.

    Or she could be someone who has slipped out of an institution and wears a hockey mask in her spare time.

    I know, I should have used my sarcasm font, my bad.

    • Annette, those are great points. I confess that I wasn’t as generous as you in my thinking. All I saw and felt was a personal attack and I tried to understand it from my point of view, not hers.

  9. She sounds a little nuts to me. We all have things happen in our lives, it certainly isn’t an authors fault. I think this woman needs help.
    Your books are great. I have enjoyed every one of them.

  10. I dearly love reading your books and can’t wait until the next one is published.Also love seeing pictures of Stanley or reading about him; I did feel sorry for you during the skunk episode.

    • Thank you, Catherine.

      I’ve learned with Stanley the Skunk. The minute he gets interested in his derriere, I put him on the floor. 🙂

  11. It is not your fault this woman was triggered by your book. We all have a past and some people have not completely dealt with theirs. Post Traumatic Stress is a real disorder, and it has real feelings and triggers. I am sorry to hear your book put her through that sort of pain. But if your character made it through it that means there is hope for others. I hope this woman seeks help and gets her past to a manageable point. But please don’t take this as a personal attack. Please don’t let this stop the wonderful work you do and all the lives you have touched with your books. Keep you chin up and keep moving forward!

    • I did take it as a personal attack, Tanya, but it didn’t bother me. She was blaming me for her issue and that never makes sense.

      You’re right. If a character can move past a problem, doesn’t that give hope to all of us? At least, I hope it does.

  12. Be at peace, Karen. I have never, I repeat Never experienced any of that in your books. They have all been a delight to read. Have I read all 60? Perhaps I have missed some but
    I would never hesitate to buy and read any of your books word for word all the way through and feel better for them. In fact I want to thank you for all the hours, and there have been many, of reading pleasure because of your talents. Never forget. Your readers love both you and your books and are grateful for the opportunity to read anything you produce.

    • What a lovely thing to say, Sandra. Thank you. Honestly? She didn’t bother me at all. She just made me wonder. Personally, if I was bothered by an author’s book – and I have been, in the past – I would think that it was my issue. Not the author’s.

  13. Oh dear lord. It’s fiction you write. A story. Sounds like she has problems and needs help. I learn from each of your stories. Thank you

    • Thank YOU, Joan. I’m fascinated by people, how they think, what they feel. I have to confess that she confused me.

  14. Methinks she has some issues to work out. Good or bad, I think it helps to read books that do have things that I can relate to.

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