Back in July 2012, I hit publish on my first book, CONVICTION. I had no idea what was about to happen in my life.
At the time, I had a full time job, two kids still at home, two dogs to care for and I spent any extra time I did have writing because I loved it. It was a stress relief for me. If I'm being completely honest, it was how I was dealing with my depression. It allowed me an escape and I needed that. I had just obtained my Bachelor's degree in Human Resources about a year before that and I was looking forward to utilizing that degree. I worked in a high-stress environment and I had recently gotten a promotion, which added to the strain at work and at home. Plus, my husband and I had decided to buy a new house.
I had a lot to do, but I was looking forward to the new adventure.
Self-publishing was on the rise and I figured why not? Maybe someone out there will enjoy my book. I wasn't at all thinking that because writing was my passion, it could become my career. I just wasn't.
Sometime in August of that year, I decided to put my book on Amazon for free. I thought it would bring the book some visibility. I'd had a few sales, but nothing significant. Putting that book out for free was what changed the entire course of my life. CONVICTION sky-rocketed on the free charts. I only had it out for free for a couple of days and when it went back to it's full price, the sales continued. I was in absolute shock. I remember thinking that the reports were broken. That someone was going to call me and tell me that those were merely the free copies trickling through. That wasn't the case.
I remember walking through the hallway in my office building, texting my husband to let him know that CONVICTION was #2 on the Erotic Romance charts (paid), asking him what that meant. He LOL'd me and told me that it meant I was doing well. I wanted it to mean that I could quit my job and put all my time into writing. For the record, that wasn't what it meant. I still had kids to feed, a mortgage to pay, electricity to keep on, car payments, etc.
But that wasn't all that happened.
So, after releasing my first book, I got a Facebook account, then Twitter. At the time, I didn't even use Facebook. Not much, anyway. And after getting myself set up with a little taste of social media, I published TEMPTATION.
That was when everything changed. And I mean everything.
I started getting emails from people I didn't know. People who loved my books and wanted more. They wanted to talk about my characters as though they were real people. I was deeply grateful that my books had struck a chord with some people. It was surreal.
A few more books published, a lot more people showed their interest. With my husband's stable job, we decided that I could quit mine and put all of my energy into writing. I said my goodbyes to my friends and co-workers in December 2012 and in January 2013, I published KALEB.
That was the point in my life when I realized that not everyone was going to enjoy my books. In fact, some people were going to hate them. And more so, some people were going to hate me. I was told there were reviews where people were bad-mouthing me. Not the book. Me.
Needless to say, I was devastated. It absolutely broke my heart that people could say such nasty things about me. Why would they do that? What had I done to them to make them say those things?
Now, don't get me wrong, there were still a lot of people who supported me, who raved about my books, who loved the characters, loved the writing. They encouraged me and their support was what fueled me to continue. However, it was the negative that I dwelled on because it hurt so much. You could give me 10 five star reviews and 1 one star and I would spend all my time thinking about the negative.
I've always tried to be a good person. I don't judge other people and I try to remain positive, so why would someone want to hurt me by saying such things?
Well, the answer is simple. I put myself out there by publishing and made myself vulnerable to both positive and negative feedback. And I've seen a lot. When you have such loyal supporters, they feel the need to defend you and they take offense on your behalf. I've had numerous screen shots sent my way through the years. Even people who still claim to be my friends have bashed me, some of them even on a personal level, thinking that I don't know. I've seen it. They've hurt me. Social media is public. What you write isn't meant to be kept a secret. If you want it to be private, write it in a journal. There are a lot of people with two faces out there. That's life though.
Now, you might be wondering what prompted this post. I'll tell you.
Last week it was brought to my attention that someone was "trash talking" me on social media.
What did I do?
I've learned some things these last five years. A lot of things, really. I've learned that people will have their opinions and they will share them freely. Social media allows for anyone and everyone to speak their mind. And negativity draws attention. It invokes others to share their opinions, right or wrong. You've heard the saying: Opinions are like assholes. Everyone has one. It's true. They do.
This particular rant was against a comment one of my characters made in my book. I could almost even see their point because if they were looking to take something negative away from it, they easily could. However, when they decided that I was the one with this viewpoint, I took offense. It was a very damaged character who was going through a lot in his life. He was looking for something he didn't think he would get and he admitted what he didn't want.
That person took that to mean that I had those feelings. Well, I can assure you, I don't. They decided that they would not finish the book to see how it ended, and that they would never read another one of my books because they felt I was a bigot because of the statement - a statement that my fictional character made.
I won't apologize for his statement because the character's feelings were relayed as he felt them. And for the record, the book was in no way related to that one particular statement. I can, however, clarify, that my personal viewpoints are not the same as his. I write fiction. My characters are not real people, their viewpoints are not my own. I feel it is necessary to make my characters as three dimensional as possible. If they all said and felt the same things that I do, the 47 books that I have published to date would all be the same. In a word, they would be boring. I'm not that interesting. Really.
Now, I know I'm being vague, but I'm doing it on purpose. I am not here to attack that person for their feelings. I will not call attention to them either. Rather than get angry, I decided to send out positive vibes to this person. No, I did not contact them, and no, I did not bash them in return. They have an opinion and they are allowed to voice their opinion however they see fit.
The same goes for reviews. We all feel different about the things we read and I truly believe we should be allowed to express ourselves without fear of retaliation. I want the reviews - good, bad, or indifferent - because they will help the readers to determine whether or not they want to read the book. I don't have the right to say that people cannot have a negative opinion of my books. That's not fair. We take the good with the bad because it's the nature of the business.
I have friends who were bothered by the comment this person made and they came to my defense. I appreciate that, however, it isn't necessary. I know that I'm a good person. I know that my heart is in the right place. I have no ill feelings toward anyone. Even those who want to "trash talk" me. Even the authors who came to their defense, judging me without knowing me. They have a right to their opinion. However, I do know who they are and I don't forget things like that.
Of course, I would be lying if I said it didn't bother me that this person was hurt by the statement that my character made. It does. As an author, I'm telling a story, I'm providing a moment in time to escape from reality. I'm not trying to belittle someones choices or their lifestyles. I am simply telling a story from the characters point of view. In the real world, we all have different viewpoints, we all have different beliefs. It's what makes us unique.
In the past five years, I've shed plenty of tears from the negative comments. That's my release. I have learned that I have to let it all go, then pick myself up and keep going. It takes time to develop a thicker skin. Once you are in the public eye, once you have put yourself out there, you have opened yourself up to opinions. That's a part of the process.
So, I think the moral of my story is this:
Have your opinion. Share it if it is something that you feel you need to do. Seek your friends out to get them on your side. Some people need that in order to deal with the frustrations in their own lives. I get it. My husband bears the brunt of my tirades. He has watched me cry, he has held me when I felt defeated. He loves me. He supports me. He listens.
Everyone has a right to their opinion. They can voice their thoughts on social media. They can write a review that helps them to process what they read. Whether they loved the book or hated it. I never want someone to hate my book, but I do appreciate that they feel comfortable enough to share their opinion with others. If they can provide constructive feedback without personally attacking someone, they have effectively done their job.
Just know that I will not retaliate unless you publicly push your agenda and attempt to demoralize me as a person. This person did not tag me on social media. They weren't trying to share their viewpoints with me or with the people who are my friends. They didn't contact me directly. This was their way of venting their frustrations with something that they felt was wrong. I get it. I even respect it.