Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Never again...I hope! by Cathy Ace

Q: Taking negative/critical feedback isn't often heralded as a skill but perhaps it should be. How do you handle it when it comes your way?

I see it this way: there’s the feedback you ask for, and the feedback you don’t expect.

Editors give feedback – it’s what they’re paid to do, and every author, myself included, has to learn to understand that the pithy comments appended to one’s manuscript need to be read, understood, interpreted and – possibly – acted upon. Indeed, everyone involved in early-stage feedback (editors, publishers, proofers, beta readers) is part of the team – the people helping you write the best book you can. That’s the good stuff – even if it doesn’t feel good at the time.

Then there’s the stuff you didn’t expect. Readers who spot typos, or bits of information that are not correct (not the fictional elements, but the things we all bring in from real life) which slipped past everyone in the team trying to make the book as good as it could be. Even that level of negative critique is something it’s possible to take on board, because someone was interested enough in your work to bother to write an email to tell you.

Then there are the reader reviews which are less than flattering. Those? I have to admit I don’t see them, because I stopped reading online reviews a long time ago – self-flagellation is not a good thing. Not for me, anyway - my confidence is pretty low to start with.

Then there are those special individuals who obviously feel the need to reach into your heart and rip it out of your chest by being plain horrid about your work. I’ve only encountered one of them (to date)…but they made an impression…

My first novel was traditionally published on March 17th 2012 (almost ten years ago – which I find amazing!). At 6.59 that evening, I was at the launch event, so – fortunately – didn’t know that this email had arrived:


Well, I lasted 22 pages and by then I just couldn't take any more unspeakable pain and suffering. The desperate need of the Canadian government for Canadian arts isn't close to sufficient an explanation for how or why this book got published, and then purchased by the local ebook library service. The only possible explanation I can imagine is that you are a Jew. That is the only way you could ever have gotten this book published anywhere in the world. Your name is obviously an alias, and presumably you are a hidden, secret Jew.

In any case, no one is holding a gun to my head forcing me to keep reading this disgusting excrement, so it's no exodermis off my posterior.

With Extreme Revulsion,” (I won’t share the name of the trolling sender)

As you might imagine, discovering this email the next morning, when I checked my inbox, took the shine off the launch a bit. I was literally speechless (anyone who knows me will realize that the depth of emotional distress required to silence me for any length of time would need to be profound). Tears and comforting words from my husband followed; my publisher assured me this was the sort of thing that happened all the time, to everyone. I wasn’t convinced – and independently discovered the concept of “imposter syndrome” the very weekend my first book came out.

I’m delighted to tell you I've never received a communication remotely similar to this one (so, no, it doesn’t happen to everyone all the time!) but – after that – whenever anyone has said something nice about my work, I have done my best to thank them…though they might not understand why I gush so much.

So the answer to the question is…I hope I handle criticism well when it’s coming from a good place, but – if the person is writing with venom in their heart – then I don’t do so well. Normal? I hope so.

Fancy reading around the world this winter? Then try the Cait Morgan Mysteries - the title of the twelfth book (to be published on April 7th) is THE CORPSE WITH THE TURQUOISE TOES, and it's set in sunny Arizona - yay! But, before then, make sure you're up to date with all Cait and Bud's adventures. More here:


Catriona McPherson said...

OH MY GOD, Cathy! But you do know, don't you, that that review was 0% about you and 100% about the slimy subhuman who wrote it? Good. Right. Must dash - it's a long drive up to BC to come and hug you. Cx

Cathy Ace said...

Aww...thanks Catriona! Yes, I know that now, but wasn't at all convinced back then. Still, if I needed anything to remind me that not everything is for everyone, then this would be it! LOL. *smiling now* and hugs to you too x

Ann said...

What Catriona said

Frank Zafiro said...

Atrocious email, delightful post!

James W. Ziskin said...

I’m so sorry, Cathy. Such an idiotic, hateful, and wrong-headed review. But, as disturbing as the vitriol and bigotry are in that e-mail, at least you know it was a right proper idiot who wrote it. Wear it as a badge of honor that a jack-booted inbred nose-picking yokel hated your book. (Well, the first 22 pages at least. Probably exhausted himself sussing out the words while trying not to move his lips as he read.) It should make decent people want to read your books, which are wonderful!