It turns out I’ve discovered new depths of neuroses in what I’d casually assumed was a fairly rational brain, all things considered. Unfortunately, it turns out that I’m actually as daft as a box of frogs and even a good review of Twiglet (as has just appeared in SFX) is enough to start me feeling depressed about the whole thing.
I mean really, I’ve written a few bad ones myself so I should be able to tell the difference, but when it’s my baby there’s no form of rationality involved. I can understand why the one bad review of Stormcaller felt like a kick in the crotch (because it was pretty unpleasant and emphasised every negative thing it could, with a few comments making me think the guy had not read half the book) but I really had no justification to feel bad after the SFX review.
So why did I then? Well, clearly ‘crazy as a box of frogs’ is a good starting point, but that doesn’t really cover it. There’s only so much I can put down to misfiring neurons after all! Writing Twiglet was hard work, it was a job on top of a job and something I’m clearly heavily invested in or I wouldn’t have bothered. At one point it was 220,000 words long and that equates to a heck of a lot of hours in front of the computer, many of which were accompanied or followed by severe headaches because of my eyes being a bit rubbish. It’s probably a bad sign that I was hugely cheered up when I checked the NHS Direct website and had it confirmed that it’s nearly impossible to become addicted to ibuprofen, because I’ve taken really quite a lot of it over the last 18 months.
Ok, that was a digression, my point was that I’ve invested a lot of time into this, and you’ll have to trust me that writing and checking contracts at work isn’t the most stimulating of activities so I spend quite a lot of my time thinking about the books, a significant portion of every day. However, if I did love my job and it occupied my thoughts as I was trying to get some sleep, how would I feel if my annual appraisals were a) published nationally, and b) varying in their praise? That would be a hard thing to live with, especially when the person writing the appraisal may never meet you/ be a teenager having a stroppy day. In your head, you prefer everything to be happy and great so the nice reviews/emails/posts support that view, they don’t really change it much unless you’re bipolar in which case all bets are off. The bad ones however really kick the stilts from under you – they are there to tell you that what you’ve been devoting your life to for the last eighteen months was actually pretty bad or merely derivative of a book you’ve either never read or only picked up recently.
And that’s just equating a book to a job. Now I’m not exactly the most career minded of folk so I have only conjecture to fall back on, but I’m guessing that very few people adore their jobs enough to consider it the most important thing in their life behind their family. Or maybe it is, but that’s just because they’re not doing all the things they’d like to do because of other factors. So how about just picking someone you’ve never met and writing a critical assessment of how they’ve conducted their life? How much of a kick in the crotch would that be? (not sure why I’m using that expression a lot today by the way, I suspect I’ve picked it up from the Christopher Brookmyre book I’m currently reading…)
I’m not making a grand statement here by the way. I’m not saying that reviewers are either bad or wrong in their approach. I’m just saying that I don’t have to like people picking holes in my life.
…and possibly that I want to kick certain reviewers in the crotch too, but my publicist tells me this is a “bad thing” so I’ll try not to.