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Well it was inevitable that I’d piss somebody off sooner or later with my personal take on the books that I read. Whenever I write a review that is less than glowing, I’m always conscious of the likelihood, that the author whose book I’ve slammed, will eventually stumble upon my ramblings , and take issue with some of the comments that I’ve made.

This was posted on the Cerridwen Press listserve by Emjai Colbert, who wrote If Tomorrow Never Comes.

Tonight I came across my book If Tomorrow Never Comes reviewed by a blogger. That she didn’t like the book doesn’t bother me. I mean everyone has their own tastes after all. But I am bothered enough to ask a possibly touchy question.

The blogger was very excited in her original post to have found my book first off. But in her actual review of the book she starts out by stating That she was disappointed because she thought it would be more like a certain other writer on this board’s books. While I am flattered to be compared to this writer and love her work, I do not write anything like her. No one does that’s why it’s called voice.

This blogger’s bubble was burst because I am not another writer. So the question is why? Why do certain readers want every other writer to write like their favorite writer? We can’t and frankly no writer wants someone else out there who shares their voice, which I don’t think is possible. Why does author Z have to write like author A for certain readers to like author Z’s work?

This has been a long standing question for me and now that that particular thing has happened to me it makes my curiosity stronger. Please understand this is not meant to be disrespectful of anyone just me wishing to understand. Discussion from readers and writers is welcome and thank you for meandering through this learning experience with me.

Emjai Colbert”

I was very kindly sent the above post, and Emjai makes some interesting points, but seems to have totally got hold of the wrong end of the stick, so of course, I responded to her post (you expected no less I’m sure).

This is what I wrote:

“Hi Emjai,

I thought I’d pop in and address your comments, as I assume it was my blog
entry that you were referring to.

All readers, regardless of the books we choose, consciously or sub-consciously make comparisons based on stories that we’ve read in the past.

We all have certain personal standards when it comes to plot devices and themes that appeal to us, and nobody else understands what these personal ideals are better than ourselves, but every now and again, we’ll read a book by an author, which ticks all of our boxes, and fairly or unfairly, we then take it upon ourselves to judge future books by different authors, by those same standards.

It’s not necessarily about wanting to be offered the same book verbatim, but rather, it’s about wanting the author to engage us in a similar fashion. At times, we even judge books by the same author based on his/her previous work. How many times have we heard people lamenting that their favourite author isn’t as good as they used to be? I’ve had that love-hate relationship with Nora Roberts for years now.

Your story was one that appealed to me upon reading the synopsis. It was the kind of book that I would have been drawn to, regardless of who had written it. I simply compared it to KA, because the same things that first drew me to ‘The Sweet Gum Tree’, were the very same things that drew me to ‘If Tomorrow Never Comes’.

In my blog entry, I wrote:

“The main problem for me was that I was expecting it to be similar to a Katherine Allred book”

This can obviously be interpreted in a variety of ways, but what I actually meant, was that I expected the same quality from what I personally considered, to be a similar type of book.

For those people who would look to take this comment literally, when I say similar, I mean this in the broadest sense of the word, for example, in the way that some people would perhaps lump Sherrilyn Kenyon and Christine Feehan in the same boat. They are two totally different writers, but because they write within the same genre, people do tend to contrast and compare.

My bubble didn’t burst because you didn’t have a similar voice to KA, I was disappointed because as far as I was concerned, ‘If Tomorrow Never Comes’ failed to draw me in as a reader on all counts. I wont go into the whys and wherefores, in order to explain why the book didn’t work for me, but one of the main reasons, was that I simply found it difficult to empathise with the lead characters, and for me, this is a big thing.

To answer your question, you didn’t have to write like KA in order for me to have enjoyed the book, after all, I only discovered her a couple of months ago, and I do believe that I have enjoyed lots of other books from different genres prior to finding her work.

I have to disagree with you when you write that you weren’t bothered about the fact that your book didn’t work for me. Of course you were bothered, this is the ‘baby’ that you reared for years, and finally sent out into the world. I’d be upset if I found out that somebody was kicking the sh*t out of my baby, anybody would, that’s what makes us human.

The thing is though, my opinion is just that, my opinion. What works for me, doesn’t necessarily work for other people, but I’m not one for pussy-footing about and blowing smoke up somebody’s arse when I don’t really think they deserve it, but by that same token, when I do find a gem, I am the person who will wax lyrical and eulogise about it for the next ten years. That’s just me.

In every book that I read, I simply want the same things, I want to have a good time, I want to empathise with the characters, and I want to be left with a lasting impression. After all, I’ve just invested my time and money into said book, so the least the author can do, is to write a story that gets me nodding my head in appreciation. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t.”

I understand that some of my comments will piss the people off, who’s books they’re aimed at, but I can’t let that worry me. I’m a reader. I spend thousands of pounds each year buying books for the sole purpose of reading them. So I think that I’ve earned the right to voice my opinion, as long as I don’t personally attack the author, which I would never do. (unless you’re JW Mckenna… just kidding *g*)

Ms Colbert took issue with me comparing her to another author, but in the real world, this is something that does happen a lot, especially if it’s a new author. It happens in the film and music industry, why not in romance?

As it happens, on this occasion, I wasn’t comparing their style and voice, I was comparing the quality, and as a reader, I’m allowed to do that I think.

I wrote in my review that I’d buy another book by Ms Colbert, and I meant it. It was her first book, and in my opinion it wasn’t perfect, but I think that she will get better, and as patronising as that may sound, my version of better, means a book that engages me, personally. Yep folks, it’s all about me.

PS, to see the original review, click on http://karenscottworld.blogspot.com/2005/08/my-verdict-on-if-tomorrow-never-comes.html