Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Slapping my own hand . . .

I've got to stop reading reader reviews. It's just too frustrating.

The other day I got a reader letter from a woman who said that "The Note" and "The Note 2" had disappointed her because "all the major characters were having premarital sex." Then she asked if I was compromising my Christian values simply to sell more books and movies.

Sigh. I wrote her back and told her shame on her for jumping to such conclusions. And there was no premarital sex in either movie or either book (kissing, yes; sex, no).

Then I made the mistake of going to a reader site and reading reviews of some of my books. I've got to remember not to do that again. Some folks were disappointed in some titles because it didn't have enough Christianity. Others thought there was too much; that a story was "heavy-handed." On and on it went, people hating first person present tense (hey, I use it with good reason) or completely missing the message of the story. Yes, there were lots of positive reviews, but (human nature being what it is), those don't stick in my brain.

I have to pull away and remember that I write for an audience of One. Yes, I try to please my readers, yes, I try to write the best story I can write. But I will never please everyone all the time. Ever. So I write to honor my Boss. If He approves my story, that's enough for me.

And I write for two audiences: the Christian audience (through Christian publishers), which often (but not always) feature a Christian protagonist. And sometimes I write for the general market (through general publishers). But even those "general" books are parables with a spiritual message, though you might have to dig for it. (And if you ever need help, I have discussion questions on my website.)

Jesus told stories, too, and his parables were "one approach fits all." And you know what? No one was ever converted in his parables (with the possible exception of the prodigal son, who came back to his Father). Jesus' parables weren't at all overtly religious--they were stories about sinners and saints, farmers and fathers, reapers and sowers, fools and wise men.

I remember when THE NOTE the movie first aired. Among the messages I received were two emails: one from a woman who had been "embarrassed and terribly disappointed" that the movie depicted people drinking; one from a man who said, "I've never heard of you, but you must be a Christian, because the note so clearly represented the Gospel."


Well . . . thanks for listening and letting me vent. And helping me remember why I've been at this job so long--it isn't to please all of the people all of the time, but to tell the best story I can in the hope that the message will touch a heart or change a life.



Lisa said...

It makes me sad that people would say those things about your writing. Not just because I love all the books you have written, but because why say something negative like that. There have been a number of books that I've read (NOT yours) that are less than what I thought they could be, but I would never bash them for the whole world to read! Another thing, unless you're an author yourself, how can you make a judgment like that?
Be encouraged! For all the people who have something negative to I'll bet there are more that love your work.

Kathy Cassel said...

I had someone give one of my books one star on because the book wasn't what she thought it would be. I thought, "Did you read the book description?" She was expecting a Bible study and it's a practical Christian living book for preteen girls. To give it a one because it wasn't a Bible study?? Hmm.

Just to say, don't let reviews bother you. Some people just don't get it.

Mocha with Linda said...

Well, Jesus didn't get stellar reviews from everyone who encountered His message either! :-) And the Pharisees didn't think He fit the "mold" very well. . . .

Know that your books have impacted many of us. I, too, am amazed at the need people have to tear down instead of build up.

From a staunch member of the Angie Hunt Fan Club! :-)

Unknown said...

I never hesitate to recommend your books to anyone. I know they will find a well-written story with authentic characters (sins and all-- just like us) and will be given something to think about in a new and different way. Having said that, we all have our personal preferences and I think that colors what we think about a particular book or author. But that is what we bring to the book and not a reflection on the author. We need to remember to separate the two. Keep writing, Angie. We're reading (or listening as the caes may be).

Connie said...

I've noticed that whenever people have the chance to say something, someone is going to say something negative just because they can. People in general don't do a lot of building others up, I guess it's much more satisfying to tear them down. It's why I try not to read comments on news websites, people can just be so awful to each other.

And I also always include you among my favorite authors and recommend your books to people.

Leslie said...

Oh my goodness. I was reading what the reader said and I'm like "where we reading the same book?" Good grief. Unless she is talking about the movies. I haven't seen Note 2 yet. I honestly didn't care that much for the first movie, but it was nothing on the book at all. But there was no premarital sex in the first movie either.

Just remember that no matter what you do, someone is going to find fault with it. There are arguements and debates (and quite possibly marriages fall apart) of whether or not the seat should stay up or be put down...or whether toilet paper should go under or over. Its crazy.

The first book I read by you I didn't care for at all. In fact I had forgotten I had ever knew your name when I read The Note. It was because of The Note that I then googled you and found this blog and your website. I was also shocked when I realized you wrote that other book (It just didn't sit well with me). Other people have said they love that other book. I have liked some of your books better than others. The Immortal remains one of my absolute favorite books in all of Christan fiction.

You would not have sold over a hundred different books if you didn't have a great mind, a great gift, and a great heart for writing.

Jennifer Lyn King said...

I wanted to write with a few words of encouragement ... I want to say thank you, Angie, for teaching other writers, because not only do you have a gift for writing and telling a story, but it's wonderful you've helped other writers along in their writing journeys as well. Thank you!

I heard you speak on writing fiction at Mount Hermon a few years ago, and have thought of you about every day since. Every time I sit down to work on a work-in-progress novel, every time I talk with my kids about the books they read and the basic bones of fiction, and every time I've taught my kids' classes from the same stick man illustration you used to teach the basic framework of a story-- and I realize today, as I read your blog, that I have never taken the opportunity to say thank you.

So ... thank you, Angela, for shining as a light for others to see. Some may not get the light, or want the light, but your light is beautiful gift for many others to see.

Thank you, and write on!

kimB said...

Hi Angie! Just wanted to let you know that over the years, you have come to be my favorite female author (Randy Alcorn is my favorite male author).

What I enjoy and appreciate most is the message of Christ and His love, mercy and grace for each of us. Secondarily, the different genres (sp?) of your books - historical romance, suspense, contemporary, thrillers, etc - make you a well-rounded author and one I always read with eager anticipation and thorough enjoyment :)

I will keep reading (and collecting!) your books as long as you keep writing them!

in Christ - kimB from Alaska

Linda G said...

It almost sounds like that woman did not finish reading "The Note".
Maybe she didn't get to the part about Paige's husband dying.

I love your books and your style of writing in parables. I grew up reading Grace Livingstone Hill, but didn't care for the actual sermons in some of them.

Yesterday I found "The Immortal" at a local Christian bookstore. It is one of your few adult novels that I haven't yet read. It's going on vacation with me.

Brenda Leyland @ Its A Beautiful Life said...

Hi, I just found your blog for the first time.

We met briefly at the InScribe Writer's Fall Conference back in 2008... I enjoyed your keynote addresses that weekend, and so it's lovely to find you available on-line. (I love blogging).

Blessings.........and I'll come again to see what you're up to.

Leslie said...

Linda G - I forgot about that - that we knew she'd been pregnant before finding out she had been married. I am positive you are right about that!

And you'll love The Immortal. Trust me. ;)

Doni Brinkman said...

Life is edgy. It is! Not one of us has it all together. Sin was handled on the cross and it isn't the issue. God's story is one of redemption. I have had to learn to get over myself, stop worrying about sin issues (mine and everyone else's), and start living loved. His grace is greater. Love you Angie and wearing your fan club button. :)

Jules said...

"I have to pull away and remember that I write for an audience of One. Yes, I try to please my readers, yes, I try to write the best story I can write. But I will never please everyone all the time. Ever. So I write to honor my Boss. If He approves my story, that's enough for me." I needed to read this today. With my first book about to be released any day now I'm starting to fret about what readers will think and even to fear the criticism (because there's sure to be some). Thank you for reminding me again of why I write and Who I'm trying to please.

Amy said...

This kind of thing frustrates me! The spectrum is so big isn't it?

Thank you for writing books that are worth my time to read. seriously.

Caitriona said...

I haven't read all the other comments here, so if I am a repeat (and I hope I am not) then I guess maybe I have a kindred commenter here on A life in pages.

Angie, I am so glad that you are a cultural communicator. What I mean by that is you are willing to communicate the truth in a way that is understandable to our culture. You also write about real characters, ones we can believe are real people. There is nothing more disconcerting than a Christian fiction writer who "airbrushes" all the "holy" characters.

You are an inspiration to me and I am glad that you write to please your Boss (and mine).
In Christ and in the culture but not of it,

Stephanie Morrill said...

Angela, I view you as a guaranteed good read. I've read about 10 of your books, and all of them have been well-written and creative. God's proud of you.

Janie said...

Hi Angela,
I regret that you have seen negative comments that second guess what you said or meant in your writings. Just keep remembering that you are writing for the Lord, to honor Him through your writings, presenting the good and bad in life and pointing the reader to desire that which is good.

Kathy said...

Angela, I'm sorry you have had negative comments about your books. I like your books. Kathy

Sarah said...

You have been one of my favorite authors for quite awhile now and I haven't found a book of yours yet that I haven't enjoyed or been profoundly touched by. Your books leave me thinking about the story and the message long after I've finished it and I am always amazed at how different each of your books are from each other. It's a shame there are so many readers out there with a critical spirit who are just looking for something to complain about- whether the charge is true or not.