The things that slip by you, pre-publication


 When I’m waiting for a novel to hit its publication date, I always anticipate criticism. This is a hold over from academia, where it’s important to consider flaws or counterarguments while you’re putting a paper together. Anticipating criticism is the first step toward either avoiding it or preparing a response. 


Writing fiction is different, of course, but I still try to anticipate where I might alienate or lose readers. For The Gilded Hour my concerns were pretty straight forward: it’s a long novel, and some people just don’t like long novels. For whatever reason (something in the individual’s style, or about the novel, or both)  they have trouble staying focused. 

There are also some topics which are controversial and highly emotive. I won’t be surprised if I get comments or reviews that find these storylines disturbing or even offensive. I’m prepared for that possibility. I don’t have rationalizations or excuses to offer — I wrote the story I needed to write — but I won’t be shocked to hear that kind of criticism.

There are always criticisms about anachronisms. This kind of criticism I consider closely and I will do some fact checking. However, if the reader finds that the main characters are too contemporary for their time, that I leave alone.  If you have to explain something you did in a novel, you didn’t write it well enough. Or your reader wasn’t paying attention. Either way, it’s not worth the effort to try to resolve the confusion.

And there’s the certainty that some readers just won’t be interested. I myself find it impossible to stay focused on cyber-crime novels. That’s about me, not about the novel. 

Just after a novel comes out sometimes criticisms pop up that take me by surprise. Here’s what is happening now with The Gilded Hour:

Some readers get to the end of the novel and are irritated because storylines aren’t resolved. Who was responsible for X? What happened with Y? If there were a sequel, then maybe they could live with these questions.

This is the question (is there a sequel?)  nobody anticipated. I didn’t, my editors didn’t. Nobody. It should have been made clear at the end of the novel: Sara Donati is hard at work on the sequel to The Gilded Hour. 

Alas, that didn’t happen. People familiar with my work would probably assume there is a sequel, but other people will not. As is the case with one of the reviews that shows up both on Amazon and Goodreads:

Way too many unresolved storylines. Unless there is a sequel, there are way too many unresolved subjects in this book. Given that the book is 741 pages-counting the author’s notes-there was certainly enough time to address one or more of the above subjects.

This same review gets some basic facts wrong and includes spoilers that aren’t tagged, but I am in fact thankful that the reviewer was so clear about what bothered him/her: the lack of clarity about the unresolved storylines and a sequel.

I just don’t know what I can do about it. 

6 Replies to “The things that slip by you, pre-publication”

  1. I haven’t read it yet but as a long time reader and fan of yours I guess I would assume/hope to goodness there was a sequel.

    Also I love that it’ll be a long read, that’s my kind of book!

  2. I don’t think there really is anything you could do about it. Even if the blurb had in huge letters that you are working on a sequel there’s going to be someone who didn’t notice or pay attention, I’ve had to deal with people complaining about this sort of thing when the book itself had a chapter from the upcoming book at the end and they didn’t pay attention.

    The price of putting words on a page and publishing them I guess. But I’m very glad to that you do.

  3. As a would be writer with ‘learner plates’ the size of the universe! I can only marvel at the artistry and skill in producing a novel of this length with obvious links to previous books in the series.
    Surely if there are unresolved questions then there lies the magic? Personally I don’t like to read something that answers all he issues, I want to keep thinking and guessing. On a re read I might get some more clues?
    Possibly the only conclusion is : ‘You can’t please everybody all of the time’! Here’s to more positive than negative,comments!

  4. When I saw that you had written a new book of course I had to pre-order it. I loved the wilderness series so much, have read it twice so far and will read it again soon. I am hoping there will be a sequel to ” The Gilded Hour”. Thnx so much for a great book and a great story. I loved the Into the Wilderness Series. Hope

Comments are closed.