G or PG or Nothing: Unhappy Readers

This entry is part 13 of 15 in the series The Art and Craft of Writing Sex Scenes

This email came in today:

I started out really enjoying the book Lake in the Clouds, but quickly lost that enjoyment when you described the sex scene. How I wish that all books had a rating like the movies so one’s money would not be wasted. If you have any family rated (G or PG) books please let me know.

A-Would-Be Reader

It’s unfortunate that she started with Lake in the Clouds, as the scenes that (I’m guessing) bother her are (in one case at least) more about violence than sex. I really do try to avoid gratuitous sex scenes. If there’s nothing to be gained in character development or plot, I’ll skip over the details.

So I’m sorry to lose a potential reader, but I don’t really see a way around this conflict. I write the story — which isn’t always pretty — to the best of my ability. Some will like my stuff, and others won’t. Such is the nature of the beast. In the ten or so years since the first novel in the series came out, I’ve had a handful of emails from people who tell me why they can’t or won’t read my work.

There’s was the guy who was outraged that a dog was shot (the many human deaths didn’t seem to bother him); there have been other people who objected to violence or sex. A few people decided they didn’t like me personally and so they don’t want to read my novels. All fair enough. I make similar decisions every day.

On the other hand it wouldn’t occur to me to write to an author and tell her (or him) what steps would be necessary for me to become a faithful reader. I might write and express an opinion, but I can’t imagine telling somebody how to tell a story.


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18 Replies to “G or PG or Nothing: Unhappy Readers”

  1. Hmmm. I don’t know what to say. I personally enjoy sex scenes, not because I’m perverted :)but because sex is part of life and relationships. I don’t enjoy violence, but it is also part of life. If I read a book and don’t enjoy it, I might write the author(probably not though, unless I’m really outraged), but I wouldn’t dictate the author how she/he should have written the story. After all, it’s her/his story. You don’t like it, don’t read it. I have a friend who loves great literature, but refused to read anything that contains sexual scenes. She’s a devout Christian and thinks it’s a sin. I don’t know. I won’t argue with people on religious matter, it’s a waste of time, but unfortunately, these people miss out on great fiction. Like yours.
    PS: I actually find your sex scenes, especially in TTTT, to be very true and hot, and moving. Not gratuitous at all, just beautiful.

  2. When I don’t like a book, I stop reading, close it, and put it down. It’s really that simple. At least, it is to me. If I didn’t like a certain author’s writing, I probably wouldn’t read any more of his/her books. I can’t conceive of ever writing to an author to instruct them on how to write a “better” book though. Sounds kind of control-freakish, you know?

  3. Hi Rosina
    My first thought: there’s a vote for Babalu and Mrs. Chicken.
    Otherwise, I am looking at this person’s e-mail as if they really seriously do want to know if you have written any other books which would not offend their particular sensibilities.
    Perhaps as well as stating what you put in your first 3 paragraphs above, you could point out that prior to purchasing/borrowing any book, they could always ask the bookstore or librarian whether or not the book contains any potentially offensive material. A reasonably simple solution I would have thought.
    But yes, I agree with you. If I found something I didn’t like in an author’s work, I wouldn’t write to them to suggest they no longer write in this manner, or if that if they wrote a certain way I would be their biggest fan.
    Keep on doing what you do Rosina – I love it.

  4. or if that if they wrote a certain way I would be their biggest fan.
    Keep on doing what you do Rosina – I love it.

    Did I just contradict myself there? Oops. You know what I mean I hope.

  5. Durr!!! I hate this kind of self-righteous Bullsh*t!!! How close-minded do you have to be??? How presumptuous to think that an author should tailor to your (bad) taste. Also —read the 1st book in the series first!
    Rosina, don’t waste your time worrying about this type of “reader.” not worth your time.

  6. Just to add a little note: I do agree with that unhappy reader regarding the rating system. Movies had ratings to let you know what you’re getting yourself into. Same for video games, and even music has “parental control”. I think books should have some kind of rating. Maybe not PG or R, but some indication of the kind of topics the novel will explore. I’m not saying we need to cater to people, but some people do need those indications. But, I wonder, would it affect book sales? Would people stop themselves from buying a book from prejudices? That could be an interesting debate I think :)

  7. Please don’t go there Rosina. Not worth your time even thinking about it. Just write more fabulous books with gorgeous, emotionally intense, appropriate, love scenes.

  8. Geez – imagine if you took on board what every single reader wanted you to write or not write??? You can’t please all the people all the time. Obviously you write what you want, keeping in mind that this book has to sell to the majority of the public. I think you do a great job and I love the books and I’m pretty sure there are many just like me.

    Personally – I can’t wait for the next one! :)

  9. Think it’s kinda sweet that the sender took the time to E-mail ya, he/she oviously enjoyed what he/she read. There sensibilities though prevented them from enjoying it. Kinda sad. Maybe Homestead would be ok? probably not. Think the would be reader was frustrated that she/he was missing out.

  10. Makes me wonder what section she found LITC in? I’d think there would be some inherent assumptions a buyer would have browsing the romance section, even adult fiction in this day and age.
    Think I’m over analyzing..
    Maybe..hehe, some people feel the urge to share the fact that they ALMOST enjoyed your work but..like saying I’d LOVE to eat that Black forest cake but it’ll make me fat. Yes, Rosina’s work is sinfully delicious! hehehe.
    Or(further over-analyzing), some people honestly believe that there opinion/view/problem should be shared with you. Now if this is the case and they aren’t trying to be offensive, a lil diplomacy may be in order. Reader feedback isn’t always going to be good, but even negative feedback can be spun 180 degrees ;)

  11. What satisfaction does a person get from writing to an author to tell them how much they disliked their book and they just lost a future reader? I’ve thought about this long and hard since reading the above and I just don’t understand it. I have read books I really didn’t enjoy but I would never believe I had the right to make contact with the author and tell them just that. I think it is different in a forum like this where Rosina specifically asks the members of the forum to openly discuss what they thought of her novel. In this case the author has instigated the discussion. It is very different from a reader sending an email to criticise or offer suggestions on how he/she should have written their book. My mother used to say ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all’. I think ‘A-would-be-reader’ would benefit from hearing this advice.

  12. Just to be clear: I’m not angry about the email. I’m not upset about it at all. It just made me think, which you know: not a bad thing.

    Would I write to an author in the same way? No. But I encourage readers to write to me, and so I have to take the bad with the good. And I can use both the bad and the good as something to post about.

  13. I always think reading a new author is like going on a first date. If you’ve got enough in common, you’ll see each other again. If not, you move on to someone else. Fortunately, there is no monogomy in reading, so you can build countless relationships. But I’d never take the time to point out all the reasons it didn’t work to either someone I went out on a lousy first date with, or to someone whose book I read. That’s just the name of the game. For me, Rosina’s books are a match made in heaven. I’ve had a lot of lousy first reads, but after Into the Wilderness, I knew I had begun a lifelong relationship. . . :o)

  14. I think it’s the consumer-oriented society we live in. I sometimes write to companies with whom I’ve done business to express unhappiness over certain things, hoping they’ll take the suggestion to improve. If enough people write in about the same thing, it’s in a company’s best interest to change practice to keep their customers satisfied.

    I think this is where the e-mail writer is coming from. TV shows have been pulled because of angry viewer reactions, so why not write to a book author on the same principle? (Maybe you could suggest the NASCAR/Harlequin line of books they just discussed over at SBTB ;-)

    I have read that every work of art is a dialog between creator and audience, but unfortunately these days there is a very fine line between ‘artistic work’ and ‘commodity’ all across the spectrum.

  15. I have skipped over reading the details of any replies… but i scanned a couple of them and i can see that i probably agree with most of them.

    I love your work because you do not sugar coat anything… I feel like i am going through real life at the time you are writing about.

    If i wanted to avoid real life scenes, i would read works from writers who write in that vein. There are many to choose from. If this person just went to the fiction section to pick out the book then they are going to run up against a lot of problems reading such scenes in different variations.

    I agree that if this is the first time this person read your work, especially in this series, they should of started in the begining with into the Wilderness.

    I wished that this person had stated how they came upon wanting to read the book in the first place… ie recommendation, cover, someone gave them the book, library or what.

    I have a problem in my work with people being offended by nudity, in my sculpts, drawings, etc … but what the hay, i prefer to sculpt, paint, draw in realism.

    Personally, i love your writing, even when the subject matter can be upsetting. Keep up the wonderful works that you do.

    As for a rating system, there are book review places, web sites, book clubs, magazines, el etc that do rate work in PG, R or whatever ratings that can bother one’s senses.

    This person should stay away from a lot of classics and older works.

    My apologies if i went over some same points…

    Like your NEW Diggs!

  16. A rating system for books? Now that’s a novel idea! Its not the content that bothers me but some things do come to mind–flat one diemensional characters, storylines that amble off in a direction that has no bearing on the plot, books that were written specifically for a straight to movie deal (Grisham), and my very favorite finishing a book and going “what the He**?” I will read about anything if the book is well written. And certainly the reason I am here is because your books are some of my favorites. Thanks!!

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