Q: What's your initial reaction when you read a negative review about one of your books?
A: An exaggerated pout, eyebrows joining in the middle, sad puppy-dog eyes. Then the words, "That's a bit harsh." My books are my babies; it stings when someone says they're not adorable.
A few moments later, I re-read the review and make a note of the feedback that I can work on in future novels. You have to learn from your mistakes, listen to your readers. You're writing for them, their thoughts matter.
I've been lucky that my contemporary romance books Chasing Pavements and Make You Feel My Love, haven't received any negative reviews yet. Well, I haven't spotted anything less than a 4-star review for these. (We'll ignore the 1-star rating left for Chasing Pavements on Goodreads as there was no text accompanying that rating.)
The reviews of the first two books in my paranormal series Poison Blood on the other hand, are mixed. The average rating (out of 5-stars) on Goodreads for Poison Blood, Book 1: Revelation is currently 3.61-stars, and 3.76-stars for Poison Blood, Book 2: Absolution. Not bad. I'll take that considering downloads of more than 30,000 at the end of 2015. Add this to the many people who contacted me via Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads saying they loved the first two books and want to know when the next instalment will be out, I'm elated that I pleased a few readers and did one or two things right.
The feedback I can take on board from the 1-star Goodreads reviews for Book 1 is that there wasn't enough action and perhaps the language was a tad grown-up for a YA novel.
One thing that keeps coming up is that the Poison Blood books are a rip-off of Twilight, a book in which girl meets vampire, girl falls in love with vampire, girl wants to become a vampire, vampire refuses to turn girl into a vampire unless girl marries vampire. All of this happens in my book; the only difference is that when my protagonist Ellie meets vampire, she doesn't fall madly in love with vampire, Ellie doesn't want to become a vampire and doesn't marry vampire. Also, vampire is not a teenager, and is not in high school. And there's not a single werewolf in sight.
My characters' personalities are very different too. I've read many books where it's the same story as Twilight, with the protagonists having similar personality traits to Bella and Edward, but Edward just happens to be some other mythical creature. Really, the similarities between my vampires and those in Stephanie Meyer's novels end with the skin/body. And the plot couldn't be anymore different.
Amidst the negative feelings about the vampire mythology I adopted, my writing receives praise on more occasions than none. The below reviews are classic examples of readers loving my work but not the sparkles:
"I enjoyed this book. I have read so many free paranormal romance books and this one kept me reading. I found the whole slayer angle interesting and I am excited to read the third installment. The only reason I am not giving it 5 stars is the whole diamond sparkly skin thing which was too familiar to Twilight for me."
3-star review on Goodreads:
Best because the grammar is great, it transitions smoothly, it is NOT a love struck human pining for a vampire, as well as being funny and sarcastic.
Worst because the mythology behind these vampires is TWILIGHT. Everything: the sparkling in the day light, the extreme beauty, AND THE REST OF IT TOO.
Don't get me wrong, the writing is great. But when all of your knowledge about your characters was told to you by Twilight - you have a problem."
In response to the last sentence: all my knowledge on my characters' personalities (remember, personality is separate to physical appearance) comes, not from Twilight, but from me. I created these characters.
As for authors conforming to the rules of the vampire mythology explored in Twilight, I think it's their decision. Some readers don't like sparkling vampires and so, understandably don't support my decision of staying in line with that. At the end of the day, vampires aren't real beings. Authors writing about vampires that sleep during the day, burn in the sun, can only be killed if their hearts are ripped out, who are stronger and faster than humans, are they plagiarising each other? Or does it only become a problem if the vampires are like those in Twilight, which some readers love and others hate?
Personally, I love the sparkling in the sunlight - to me, this seems far more feasible than industructible immortals that have skin that suddenly becomes flammable and burns to ashes in sunlight. More than that though, I love the fact that Ellie is more than just a vampire and I hope readers can give her a chance to tell her story. There’s more to her than her skin, trust me! Part II can be read by clicking here.
Thank you for reading this post. If you're interested in my debut novel, click the image below to learn more about it:
Like all my other books, it's also available on:
iBooks | B&N Nook | Kobo | Smashwords
And the first two books in my urban fantasy/paranormal romance series, the Poison Blood series, can be downloaded for free via:
Amazon US| Amazon UK| iBooks US & UK | B&N Nook Store | Smashwords