Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Controversy!


I was hunting for reviews of The Weather Inside, as I do because I am a pitiful lech, and came across this anonymous 1-star on Amazon.ca: 
"I bought this book because I am an ex JW and I thought it would be interesting. Well I only made it about a quarter of the way through. While the author knows the basics about how JW's work, she doesn't know how they talk , comport themselves or how the meetings and assemblies are.Rule number one for authors is "write what you know"!I want my money back."
It's the first bad review I've received, at least publicly. (My dad didn't like my book either.) Anyways, to protect what I know to be true about my work and my integrity, I replied. 
"So sorry you didn't like the book, Amazon Customer. I pride myself on the great care I took with research, which I spent years doing. I read books, poured over the Watchtower web site, went to a meeting, took virtual tours of the printing facilities, spoke with and interviewed Witnesses (both active and ex), quoted from JW materials heavily, used the exact script from an assembly, and reflected the experiences of many ex-JWs in support groups. This novel certainly reflected all of that research, as well as my own experience with religious alienation. I can't give you your money back because I am a broke writer. But good news! You have the power to tell everyone how much you hated it! That's the beauty of free speech! Which is the same freedom that allows me to write about whatever I want, as long as it's responsibly and meticulously researched, and, above all, empathetic to my characters and their emotional experiences. Thanks for your feedback, though, Amazon Customer. And I mean that sincerely. I'm sure you've gone through an intense journey with the religion yourself. Maybe there's even a book in you about it. I'd read it."
This assertion that you "write what you know" is tired. When people say it, they usually mean "write what you've lived." Beyond that, what many of them probably mean is: "Hey you! Write what I have lived." Well I'm here to let you in on a little secret: Books would suck if we authors wrote only what we "know." Doing so would, in fact, put an end to whole genres: historical, fantasy, sci-fi, dinosaur erotica, etc. 

I knew that I opened myself up to critique by writing about a specific religion -- that's why I researched so hardcore. And I stand behind that research and my book 100%. Through research, I did write what I knew when I wrote The Weather Inside. It's too bad it doesn't jive with this person's personal experience. Of course I would love it if every former Witness saw themselves in this story. But that's impossible. As impossible as finding love with a T-Rex. So I'll take that 1 star and wear it with pride.

4 comments:

  1. Your reviewer obviously didn't make it to the part where she'd discover that you don't know that weather should be outside, not inside. You could recommend to him/her a good book of 100% accurate non-fiction from the jw.org website.

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  2. Way to go for engaging with the reviewer, Emily. Brave and necessary in this stupid age of starred reviews.

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    1. Thanks, Erin. I wouldn't have engaged if it was a plain old "I hated this book." But I researched and consulted and experienced my butt off on this, so I couldn't let that go unsaid.

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