There’s a reader out there named Kathleen C. who’s really, really ticked off at me.Â In fact she thinks I’m the spawn of Satan.
It’s because of an online interview I didÂ for The Literary Guild, in which I talked about the background for The Mephisto Club.Â Here’s the part that got her angry:
Question: Why do you think so many law-abiding people are attracted to “the dark side” of human (or maybe not so human!) nature?
Tess: We’re all fascinated by the very things we’re afraid of. Just look at the tourists in your local aquarium, or in the zoo’s reptile house â€“ everyone seems to congregate around the shark tank and the venomous snakes. We study the very things that will harm us. We feel compelled to know more about them. Maybe it’s simply our instinct for self-preservation: as they say, “know thine enemy”.
But there’s also another, more disturbing reason why the dark side attracts us. We are animals, after all, and we still possess the remnants of a more primitive brain. Perhaps some of us still retain those ancient instincts to kill. Although we may be law-abiding, we can’t quite rid ourselves of those reptilian impulses.
Now, I didn’t think there was anything particularly controversial in my response above.Â But oh, boy.Â Â What got her mad was my use of the word “animal.”
“We are NOT ANIMALS!” she posted on the Literary Guild website.Â As the Bible proves, “God made us in His image!” she pointed out, and to say we human beings are animals is to commit blasphemy.Â
So I guess I amÂ a sinful, Satan-worshiping person and anyone whoÂ buysÂ my books should be forewarned that they areÂ rewarding evil.Â
Hoo boy.Â It didn’t matter that my use of the word “animal” was clearly a reference to the biological realm (I do mention brain anatomy in that same sentence).Â It didn’t matter that the #1 definition of “animal”, as stated in the dictionary, quite clearly puts human beings in that category:
|1.||any member of the kingdom Animalia, comprising multicellular organisms that have a well-defined shape and usually limited growth, can move voluntarily, actively acquire food and digest it internally, and have sensory and nervous systems that allow them to respond rapidly to stimuli: some classification schemes also include protozoa and certain other single-celled eukaryotes that have motility and animallike nutritional modes.Â (Dictionary.com)|
The point is, once a reader gets ticked off at you, they cannot be argued with.Â They are lost forever.Â And Kathleen C. is clearly going to be spreading the word to all her friends that only sinners read Tess Gerritsen.
I’m so often astonished by what ticks off readers.Â One reader wrote to rant at me that I had personally insulted her — and every other hospital laboratory technician in the country — because I had made my villain a lab technician.Â “Do you think we all go around killing people?” she said.Â “I am never reading another one of your books!”
Then there was the gentleman from Greece who got all in a lather because in THE SURGEON, my villain WarrenÂ is a student of Greek mythology, and Warren likes to dwell on a particularlyÂ horrific myth,Â the sacrifice of Iphigenia.Â “Why do you single out GREEKS as sick and violent?” he demanded.Â “Do you think we go around sacrificing our daughters?Â You have insulted our country!!”
Then there was the acquaintance who had adopted a son from South America, who was pissed off about my book HARVEST, because it explored the urban legend of children being kidnapped for their organs.Â She considered it a direct attack on her, and sheÂ ranted that I should have been more sensitive to her situation when I wrote the book.Â And she was never going to speak to me again.
And she never did.Â She refuses to even go to any parties that I’ve been invited to.
(Umm, lady, I didn’t even know you’d adopted aÂ kidÂ at the timeÂ I wrote the book.)
The point is, some reader somewhere is going toÂ take something you wrote asÂ a direct and personal attack on them.Â Even if you’ve never heard of this person.Â Â
A few nasty letters or commentsÂ from readers can make a writer afraid toÂ write about anything controversial — or even non-controversial.Â It seems I can’t even useÂ the official dictionary definition of “animal” without getting an angry Biblical lecture.Â Â Kathleen C., you can bet, will never read another one of my books.
But then,Â if she gets mad at me for using the word “animal”, is there ANY author out there who doesn’t make her angry, ANY author who doesn’t offend her?
Who’s left to read?Â