Recently I received a note from a reader telling me that she’d tried to readÂ my medical thriller HARVEST and she just “couldn’t get into it.”Â She said she liked the Jane Rizzoli series so much better, and she hoped that I would stick with that and never go back to those “boring medical thrillers.”
Then there was the reader who wrote to tell me that she didn’t really care for the Jane Rizzoli series and begged me to go back to writing those “great medical thrillers like HARVEST,” which was her favorite of all my books.
One reader told me that GRAVITY was the best book I’d ever written, and he asked when I’d write the sequel.Â While another reader told me GRAVITY was just not her cup of tea, and that it was the one book of mine she didn’t finish.
A reader told me that of all my books, she thought BLOODSTREAM was my weakest.Â AÂ different reader told me BLOODSTREAM was her favorite.
Several readers wrote begging me to develop the love story between Maura and the priest, Father Brophy.Â They can’t wait to see that bedroom scene.Â And some readers told me to kill off Brophy because they’re tired of him, and of the flirtation.
What’s a writer to do with reader mail like this?
First,Â I’ll admit it.Â It hurts when someone criticizes one of my babies.Â I worked hard on every single one, so of course I don’t like to hear that someone, somewhere, thoughtÂ the bookÂ stank.Â But the longer I’m in this business, the more I realize thatÂ reader opinions are all over the damn place.Â If you write to please one reader,Â inevitably you’llÂ disappoint a different one.Â Plus, some letter writers have their own agendas.Â They’re looking for reasons to be upset, and — lucky me — they choose my book to get upset about.Â
All you can do as a novelist is write for yourself — and forÂ an audience of people just like you.Â Because if you listen too hard to all that contradictory criticism (“no more medical thrillers!”Â “no more crime thrillers!”Â “no more space thrillers!”) you’ll be too paralyzed to write anything at all.