Authors' reactions to comments from readers
* Well, no. "Took offense" is far too mild a term. "Started acting like a thirteen-year-old" is more like it. Telling people who criticize your published writing to "f-ck off" doesn't sound like the response of a mature adult, let alone a (would-be) professional writer, does it? <rolling eyes> But don't take my word for it. Read the comments on that blog post and see for yourself.
I couldn't help but contrast Jacqueline Howett's reaction with the way that Diana Gabaldon responds to her readers, particularly on Compuserve. For the most part, she's polite, tactful, and incredibly patient when responding to questions -- especially when you consider that she's answered most of them hundreds if not thousands of times before. Diana genuinely enjoys talking to her readers and fans, and if you ask a serious question that shows you've at least read the books and given them some thought, she'll give you a serious, and sometimes very detailed, response.
Those insightful replies from Diana are one of the best things about the Compuserve forum, in my -- admittedly biased -- opinion. I just love it when she takes the time to give a comprehensive answer to some question, like this explanation of the scene in the stable between Lord John and Jamie in BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE.
Yes, it's true that Diana occasionally responds with a "<rolling eyes>", when she's tired or frustrated (she's only human, after all), when she sees some particularly outrageous speculation, or when someone asks for the thousandth time if Jamie will ever time-travel (the answer to that is a definite NO). But as she commented once on Compuserve, "I seldom roll my eyes with lethal intent." Diana has a tremendous amount of respect for her readers, and I think she values our opinions a great deal, even if she doesn't let those opinions influence her writing.
As for her reactions to negative reviews: Diana has said that she avoids reading the Amazon reviews. As she commented last September on Compuserve, shortly after THE EXILE came out (to decidedly mixed reviews):
Like books themselves, some reviews will be valuable to some readers and not at all to others--and whether one has such value depends as much on the reader as on the reviewer.Diana has a standard response for people who write to her saying that they didn't like one of her books, for whatever reason. She refers to this (and I'm not quite sure if she's joking or not) as "Form Letter #13":
Now, personally, Amazon reviews don't usually offer me much. I do, after all, probably know more about the book than the reviewer does <g>, and I also by this time know a lot about book-buying audiences. I have a pretty good idea how things will be received--and if by chance I didn't, I'd hear about it pretty dang quick, believe me. <g>
Ergo, I don't read the Amazon reviews. Too much time (of which I have way too little anyway) and mental distraction for no appreciable return. But that's me, and me only.
I'd never say anyone isn't entitled to an opinion or shouldn't state it wherever they like.
Not all books are for all people. I hope you enjoy whatever you read next. Yours truly.....I think that's a very professional response. Polite, respectful, and very much in keeping with Diana's public image. I think the unfortunate Jacqueline Howett could take some lessons from that approach. (Not that it matters, because after what happened this past week, I can't imagine that anyone will ever buy her books.)