DEBORAH CROMBIE: One of the great things about being part ofJungle Red is getting to have your favorite authors as guests. Lisa Black is one of mine. She's also an author you can depend on to get things right in her series about forensic scientist Theresa Maclean--Lisa is a forensic scientist, and swears she spent the happiest five years of her life in a morgue, working for the Cleveland coroner's office. Although she sets her novels in Cleveland, Lisa is now a latent print examiner and CSI in Florida for the Cape Coral Police Department.
Here's a little set-up about Lisa's new book:
The Price of Innocence begins with Theresa and Frank (Theresa's cop cousin) caught in an explosion possibly aimed at a local inventor/entrepreneur, the northeast version of Bill Gates. Ignoring her bruises and forced to relinquish the investigation to the feds, Theresa tries to dive back into normalcy at work only to have a cop assassinated nearly at her feet. These two apparently unrelated cases begin to move closer and closer together as Theresa encounters the unpredictable world of methamphetamine production, an attractive and mysterious man, a circle of new money and power and a conspiracy of silence going back twenty years—the reach of which she could never have imagined.
Sounds great, yes? And here's what the reviewers have had to say:
Publisher’s Weekly said: "With only her gut to go on, she—and the reader—scud through a series of devilishly clever blind alleys and red herrings." Booklist reported: "Quick pacing, a keep-’em-guessing plot, plenty of dark humor, and a spunky, outspoken, whip-smart heroine make this a must-read for fans of Cornwall and Grafton." Kirkus wrote, "Once again, Black constructs a puzzle that weaves olds crimes with new, always leaving room for one more twist."
Fabulous, right? How could anyone not love this book? I certainly did!
But here's what happened to Lisa.
LISA BLACK: We’ve all been there--at least I hope we’ve all beenthere, I hope it wasn’t just me--when, after we’ve spent five or six or nine months writing a book, and our critique partners like it, and our family and friends love it, and we send it to our agent waiting to hear how much she loves it too… she hates it.
Not just “this character doesn’t seem realistic” or “this part of the story drags” or “this subplot isn’t sufficiently compelling” (how I’ve grown to hate that word!). No, flat-out, unequivocal, don’t-even-bother -rewriting-this. Throw it out and start over. Nearly a year of your life, tossed aside in one delicately worded phone call or, worse, e-mail.
Please tell me it’s not just me.
But one of the most saving and yet most difficult things about writing is how “different strokes for different folks” is not just an adage, it’s a truth. One person’s literary genius is another’s boring claptrap. A friend found Meet the Parents hilarious while I found it barely watchable. Another can’t stomach any sort of fantasy or science fiction no matter how well done. And books--I’ve had books I’ve been completely gaga over, from Gone Girl to Brian Freeman’s Immoral to the idiosyncratic but priceless Ranchero by Rick Gavin…then I gave them to my trusted siblings only to have the reactions range from ‘meh’ to ‘ick.’
And so it should not be surprising that while my first (brilliant) agent caused me to throw The Price of Innocence into a drawer, my second (equally brilliant) agent encouraged me to bring it out again when new publisher Severn was already asking for a follow-up before Blunt Impact even hit the stands. She tried it and, lo and behold, she liked it.
Joy. Not because the months I spent writing it would not have been in vain (though that is a huge consideration--life is short after all) but because she confirmed for me that I am not crazy. The Price of Innocence is perhaps the most freeform of my poetry, the most boldly colored of my artwork. I let my character go out on limbs I couldn’t have stomached ten years ago. This book is like your smallest child, the one whose quirks and inconsistencies mean he will never play on the football team or be elected to office but who throws himself at every situation with such boundless enthusiasm that even while bandaging his knee for the forty-leventh time, you love him most of all.
Point being, though we all know how people’s opinions can vary, it still comes as a shock when books we love aren’t unequivocally loved by others. Why is that?
DEBS: I keep thinking about JK Rowling, and all the agents and editors who hated Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone... Do they still wonder how they could have made such a mistake?
What about you, fellow REDS, have you had an experience like Lisa's?
And readers, have you loved a book and had a trusted reading friend hate it? How do you deal with that?