I think one of the reasons I talk so much about my writing process is because I'm trying to use my blog as a sort of long-winded mission statement. The hope that if readers understand the motivation behind certain scenes and certain books, they'll know what to expect. That if they understand what I focus on as a writer, they can read with an open mind. It's a hope that my books will be judged on their own merit, rather than judged as examples of a particular trope or genre. Or even judged against each other. Because my years of studying literature in college showed me that an author can focus on some things, and still manage to accomplish others.
For example, I've never written a book with the intention that it be sexy. I've never said to myself, "I want readers to think this is hot!" Not once, never. That's just not my cuppa, as a writer. So it always makes me smile when someone describes any part of any one of my books as sexy, or steamy, or hot, etc. I'm really glad some readers think that - to me, language itself can be sexy when used skillfully - but sexiness isn't anything I'm banking on, if that makes sense.
Likewise, I never set out to write a MAN. An all-caps, alpha, macho man. There's a lot of ways in which a man can be masculine, and I seek to capture many variations of personality. To this day, one of my favorite negative reviews comes from a blog that described my book Shelter as "shit" because the male lead "wasn't alpha," and "questioned himself." As a writer, I'm not seeking to capture a fantasy-inspired caricature of a man, but a real human man. And real humans come in all shapes and sizes, and they do question themselves. I write about people, not about concepts.
That's the thing about negative reviews: they don't affect my work. When someone complains that my books weren't short enough, or steamy enough, or comfortable enough, or they didn't like a character because he or she was different from them? That's someone who doesn't know or care what I was trying to accomplish. Who went into the book with a checklist of requirements. And I don't write for checklist readers. I write for thoughtful bibliophiles who want to lose themselves in the lives of interesting strangers for a little while. For whom reading is an experience, and not a reenacted fantasy. In a perfect world, everyone would love an author's books, but that's not what happens in the real world, and I'm okay with that.
Where am I going with this?
I've been saying for weeks that I'm excited about Walking Wounded, and I am. I so am. This is the first time I've made it all the way to the editing stage of a project and not started to viciously hate the book. By the time I finished Tastes Like Candy and Loverboy, I never wanted to see those things again. But this one's felt fresh and delightful all the way through. Part of this is because it's different; it was a chance for me to explore new aspects of my writing, to play with a different style. I got to "visit" new cities. I got to tell a story that wasn't mired in the MC.
It's my hope that all my readers will take a chance on Walking Wounded, but I understand that some of them won't, and I'm good with that. This book is very intentionally different from Dartmoor. It's a character-driven, sensitive, but non-confrontational story about - like all my books - relationships. I know it won't be for everyone, but that's okay. It's not meant for everyone. There's so many things I don't set out to be. But it's my intention, always, to be honest and empathetic. I hope every day that I have been.