Sweating the Reviews A friend of mine, Mickey the Magical Countess, recently recommended a TV series to me. This is a first. She's a PR guru who handles some of the hottest men and most interesting properties in Hollywood, and she's never before told me to watch anything. "Netflix, Sherlock, the British show," she said. She's blond and gorgeous and her beautifully boned face lit up with pleasure. "It's written by smart people, about smart people, for smart people--and they don't care who doesn't get it." I felt wistful and, frankly, envious of the show's creators. What an astonishing risk for an artist to take: to work at that level of intelligence! So rare in today's lowest-common-denominator world. It's the sort of thing I aspired to, when my indie publishing company Parvati Press put out my novella THE LOVE OF MY (OTHER) LIFE. This bittersweet romantic comedy isn't what any of the legacy publishers would ever publish. I took risks--I went for it--I tried to create a physicist who was actually a physicist, with the vocabulary of one, and to move with quickness and lightness through a story that had the highs of love and the lows of loss. And I wanted to pay homage to my alma mater, and how else to do that than by showing a few unvarnished Yale qualities: grade-grubbing, ridiculous intelligence, critical thinking, competitiveness, and a self-awareness that is wrapped in irony that is ensconced in lack of irony. So the novel went up on Netgalley. Early readers have had time to consume it. This is always a vulnerable time for me, as I await those first reviews. Generally I stop reading reviews after a few months, when my literary baby has taken a few steps into the world and situated itself. But for the first period of time, I am breathless with anticipation: How will my offering be received? For me, books are love, and my books are love letters to the world. On the other hand, I write, fundamentally, for myself, to whom I must be true. The very first Goodreads reviews of THE LOVE OF MY (OTHER) LIFE were quite good: "This is a scrumptious look at love, art, science, and the many pieces that link into a helix that sweeps the reader into its orbit," wrote one reader. "I love the way the book ended and...I would definitely read the 2nd book if it was ever made," wrote another. One of my favorites was, "This book was nerdy and artsy and quirky and funny and endearing," perhaps because I feel that so many of those adjectives apply to the author herself. At least I hope so. Then there was a gloomy day filled with ugly feedback. One reader chortled at my diction. Another felt I had a good idea but executed it poorly. The most painful review wasn't the one that was most vitriolic. If you put anything out into the public arena, some people are going to throw a lot of crap at it. That's just a truth of human nature. And for whatever reason, scornful reviewers love to air their nastiness. No, the most painful review was the one in which the Goodreads reader wrote, "I felt I wasn't smart enough to read this book." This comment stung, and it hit me in my ambivalent space. I want to work at my peak, but I sure as hell don't want my novels to exclude any reader who goes to the trouble to take it up. If readers hate my works, that's fair. I have a word I use for bad reviews: "NEXT." (This word is not trademarked nor patented; I encourage everyone to try it for themselves. It is delightfully neutral, so that energy isn't wasted disliking the negativity of the bad review.) But to make someone feel they aren't smart enough to read my work? That stings. That I have to look at. That I have to wonder about. What am I trying to prove? How can I heal that within myself so the next book is better? This is one reason why reviews are important. They can lead an author into a deepening and an enriching of his or her creative process. Luckily, today, this evening, I got an email from Netgalley with feedback from a reader:
Title: TheLove of My (Other) Life Link:  Outlet:
Full Text: I loved the story.  How true is it that life can be completely different when you make a few different choices.  I hope there is a second book, or at least the Tessa has the love of her life with the Brian in her world.  I highly recommend this book.
Thank you,
The NetGalley Team