So I usually try to follow the rule of never responding to any of my one star reviews. It draws unnecessary attention to them and people are entitled to their opinions. Their negative feedback often causes me to analyze my own writing and change it in the future, so it's not really a bad thing.
Also, I love reviews. Even bad ones can help me sell books.
But today, I am going to make an exception and talk about a one star review that I received recently for my free novel "Pandora's Mistake."
I'm not angry at this review at all. I totally get where this person is coming from and why they said the things they did. I don't even want to address most of their review. I just want to talk about one sentence that they wrote at the end of the review:
"Wouldn't recommend to anyone with qualms about sexism."
This part of the review really stuck with me. I couldn't stop mulling it over for days after I read it. It's not because I am angry that they posted it. Some of it is that I am concerned for the reader. I think I might have struck a nerve with them and hurt them unintentionally and that was not what I was trying to do with this book at all.
I get why they wrote what they did. Pandora is a very naive woman in my novel. She was created by Zeus and then told that her only job in life was to be the perfect wife to Epimetheus. Epimetheus is a horrible husband who winds up being physically and emotionally abusive. She worries that it's all her fault that she's being treated this way, that maybe she should have been a better wife. Deep down inside, she rebels though, looking to Prometheus for escape from the situation (he has been abused, but by the gods, too) and she calls to Zeus for help as well. (He's like her Dad, after all, since he created her.) She wants to know why Epimetheus isn't getting nicer when she's trying to do everything right. Zeus never replies because he has abandoned her.
The only way I can really talk about this is for me to break another rule, a rule that involves not talking about personal stuff more than I'm usually comfortable with online.
I grew-up surrounded by very conservative people. I lived in California all my life, but I grew-up in a small town where people were different than stereotypical Californians. They were very religious and a lot of people might consider them to be the kind of people who take things too far. I knew a lot of homeschoolers (I went to homeschool myself for a few years as well.) Even though we didn't live in the south, they were the type of home-schoolers who liked to argue that the south should have won and even held an annual Civil War Ball.
I was told by many, many people in my life that I had to be quiet and nice and submissive. That I was stepping out of my place if I argued too much and that no man would ever love me if I behaved that way. That women weren't allowed to have authority over men and that they made terrible leaders because they had periods and too many emotions. That the greatest gift in life for a woman was to be married and have kids. When I had a certain career goal that many woman I knew disapproved of as a teenager, they would tell me,"Just wait until you meet the right man. You'll forget all of that and become a housewife."
I did meet the right man and I am a housewife now. My mother is also a housewife, so don't get me wrong, I don't think there's anything wrong with housewives or anything wrong with women who work. But I also don't think there's anything wrong with a man staying at home and taking care of the kids and I don't believe I should have to submit to anybody. I believe we are all equals.
Those ideas being forced on me over and over again made me very confused as to what it meant to be a woman. It made me make some poor decisions in life because I was just trying to follow the rules. Pandora is facing a similar dilemma. She's trying to be a submissive woman and it's not working.
I have rebelled against these ideas as an adult. I married a man who had a very strong, loud, single mother. I adored her. And I laughed when I was around my husband, my brother-in-law, and my brother-in-law's father. My brother-in-law and his father were saying how most of the men in their family can't resist marrying loud, opinionated women and how they were as annoying as they were lovable. It made me crack up. I am always the quietest person among them and it's nice to have a husband who appreciates you when you are fighting for something. Who admires you when you are strong and roots for you as well. Who likes it when you have opinions and express yourself.
But because I grew-up with that background, I kind of threw parts of it into that Pandora story. How the reality of being the perfect, submissive wife is actually horrible and how all the people who told you to be that way are not going to be there for you to help you through it when things get bad.
And it's not just my experiences I am basing this on. I've seen how these ideals have effected people's marriage.
I also wanted to say something about Pandora. She's the Eve of Greek Mythology. She's the reason that some people, even to this day, will say sexist things about women. She's seductive and she's overemotional (supposedly.) She's also stupid. So she uses all of that to unleash every horror onto humanity. Women are men's "curse."Or so the myth likes to claim.
No one even remembers that it was really Zeus who wanted to destroy humanity (because he was angry at Prometheus for giving men fire.) That she could have been trying her best to be a good woman and wife, but since a god planned all along to use her to destroy her own species there was little she could do to stop him. She was just a new person (with the mind of a child), she wasn't going to know how to outsmart him. She was being used by everyone around her.
I wrote my series to be about looking at characters from new perspectives. I don't view the world as black and white, I view it in shades of gray. I find it interesting to make Pandora and Medusa into heroes when they are traditionally viewed as failures and villains. Or like in my next book in the series, the one about Sisyphus, I show how badass he truly is, how much of a threat he was to the gods, even though to most of us he is an unknown and unimportant character.
I just can't say any of this stuff in the book because you are not allowed to as an author. You are not allowed to be a character with opinions and feelings about things. Your characters just have to be themselves. You can't put footnotes here and there, saying,"By the way, reader, I do not approve of any of these actions" or "Do you get this metaphor? This is about oppression of woman in society."
I can't have all my characters spouting my beliefs for me either. Not only would that be easy to see through, but it would be boring and unrealistic.
I like to write about people who are different from me. I like to write about people who offend me. I've been close to a lot of people when I've seen them go through bad things and I like to write about what I've seen other people go through as well.
I assure you, Zeus and Epimetheus are the villains in my story.
Especially Zeus. I am the opposite of most people who love the Greek
Gods. I think they're all a bunch of jerks, except for Hera (unless
Hercules is involved.) I also happen to like Persephone and Hypnos a lot, for some reason. I think I hate Zeus more than any other greek
mythological character ever, which is saying a lot since Tantalus
murdered his own son and tried to feed him to the gods for dinner. I
still hate Zeus more than that.
We live in a harsh world and sometimes it's hard for me to write happy endings when I haven't seen justice occur in real life, so it's probably confusing sometimes when my characters don't have happy endings. I'm working on that part of my writing, but when it comes to the greek myth books, I embrace the tragedy of stories just like the ancient greeks embraced it as well.
I don't hate conservative people. I have people on my friends list on facebook who are conservative (and who don't necessarily believe any of the things I mentioned here) and some of the closest people to me in real life are conservative people.
So I want you to know, if you were the person who left that review, I'm sorry if I triggered something for you. I don't want to be a reason why you cry or feel angry. And I just didn't feel right not saying anything about it, even if I may be unable to address reviews like this in the future.
I write things sometimes so that people who had bad experiences or did bad things in their life can have people in fiction that they can relate to. I don't pull punches when my characters are suffering and I don't always fix all of their problems. It's just how I view the world and how I view writing.
And if you don't like it, that's fine, you don't have to read my books or give me any of your money. I accept it, but I'll still be your friend on social media if you want and I hope you can understand where I am coming from.