I got the idea for Selling Scarlett years ago, at a time when I desperately needed money and had a certain something to sell, had I wanted to. (I didn't!) I think I sold my platelets to the blood bank instead. ;) But I filed the idea away for future use. I didn't think of it again until one weekend this Spring when I was working on Trapped, feeling bored and tired of writing things on a schedule. So I wrote Scarlett. I put everything else on hold and just let this story take me where it did. And I was surprised at where it went!
Writing about a brothel was one thing, but my hero being blackmailed by a hooker? That kind of thing was not my forte. I hated how Hunter just kept right on going, according to Priscilla's plan. I hated how long it took for him to get together with 'Libby'. I hated what happened to Cross. The more I wrote, the more I worried. What would people think of this crazy book? What would my family say? A romance novel is one thing, but this was racy. Dark. And not in that ever popular we're-broken-till-we-find-each other kind of way. Just dark.
So I held my breath when I pressed 'publish'. What would my writer friends think? What about my YA readers? Someone would have something to say about it. I bit my lip and waited for rotten tomatoes to start flying at my head. The good thing was, there were a lot of flowers and a lot of confetti first. There are so many nice people in the world - readers who just want to build you up and help you. People who are happy to e-mail you and let you know a man from New Orleans would never say 'Crayfish'; it's 'Crawfish'. People who tell all their friends how much they loved your book. But for every handful who like it, there's someone who doesn't.
i knew this book was going to be different than her previous writings but nothing prepared me for this . one star is too many to give this book. shame on you ella.
Shame is such a heavy thing to put on anyone. All I could think about for days was that someone thought I should be ashamed of myself. Not just someone. A former fan. I'd never had this kind of feedback from any of my YA books, and I have to be honest: It was hard to handle. I've never been the kind of person who can just shrug off what other people think. I don't like disappointing people. I'm a perfectionist. I don't like conflict and have only in the last few years learned that sometimes it's necessary.
I spent a lot of time thinking about my new book. Why couldn't I write something more socially acceptable? Why didn't I write something more reader friendly, like a campy mystery or Christian fiction? (I have a Christian romance plotted, TBR under another pen name, and it, too, took a dark turn after about ten seconds of me sitting at my keyboard). I'm a fairly modest person in 'real life'. Why don't I have a problem churning out a steamy sex scene? I don't know why - I just don't!
Finally I reached a bottom line for myself, and this is it: If you're going to be a fiction writer, there's got to be some magic in it for you. You can try to write to the market to a certain extent, especially if you've got the benefit of a quick publication time (which comes with being an ebook author), and I guess you can censor your story to a certain extent - but part of the thrill and beauty of writing is writing what you want. Writing a story how you see it. And accepting that not everyone is going to like it. I think this is especially true for romance writers, who take so much heat (har har) for writing what we enjoy.
My best buddy in the town where I live doesn't like romance novels, so she didn't read Scarlett. My sister bought it, but I'm not sure how she liked it. I can tell you up front that it's not her kind of story. I'm pretty sure if people in my hometown knew that I write, they wouldn't be sharing snippets from Selling Scarlett in the lifestyle section of our little newspaper. And you know what? That's okay with me. I wrote a story that was interesting to me. I wrote the characters how I thought they would really be. From start to finish, this book took me less than two months to produce. Is it perfect? Um, of course it's not. But I had fun, and people are reading it, and the reviews are more good than bad - at least so far. ;)
Today, on one of my favorite cause/charity blogs, I saw a quote that really stuck with me:
I could still be working in the admissions office, or at the sports clothing store, or at the newspaper, but I'm not. I chose to say something - to tell my own stories. I wanted to write books, so I started writing them. They might not be as good as I want them to be yet; I'm not perfect at this. But I'm learning. And I'm doing it. Which is more than a lot of people can say...
I set this quote as my computer's wallpaper, and every time I get an icky review, I'm going to read it. You can't win 'em all, but you can win some of them. Maybe even most of them. And that's pretty damn cool.