Since I published Crazy Little Thing Called Dead I’ve gotten a few, uh – unpleasant emails from people because something bad happens to some of Bree’s animals in that book. I know, I know, NEVER hurt kids or animals. Except that Donald Maass says the most popular books are those in which people feel genuine emotion, and that you should “kill the cat.”

Now I’m sure the readers who have sent me these less than pleasant emails are perfectly nice individuals, who are normally kind and thoughtful. I shattered their expectations, and that’s never easy. And I’ve been there, I’ve read books where authors have done things that I thought were unnecessary, and have made me leery to read them again. And I certainly would rather someone put down my books because of an emotional story line than because the writing is bad. But sometimes I just want to write back and say “These were fictional animals. They never actually existed. No animals were harmed in the creation of this book.”

I know this wouldn’t help. I know that in people’s heads (mine included) these animals were real. Initially I wrote the scenes to help deal with the sadness I felt at having to put Midnight to sleep last Spring. She had cancer and could not eat. It had to be done. But only the death of my mother hurt me more than having to put down that beloved dog. Here’s her picture:

It makes me sad just to see her face. She was our first family dog. I dug her grave. Writing about Bree’s animals allowed me to release the emotion and cry like I would not have been able to else-wise. Not that I will ever stop missing her.

In order for Bree to act against her essential nature, which she does in this book, something horrific had to happen. I used the emotion I had already put into that scene – on the advice of some very savvy writers. I don’t regret it.

I do regret making people feel bad. One email I received on Christmas Eve was especially hard to take – partially because I was described as – well, evil. That’s a strong word to use. But mostly because my words had hurt someone so badly that at Christmas, a time for happiness and joy, she was feeling hurt and rage and hatred. I would not wish that for anyone.

But is it evil to take a story to a place you believe it needs to go, even when it means taking it past a point of comfort? Some would argue that I’ve broken faith with my readers. Up to this point my books have been fairly light, and upbeat. Even fun. Others might argue that my writing needed to evolve. To deepen. That I shouldn’t be afraid to write about the more unpleasant aspects of life.

I don’t know. I think the laughter and tears can be balanced in one book. I think you can take that emotional ride with a character and understand why she might be pushed beyond her moral code, and thankful when she’s pulled back again. But it’s difficult as a writer to have disappointed readers. Not mildly disappointed, mind you, disappointed enough to call me a horrible and immoral person.

In the end, I will write what I write because I need to. If I start trying to second guess what is going to offend people I’m afraid there will be no there there. I didn’t write a difficult scene because there is horror in the world, but because there was horror in my heart. Nothing more, or less, than that.

All this reminds me – Julie, I don’t think you should read Crazy Little Thing Called Dead. You probably wouldn’t like it. And I want to stay friends with you.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

londonmabel February 15, 2013 at 5:24 am

I definitely agree you have to do what you instincts tell you when it comes to writing. :-) But I wish books came with warning labels, lol! Usually if there’s an animal in a book or movie, I find the end to see if the animal lived. Before I can read/watch it.

And, of course, you are not evil. For the love!! People be tripping.

xxxooo

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Sue Schlabach January 11, 2013 at 7:11 pm

Stay true, Kate. It’s interesting that the death of animals upsets people more than the fact the there was also murder in the book.

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Judie January 10, 2013 at 4:11 pm

I was crushed when the animals died, but Bree would not have gone off the deep end like she did for anything less.

I can’t believe someone would call you evil. That’s just crazy talk.

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Deborah January 8, 2013 at 11:07 pm

Crazy Little Thing Called Dead was the first Bree McGowan book I read. I really enjoyed it. It was sad when Bree’s pets did not survive the incident. It allowed me to actually feel and relate to how Bree felt and the revenge she wanted. I always remind myself that we can please everyone. I have the second book, California Schemin, and I know I will enjoy that one too. I know I am reading the books out of order….what can I say. I look forward to the next book in the series.

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Kate January 8, 2013 at 11:24 pm

I’m glad you’re liking the books Deborah! And don’t worry a bit about reading them out of order. I think the stories hold up on their own. And you are right. Can’t please everybody…

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Delia January 8, 2013 at 9:50 am

Kate, do me a favor. Think of the book you love the most — or the movie you love the most, for that matter — a timeless classic that no one in their right mind could possibly hate. like Where the Wild Things are or something. Then go look up the reviews on Amazon. It will have a one-star review, I guarantee it. If it had any circulation at all, it will have many more than one. People will hate it. They won’t hate the idea of it or what they’ve heard of it, they will hate having read it. They will hate that it even exists. They will hate the author for its very existence. Probably they wrote that author a letter telling them how much they suck. Maybe even that they’re evil.

You’re not evil, nor is your writing. You’re reaching a wider audience. This is a natural consequence of that. Congratulations. :)

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Kate January 8, 2013 at 11:23 pm

Thanks D,

I never thought of it as reaching a wider audience. That puts a positive spin on it!

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Judy, Judy, Judy January 7, 2013 at 4:08 pm

With all the true – real – non-fiction evil in the world, that someone called YOU evil is just ridiculous. The current trend appears to be – look for something to be offended about. I don’t like or follow that trend.

I liked Crazy Little Thing Called Dead. It was a well written book. I’m sorry you took flack for it. You don’t deserve that.

I could let a thing like that shut me down for months. Hope you don’t do that.

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Skye January 7, 2013 at 12:26 pm

I think that an author has to do what an author has to do, and the story often requires things that even the author is uncomfortable with. I’m sorry someone called you evil and I’m sorry people have said hurtful things to you. I trust you to do what is necessary for the characters and the story, even if I don’t like it. All you can do is the best job you can do, and do it in the way that seems right to you. And some people will be pissed off. Glad you have this blog to vent on so we can support you. Take care!

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Nan January 7, 2013 at 11:11 am

Awww, Kate. I hate it that people would actually take you to task over this! As you said, this is a fictional animal…and sometimes bad things happen to good people and animals, even in fiction. Hell, look at Bambi’s mother! I loved CLTCD and you are a great writer. Stay true to yourself! And remember the famous words of Dolly Parton’s character in Steel Magnolias, “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.” If you can make that happen in a novel, more power to you, baby!

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