The reviews for all of my books—starting with Moonstone Beach
and continuing right up to The Promise of Lightning
—have been overwhelmingly positive. I continue to be touched by the generosity of everyone who chose to leave a review, and by the kind things you’ve said.
The occasional negative review has been posted, though. It’s an experience common to all writers, and one I accept as a natural part of doing what I do. When those one- or two-star reviews come in, I read them over carefully to see if there’s anything I should do differently in the future to improve my work.
As it turns out, most of those negative reviews have one thing in common: profanity.
No, I’m not saying that reviewers are hurling F-bombs at me. Quite the opposite. Most of them have been courteous and respectful even while they’re telling me why my books are not for them.
When I say the reviews have profanity in common, I mean that’s the thing most of those reviewers didn’t like. The F word. The G-D word. And a few other words that I won’t mention here, but that tend to come tripping off the tongues of some of my favorite characters.
As it happens, Loving the Storm
, my new book that’s being released this month, has a little more profanity than some of the others. Considering that, I thought it was a good time to explain why I use profanity in some of my books and very little in others.
My books contain all different kinds of characters. As I write the books, those characters come to life for me a little at a time as the book progresses. At first, I’m forcing it—writing them into existence through a combination of will and persistence. But then, a bit at a time, they start talking to me.
I don’t mean that I literally think they’re talking to me, of course. But the more I get to know them, the more the story becomes like a movie in my head that’s doing what it wants to do without my input. I’m just transcribing it onto the page. When this happens, I know I’m on the right track. I know I’ve got something that feels real to me, and that, hopefully, will feel real to the readers as well.
Once a character presents himself to me in this way, he is who he is. He might love to throw profanity around, or he might not. I’ve got to listen to him and present him accurately, the way he really is. Otherwise, it’s all a lie; I’m just making things up, and you’re going to feel the difference.
Liam Delaney likes profanity. So does Jackson Graham. So does Rose Watkins. Will Bachman rarely swears, and Ryan Delaney does so only in the mildest forms.
As a writer, I have a responsibility to myself, and to my readers. But my biggest responsibility, I feel, is to the story and the characters. I have to tell who they really are, and what really happened.
I know that might sound absurd, since this is fiction, after all. But so much of what I do is flailing around until I stumble upon what feels true. Once I’ve found it, I have to relate it to you as faithfully as I can. And that might, sometimes, involve a little profanity.
I get that some readers aren’t comfortable with profanity, and I respect that. But I wanted to explain that I don’t use it just to appear edgy or angsty; I don’t do it to appeal to a particular category of readers; I don’t use it, as some have suggested, because I need to invest in a thesaurus. I use profanity because that’s how some of my characters talk, and it’s my job to bring them to you as realistically, as in-the-flesh accurately, as I can.
I hope I’ve succeeded with Loving the Storm.