So, the latest of examples of Authors Behaving Badly came to us this past weekend in the form of a Guardian article penned by one Kathleen Hale. In her article, Hale describes a descent from "author reading reviews" (which we all know you shouldn't do, but we all do from time to time) straight down the spiral staircase to the irritable bowels of Hell. Essentially, Kathleen Hale admits to pretty high-intensity stalking of a woman who left a negative review for her book. That stalking revealed that said reviewer was using an online persona...and after reading about Hale going to this woman's home and calling her at work to confront her, is it any surprise why one would do that? Anyway, a number of good dissections and responses can be found around the intertubes, so this post is not going to do either of these things. What Hale did is pretty fucking terrifying and I think she should seek counseling*. Done.
No, what this post is about? Coping mechanisms. I've talked before about moments when you're down on yourself as a writer. I get it.
Those new in the game are keen to see reviews because, like most human beings, we want feedback. We want to know if what we're doing is well-received, liked. We crave validation.
That has got to come from within because hoping to find it on Goodreads or by Googling yourself is going to lead you into a place darker than Satan's taint. Trust me.
Truth be told... I used to hover over my computer refreshing Goodreads hoping someone else would review WILD CARD. I quickly learned that that was dangerous behaviour and only ended in me having a shot or two of Midori before bed. Yeah, it was nice to see the positives when they came in. And really, no one has panned WILD CARD. But the "meh" reviews? Those can hurt. Those can sting. So I stopped doing that to myself.
I have read a review that urged other readers to just skip my story in an anthology, though. I've read reviews that are tepid, or clearly don't understand the tone of what I was trying to write. And yes, there's always the urge/desire to explain yourself.
But that's not what reviews are for. Goodreads is not the place for that. In fact, I'll go so far as to say that reviews are not for the author at all. They are for other readers. You (as a writer) do not belong in that conversation.
So, speak privately (preferably away from a computer where screen captures might implicate you behaving badly) with friends and trusted companions. Eat chocolate. Binge watch something. Write more. Snuggle a pet. But do not engage with reviewers.
You know what I do when I see those rare-but-hurtful reviews?
I sing, watch or listen to this song:
Seriously. That's what I do. Do I wish any of those horrible things to happen to said person? Not one bit. The song itself, though, helps. It puts a funny spin on the situation, lets me indulge in my baser, less-mature emotions, and move the fuck on.
Find your own way to cope. Find what works for you. But if you find yourself thinking it would be a good idea to look up a reviewer's home address or call them at work? You might want to find a therapist instead.
Note: When I say I think that Ms. Hale should seek therapy, that's not hyperbole. She exhibits some obsessive-compulsive behaviors that need to be looked to. This is not how I feel about all authors who check their reviews or auto-refresh Amazon to watch their ratings. Stalking, "light" or otherwise, is a problem. It is an invasion. Ms. Hale should never have called the reviewer at her place of business nor gone to the woman's house. That is beyond the pale and speaks to deeper issues. Just as I don't think all authors are crazy, I don't think all people with mental illnesses are more prone to stalking. Hell, I'm on meds for my own stuff. So please understand that I am not making blanket or flippant judgments of any one group.
EDITED TO ADD: More information has come up about Kathleen Hale's past. Apparently this debacle is not her first rodeo. Not only does she have a history of stalking and inappropriate behavior, Jezebel reports that Ms. Hale also likes to tell people about these things in her writing in some weird melange of self-deprecating pride.