Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Most Hurtful Reader Letter I've Received


Yesterday in my New Year's Revolution post I mentioned receiving a very hurtful reader letter over the holidays. In fact it came the day after Christmas. I read it just before turning off my computer for the night. Oh, boy. I did nothing immediately--just slept on it. At first I thought I wouldn't answer, but I awoke the following day with different ideas.

Here's the letter. It's about Always Watching, book #1 in the young adult Rayne Tour series, co-written with my daughter, Amberly. The healing mentioned in the first paragraph is on my Web site.

Dear Mrs. Collins;

I was very encouraged and impressed by God's goodness to you as I read your account of your miraculous healing.

After reading of your healing, I am even more disappointed than at first by your book "always watching". Yes, it was suspenseful. My thirteen year old purchased it for me and her sisters to share as a Christmas gift, spending her hard earned babysitting money. As I read the back, it sounded interesting and godly. We expected it to be about a teen relying on the power of God to get her through unusually tough times. Unfortunately, it seems that God was mentioned to lure Christian teens to purchase and read a book that is not about Him or His power.The main character has no relationship with God at all, and He is barely mentioned. There certainly was no godly moral. I understand that the characters may in the following books, become closer to God. However, this book was sold as a single book, not a set, and so we see it on it's own merits, which, I am sorry to say, are few. I'm sure my daughter was attracted to the fact that it was a mother/daughter writing team. How can you defile your own daughter with this terribly ugly story? Please realize that when your book speaks of the most high God on its cover, it is expected that He will have more than a scant few mentions throughout the entire book. I am quite disappointed in Zondervan for publishing this book, and in you for writing it. May God help you see the power you wield through your pen, and purify it.

Sincerely,
____ ______
-------------------

Whew. I've had people not like my books before. But no one has ever accused me of "defiling" my daughter. Can you think of a worse personal attack against a mother? Nor has anyone else told me my writing needs to be "purified."

The writer of this letter is responding to an issue we've discussed before here on F&F: the level of spiritual content in Christian fiction. (Check out this post, written just a few weeks previously.) To her, the content was too little. But instead of just feeling the story wasn't right for her, she chose to attack the entire book, and me as well. Her tone was judgmental enough that I didn't think she'd listen to a thing I said if I answered her. But then I got to worrying about the 13-year-old who bought the book. No doubt her mother was letting her know the book is no good and probably not allowing any of the kids to read it. I felt bad that the girl would be disappointed. I thought the least I could do was offer to personally refund her money. I wanted to be gracious. At the same time I didn't think it was a bad thing to tell this woman she really hurt me. She'd read the story of my healing--could she not see my heart?

My answer:

Dear ____:

I was very sad to read your letter of disappointment in my book Always Watching. Sad mostly because it apparently disappointed your 13-year-old, who spent her money on it. First, please send me your daughter’s name and address. I will personally send her a check to refund her money.

The Rayne Tour series is about a rock star’s daughter—someone not in Christian circles at all and with no thought of God at first. It’s the story of how such a teen in the secular world comes to understand, through the help of a Christian friend, that there’s a God who’s “Always Watching.” (As the back cover says, “Where is God at times like this?”) In the jam-packed two days of trauma that Shaley faces, she begins to turn toward God, at the end vowing to find the truth about her heavenly father.

Please understand that while the spiritual content may not be what you expected, this series is written for Christians and nonChristians alike. This is the kind of book your daughter could give to a nonChristian who has no thought of God, and through reading Shaley’s experiences, can come to see God is also watching over her as well. Yours is the only letter of this kind I’ve received. The others from mothers and daughters have been very favorable.

Perhaps you lashed out at me so strongly because of your disappointment for your own daughter. I can understand that. We all want the best for our daughters. You should know how very hurtful your letter was. I pray over every book. “God, whom is this book written for? What person do you want to reach through it?” You’re right, I do know God’s power intimately. I’ve seen it in my own life. God’s power shines particularly strongly through the evil in this world—and that’s what I write about. I’ve received many letters from people who’ve come closer to God—or become a Christian in the first place—because of my books. They’ve seen evil. Perhaps they’ve lived it. Through my books they see how God shines through in such times. The level of spiritual content in each of my books is right for that character and that story.

The most hurtful thing you accused me of is “defiling” my own daughter—the last thing I’d ever want to do. I prayed daily as I wrote Always Watching. Did you pray before sending me your letter? I’m a mother, just like you. Perhaps suspense is simply not for you and your family. That’s fine. At the same time, thousands of other readers who enjoy suspense are uplifted by the message of God’s love woven through my stories.

Again, I’m very sorry you were so disappointed. Please send me your address so I can refund your daughter’s money.

Blessings to you and your family this Christmas season.
----------------------

I did not receive a reply.

Two things I'm reminded of by this experience: (1) As a writer, I'll never please everyone. And sometimes people will outright attack me. (2) As a reader, I need to resist being judgmental of what another Christian author chooses to put in his/her book. That author's audience simply may not include me.

What do you think of my answer? Note: please don't lash out against the writer of this letter. I want to direct the comments toward ourselves. Would you have responded at all? What can you learn from this as a writer and/or reader?

49 comments:

Nicole said...

Painful.

Your conclusions are right on, BC. You cannot please all readers. You were generous to offer a refund. Anyone who might want to check you out either before purchasing one of your books or even after reading one where they felt offended would have no problem viewing your heart after God.

This is unfair of the reader because she obviously expected something different from the novel. Your response was gracious under the circumstances.

Some readers can't understand that a lot of us don't care for prairie romances and the like (no offense to those gifted authors who write them). Judging us for preferring other genres speaks of condemnation.

Janet Macor said...

Dear Brandilyn,
Your letter was kind and gracious; I am glad you wrote back to her; it was the right thing to do. I wouldn't have been as kind - some long time Christians need a waking up.

I am only a Christian 13.5 years and my immediate family are still all unbelievers.

How you represent this young unbeliever in your novel, coming to a knowledge of our Lord Jesus is very possible.
At 13 years old, I knew that there was MORE out there, but I couldn't put words to it. I didn't know about God really - I started to search. As an unbeliever - how God brings us to a knowledge of Him is always different than long time Christians. In fact, it is sad how much turmoil and searching unbelievers (as I did) actually have to go through - when we are surrounded by Christians who never tell us about Jesus.
What is sad, is I knew Christians -from school - friends, parents, teachers, and then in university - friends, and not one of them, told me about Jesus - not one. When I was saved, I was mad at them. I thought I would confront them all and ask them why - why they didn't say anything or give me anything to read. But, God had changed me more by that time, and when I was given the opportunity to talk to one friend in particular, I just shared with him the good news of my salvation.
If only when I was growing up, someone handed me a Christian fiction book about a rockstar that I could relate to (I listened to Kiss, etc at the time) and learn about God that way - just as I did in real life: slowly, painfully, brought to my knees acceptance. I saw evil, I lived it too - this is real. And during that time God is in the shadows, just as He is for your character in Always Watching.

Your letter is gracious and kind, and not harsh enough.
Long time Christians, so protected from the reality of what is really going on out there, don't realize how much unbelievers need someone to reach out to them. Perhaps if only in a book - I was an avid reader by age 11 - I read Exodus by Leon Uris at that age and knew there was some special message in that book, even though I didn't know what it was exactly. But no Christian in my life gave me a book. Leon Uris isn't even a Christian. LOL God works through unbelievers too sometimes.

I aspire to be a writer like you Brandilyn. I want my books to reach out to unbelievers too, to let them know I know what they are going through, God knows more importantly, and there is Hope still for them - can they see it through a character in a book?, I think so.
keep writing please.
Your sister in Christ Jesus,
Janet

Mocha with Linda said...

I so appreciate your sharing this and the gracious, godly response you sent her.

As an avid reader and reviewer, I have tried to be careful not to give an unfavorable rating to books I simply don't like because it is a matter of taste. If I feel that their theology is oppositional to the Bible, I will take a stand for that.

My 14-year-old daughter loves this series and eagerly anticipates more books.

Thanks for what you do.

dirtywhitecandy said...

You're totally right that from time to time readers will attack authors. Voicing their disappointment is fair enough, although they may not realise how much it hurts the author!

I think your reader way overstepped the mark in her comments, though, and needed to be told that. Your response was judged to perfection.

Karen said...

Nicely done, Brandilyn. I don't think I would have had your courage to respond nor would I have been able to pen the gracious words you did.

Angie Arndt said...

Brandilyn, I agree with the other commenters - you're response was prayerful and gracious.

I'm so sorry that a reader's letter hurt you so deeply. God does accomplish His purposes through your writing. And how blessed your daughter is to have your example to follow! I can't tell you how many times you've encouraged me both in my writing and my Christian walk.

Thank you for your ministry.

Timothy Fish said...

My initial reaction to your response was that it was a little harsh. In particular, because of the statement, “Perhaps you lashed out at me so strongly because of your disappointment for your own daughter.” After reading that sentence again, I realized that I had read “with your own daughter” where you actually said, “for your own daughter.” That statement could have been made clearer.

As for your response as a whole, while otherwise well written, I’m not sure that it is very helpful in the context within which it was written. Even though the reader mentioned her daughter working hard to earn the money, the reader didn’t ask for her money back. If anything, this mother is proud that her daughter worked hard to purchase a gift and for you to offer to return the money as if it were nothing might be looked upon as not showing appreciation for the daughter’s effort and could be an even greater offense to this reader. The reader knows you can’t take back the disappointment experienced on Christmas morning, so I suspect the response the reader would like to get is “You’re right. I’m sorry. I’ll try to do better in the future.” It’s rare that we can ever respond to a reader that way. I believe a better response would be to say something along the lines of “Yes, I agree that there is a place for stories that show God having a more active role in the lives of the characters and I may write a book along that line in the future. However, I felt it was best to write this story this way because…”

The paragraph were you address “defiling” you own daughter is also very troubling to me. You essentially accuse the woman of not praying. That may be true, but the accusation isn’t helpful. Also, your suggestion that this woman shouldn’t read suspense because she didn’t like your book is most unhelpful. She never said she didn’t like suspense. Maybe she likes suspense, many people do, but she wants to see God more active in the story. There’s nothing wrong with that. A better response would be to say, “Though you may not like the way I write, I have read books by other suspense authors who may write stories like those you are looking for. Their names are… If you would like, I would be happy to send you a copy of one of their books.” A statement like this would should that you not only listened to this reader, but you are willing put in some effort to rectify the situation, rather than just throwing money at the problem, as you appear to be doing in the first and last paragraphs.

Richard Mabry said...

Brandilyn,
You did all the right things, no matter how hard. I doubt that I could have had the grace to put off firing back an angry reply or, alternatively, shredding the hurtful letter and mumbling into my beard. Instead, you looked deeper into the writer's situation, coming to what I think is a pretty accurate conclusion.

I was told years ago that a writer needs a thick skin. Guess that's still true. Right now I'm having nightmares as the Advance Readers Copies of CODE BLUE go out. It's tough to put yourself out there for others to judge. You've done it a lot, and you have my respect for doing so.

Blessings.

Karen Eve said...

Brandilyn,
It's obvious that you were led by God to write back to this reader and although it may seem harsh to some, I think it was just right. After reading the woman's letter, I had the impression (right or wrong) that perhaps the daughter had not read the book herself and that the mom screened it first (good approach). Your books are not for everyone and even if they are suspense readers, not for all ages. Some 13 yo's are not ready yet for the intensity of some of your books. I also think that offering to make a personal refund was right on. I don't think that's insulting at all. The mom can decide to accept or reject it, it's her choice. That does not negate the saving of the money and purchasing the gift.
You did good and thank you for listening to the Lord on this one.
Blessings,

Susan Kinney said...

Brandilyn,

I have recently discovered your books and I'm delighted in the insight and skill with which you write. I am interested in finding this book the letter was written about for my classroom. (I'm home sick today!) I'm a teachers aide for an alternative program. Some of our students have very loving families and some do not. So many do not know God and would never, without beeing dragged by their hair, enter a church. I can't wait to bring this book to the classroom and alow this message to nudge them and allow their minds to consider who God is and that He cares enough about them and that they matter! Well done! I am grateful that you allowed God's grace to be given to this lady. Unconditional love and grace will allow healing and growth into lives it is recieved by. You gave her a wonderful opportunity to grow in love and grace! God Bless You Richly and Always!

Connie Brzowski said...

Once upon a time, I got a nine page letter from someone I considered a friend. I guess it took that many pages to enumerate all my many faults and failings. Less than a week before, I made a special trip into town to pay for her daughter's dental care because she called asking for help.

Words hurt.

Did she forget the woman behind the novel? That a real-live person with a beating heart sat behind that keyboard, with the daughter of her heart no less, and agonized over every word?

I'm guessing that's the case but honest-to-goodness, I'm learning that a letter says more about the condition of the writer's heart than the recipient.

Your reply was gracious and the tone kind. Don't sweat it, hon. You done good :)

Peggy Blann Phifer said...

Brandilyn,

Ouch.

I believe you handled this exactly right. I'm not sure I could have mustered the grace to respond the way you did. My respect for you has just gone up several more notches.

I really don't have any insightful words to add to what's already been expressed. Just . . .

Brava!

Ane Mulligan said...

I learned long ago when someone lashes out, they are usually hurting. It helps me to remember that so I don't retaliate. But that's not so easy to do. I thought your response to her was exactly right.

Ronie Kendig said...

Man...as others have said...OUCH! And Ane's right--when people lash out, they're hurting, and most likely because a button got pushed.

Just for the record: My daughters (16 & 13) LOVED that book. They are bugging me to the get the others. LOL You've kept that series appropriate for the audience, I think!

Ron Estrada said...

This is a good lesson. Writing is a business after all. In my "real job," I sell a product I thoroughly believe in, but I get nasty calls and letters from time to time. It's impossible to be successful and never make someone angry. There are simply too many personalities and experiences in play to please everyone.

Tracey Bateman said...

Putting yourself out there even in novel form is tough. Especially when you write suspense and even moreso if it has a supernatural twist to it. It's hard to be accused of not being Christian enough. Especially when we get enough attacks from the secular side of things. Friendly fire hurts the most. I don't think people get that.
I probably wouldn't have answered at all because no matter what you say it will be misconstrued and twisted. God knows your heart. He knows how surrendered you are to his voice and his calling and in this case, you were gracious and kind to someone who feels spiritually superior. That grinds me!
I would have offered to send her a refund if she sent me the book and proof of purchase. :)

Jan Parrish said...

Wow. I think it was a spiritual attack. This woman probably had n idea how she wielded her words (I hope).

I feel your answer was just the right combination of meekness and strength. Great response.

Twinkle Mom @ Sunflower Faith said...

Ouch, was my first feeling reading the letter that was sent.

Followed by empathy;It's easy sometimes that we forget as followers that not many are blessed with a Christian foundation and that our Heavenly Father, isn't here to heal the already healthy, but the "sick".

There are many who don't know God and may not know Him for a very long time and it's a process that those who don't know Him personally go through; In the meantime, dealing with personal rebellion and denial or just actually not knowing (even in the 21st Century)His grace and word, life without Him is empty and hard and tough and it's a praise when one is blessed by Him to not have to go through that road but through another road.

The way you handle it was with grace and it is sadness the personal level that was taken.

As Christians, we have to encourage each other ,but with careful and loving truth and that includes how we are with each other; For the world IS watching and if they see us fight among ourselves, what light is there to encourage them to not know us, but Him, our Heavenly Father.

Not a plug (I'm just a teeny tiny plebian in this bigger world of His), lol, but for my bible reading yesterday, I read the following:
30 And their scribes and the Pharisees complained against His disciples, saying, “Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
31 Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Luke 5:30-32, New King James Version)


As I read that I cried, because it's a reminder...He seeks those who need Him the most and love the most, those who don't know Him and are broken and there are many walking among us.

Not only are we all sinners and imperfect but at some point and time, we were broken.

God loves the broken. He didn't come for the righteous who know better and know His word and should know Him personally in their hearts, but for the sick, the lost, the broken.

There are walking wounded who need His healing and part of that...sometimes knowing that they are loved and can be loved no matter what their circumstances are and it doesn't take having a "picture perfect life" to be loved.

Sometimes that is why He calls us to get out of our comfort zone and look beyond our doors and our safe circles to do His work, be it abroard or sometimes just in our backyards.

Everything we do can be a work of ministry for Him and it's as easy as at our front doorstep and outside our comfort level.

Those tend to be the people who need Him the most, not the ones who are healthy and can walk for themselves.

Praise His Name, He doesn't expect absolute perfection otherwise, we all have and will fall short.

When He walked among us, He walked among the worse of society; I think it's easy to forget that sometimes what we speak, write or do, isn't for the ones that know Him, but for those who don't know Him and those are the ones who benefit the most.

Your gift of words is an example of how we are to be lights in a dark world.

A great quote that I have nearby goes,"Remember, brothers and sisters – it’s not our job to save people. It’s just our job to tell them how to be saved. After that, it is between God and them.”

Our job is to be His ambassadors and get the word out, but then the work is done in and through Him. Not in and through us and Him.

How you handle the letter was with grace and love as a follower of Christ is called to be and it looks you did the best and it's prayer and hopes that in and through our Heavenly Father, that maybe He can and will reach all who read the book.

We may not see the seed that has been planted today and may never see what is grown, but He will and that is a praise to Him.

God bless you for your loving heart and the gift He has blessed you with and my apologies for this long comment.

This just struck a chord with me.

NancyMehl said...

Brandilynn,

I think you handled this situation perfectly - you were truthful, yet you walked in love and understanding.

As an author, I've gotten some nasty comments too. It's hard to understand why people who call themselves Christians (a) think it is their job to "straighten out" a fellow Christian or (b) don't bother thinking about the hurt they may cause someone else with their unkind comments.

If I don't like a book, I keep it to myself. Different people have different tastes. I don't think it's my job to try to dictate any other writer's work.

Just so you know, I ordered "Always Watching" for a young lady who asked me for recommendations. She loved it. (Should I ask her if she felt defiled??? LOL!)

Kaye Dacus said...

Thanks for the reminder to "sleep on it" before responding to this kind of an attack. I've received personal correspondence from readers calling the heroine of my first novel "fat" and saying that there's no way a man would find a woman like that (almost six-feet tall and a size 18) at all attractive. I've also seen reviews posted online calling another novel of mine "drivel" and "a complete waste of time." While I find I can easily laugh at the reviews, which aren't necessarily directed at me, it's a lot harder to not go with that initial knee-jerk reaction to the e-mails that come directly to me disparaging my work. I cannot imagine the pain you must have felt at the woman's accusation of your "violating" your daughter. I would never have been as kind, loving, and godly as you were in your response! Well done.

Terri said...

Brandilyn,
I'm so sorry you were hurt by the letter writer's words. I think hurtful words from another believer cut us more deeply than those from an unbeliever. There should be safety among fellow believers, not condemnation.

I just want you to know that I have read and enjoyed all of your novels and I hope you will have many more to come.

As to your response to the letter writer, I feel you responded in a Christlike manner, which is how we believers are to respond. I commend you for praying about it first, rather than answering right away when the hurt was so fresh.

May God continue to bless you in your writing and to use you as a tool for others to better know the God of all creation.

Random Ruthie said...

Mrs Collins, I nearly cried! Mainly because I love the Rayne Tour series thus far. You responded with grace and honesty. And it's true that we authors won't please everyone out there. And one of the reasons I like your books is because they are not overly spiritual that they would appeal to a non-Christian and at the same time encourage Christians in their faith. Don't get discouraged! Remember your revolution.

Keep writing!

Random Ruthie
Scribe of the King

Kim Zweygardt said...

Brandilyn, I'd like to address the writer who thought you were "throwing $$$ at the problem" instead of listening. I disagree. I thought you were gracious and it was an offer from the heart especially since the letter writer mentioned the money spent on the book. As a speaker who sells items on my book table, they all come with a money back guarantee if they are faulty--real or perceived. Being generous and gracious sets Believers apart from the world. I think you were right to respond and I don't believe your reply was harsh but merely expressed your heart. Blessings!

Chris Richards said...

Brandilyn,

I think you did an excellent job of handling a difficult situation. You had to walk a fine line between retaliation and defending yourself when you discussed her comments about "defiling" your daughter. I had to read that part twice to be sure what you were communicating and I pray the recipient of your letter understood. I know this was a difficult situation for you and my heart goes out to you for the pain you have suffered. But I have to say, my heart also cries out for the writer of the letter. I have a hard time imagining a person writing this letter who was not in a lot of pain herself. My prayer is that the love in your letter helped to ease some of her pain.
Your books help the non-Christian world to see the joy that can be found in our world. Keep up the good work.

Marybeth said...

Some people seem to just go through life looking for a fight. I hope that you can shake the dust off your feet and get back to the work God has called you to. (I am sure you already have.) I am sorry you have had to deal with this and I know firsthand how hurtful ugly letters from total strangers can be. The fact that you don't know this person doesn't make it any easier. Have a great rest of the week and keep up the good work with your eyes fixed on Him, your Audience of One.

Jess said...

wow, i can't believe that letter. i would never write that to anyone. if i don't like a book, then i just think "maybe it's not for me" or "maybe i just don't like this type of book" but i realize other people might.

however, i believe your response was very sincere and genuine. you showed through your response that you care deeply about all of your readers. i can't imagine myself responding so nicely to someone writing such awful things about what i write. she personally attacked you and your writing and yet you sent not just a reply, but a long letter showing you care. offering to refund the money was awesome.

don't dwell on this too long. just remember all your fans and those who love and support the writing you do and keep on writing for all of us out there and those who have yet to know your amazing stories. :)

Nicole said...

Timothy, c'mon. This was a mean-spirited letter. I'm sure the writer didn't intend it to be, but it just flat was. Something pushed her buttons and she wasn't content to just express her dislike for the story, she had to attack BC's relationship with Jesus and with her daughter. I think this woman will face some hard lessons with her children down the road, but what you suggested for BC's response was over the top under the circumstances. Brandilyn is not responsible for this woman's tastes in literature or for her daughter's interest in and purchase of the novel.

Leah Morgan said...

It took some vulnerability for you to share this and even more to ask for input. I was more shocked and offended by some of the repsonses to your repsonse than I was by the dissatisfied reader's! I saw your letter as gently firm. HARSH? As a butterfly! I found your reply gracious. You didn't have to answer at all, and you apologized several times in a specific, rather than generic manner that felt sincere. You addressed each concern which is fair and the most difficult thing I give you credit for accomplishing: you kept your tone controlled, not defensive or combative.
I thought it was beautiful to offer her a refund. It shows your heart desires to serve and to heal. I don't see how in the world that offer diminishes any credibility for the daughter working to earn her money as one suggested. It's granting the reward back.
I admire your courage to deal with each complaint and hold the individual who caused the pain responsible for knowing her words carry as much weight as your published ones.
Christ did not refuse to refute. He demonstrated by example the courage to take on disagreement even with the knowledge that He would not persuade the dissenters. It is done because it right and healthy to both be accountable and to hold others accountable. The laws of relationships should not fail to operate any more than the laws of nature for our own safety.
Your disgruntled reader was well served by your reply.

Need More Words said...

I'm sorry something so hurtful had to come your way.
I think as Christians we sometimes isolate ourselves from the world and especially try to isolate our children. We don't want to accept that world around us in cloaked in darkness. We stay shut up in our houses hogging all the light. Your letter writer may be in that group.
I pray that you see how the enemy could use this against you with future writings you do with your daughter. If you allow him to plant a question in your mind about "defiling" your daughter he will win by shutting down the gift God has placed in both of you.
Thank you for writing what may offend some but what never offends God.
Diane

Lena Nelson Dooley said...

Brandilyn, you were gracious as I knew you would be.

One thing I've noticed is that sometimes when a reader lashes out at an author, it's unrelated to the book. Something else is going on in the person's life that makes them feel helpless. An author is far enough disconnected that they can release their anger and disappointment and feel that it's okay.

CAROLINE said...

I don't think people realize how hurtful they can be.

I agree with what many others have said, you really took the Christian approach by even replying to her, not sure that I would have.

You are right, when you put yourself out there through your writing, you make yourself an easy target.

Please don't let one sour apple sour what was otherwise a great book and a wonderful experience writing with your daughter, try to cherish those memories instead of one nasty letter.

~ Brandilyn Collins said...

I so appreciate everyone's kind words. I do agree with those here--and those commenting on my Facebook wall--who say that many times an angry letter arises from hurt. I don't hold a grudge against the writer of this letter, nor am I wallowing in pain over it. At first it was hurtful, yes, but God helped me put it in perspective. The reason I put the letter on my blog was to remind us all how harsh our words might sound--and to remind writers, especially new authors, that everyone gets negative letters now and then. As writers we can expect that. But we can't let the negativity get us down. I'm much better at dealing with such a letter, having been at this for 10 years now. But I really feel for the new author who'd receive something like this. It could be devastating. If anything I said in my response makes the woman think twice before sending similar thoughts to another writer, I've done what I set out to do.

Carol Bruce Collett said...

Your response the letter seems appropriate to me. Thanks, too, for the reminder that it's best to take a deep breath before responding only from hurt.

Margo Carmichael said...

Good job, Brandilynn, especially the wisdom of sleeping on it. I loved the book. Yes, obviously, she had a more didactic story in mind. And, obviously, she should have slept on her letter.

By the way, I mentioned some weeks ago that I gave _Velvet Dawn_ to my friend's husband who likes mysteries. We know that some men don't want to read a book written by a woman. Well, he loved it. And last night, my friend told me she gave him two more of yours and he loved them.

So, see, you have a new reader. :)

Hugs, (((Brandilyn))) and God bless, and hello to Mama Ruth.

David said...

My wife doesn't enjoy suspense and thrillers. However, you should have seen her face when she neared the finish of Exposure. She said, "She got me," over and over. She loved it. Thanks for the great gift. You've made a Kindle friend for life!
David

~ Brandilyn Collins said...

David, thanks so much.

All--there are many more comments on my Facebook page. At the moment they number 40. You can read them here: http://www.facebook.com/brandilyncollins

Timothy Fish said...

Nicole, you’re right, the letter from the reader does appear to be mean-spirited. You are also correct in saying that Brandilyn is not responsible for the woman’s tastes in literature. But, Brandilyn asked for an opinion about her response and that is what I attempted to provide. I have made it clear in the past concerning my beliefs on how writers should respond to criticism. My response to Brandilyn had that in mind. As a member of the human race, a writer would have every right to respond to this letter much more harshly than Brandilyn responded, but as Christians, we are called to something better. Vengence, no matter how small, should have no place in the mind of a Christian. Admittedly, that is an area with which I struggle, but that makes it no less true. In a situation like this, we may be able to say that the writer has no responsibility to the reader, but what of the responsibility to God? Certainly, we do not have to cower when people criticize us, but our responsibility is to boldly seek reconciliation. That is the example that God gave us when he died on the cross.

Nicole said...

Yes, Timothy, I agree, but I think BC did exactly that. This woman can have a problem with the novel, but she demonstrated more than a problem with the way the book was written. She extended her anger toward BC and dared to impose a standard and judgment upon BC which she had no right to suggest or imply. Anyone who truly cared to know who BC is could find this blog and survey it before pronouncing condemnation upon her and her work. This woman was out of bounds, and I think BC extended reconciliation to the woman who apparently--at least so far-- wants nothing to do with it.

Amy said...

ok. WOW. That was a hurtful letter. I am tryely sorry the message of Always Watching was completely missed. Brandilyn, I am a person who hates to read, however, I love to read your books. They are so well designed and have such powerful messages in each of the series. Some characters are strong Christians from the start and some have no clue about God or his power and come to know Him by the end of their story. I have found myself examining my faith to make sure it is on the right path, especially after reading about Chelsea Adams. Her strong faith helped motivate me to want to get to know God on a more personal level. I had an extremely rough few years and at first really struggled with my own faith, but your books have shown me to press on. I know the stories are fictional, but the characters are explained so well they seem real.

Your response was very well thought out and very right. I loved this series as much as any other. I dont have a teen daughter yet (shes only 5) but come March I plan to purchase 2 copies of each of this series for my nieces birthdays. One will be 14 and the other 12 and I think they would love these books.

Dont let her letter get you down. You are a great writer and your daughter is taking your lead. I dont know you personally, but I can tell you I know you are a good mother who loves her daughter.

Thank you for keeping me interested in reading..and most of all in GOD.

EJ said...

Excellent response. I loved how you addressed the hurtfulness of her letter so graciously. I will be keeping this in mind if and when I face the situation. Way to turn the other cheek!

Sharon A. Lavy said...

I am so inspired by your response to this hurting woman. And that you did not water down the hurt she did to you.

I'd love to never need this lesson, but just in case I do I hope God brings this to my memory for a Godly response.

Warren Baldwin said...

I didn't think your response was too harsh or critical. A key part of honest dialog is being honest, and I think you were. If the reader has chosen to respond to you (and hopefully she still might) you could respond again and perhaps some understanding would emerge.

I read many of the above comments but not all so I don't know if anyone addressed the issue of what might be working in this woman's life. I spoken and written things that I thought were so simple and unoffensive that no one could get offended, but they did. We just can't know what is operating under the surface in someone else's life.

If that is the only such letter you receive I'd say you have a hit on your hands with this book! (Which I haven't read yet. Just learning about it here).

wb

Athol Dickson said...

Your letter was excellent, Brandilyn. The lack of a reply probably means you convicted her. I pray you did for her sake, and for her daughter.

Katie V said...

Hi Brandilyn -
Many great comments have already been made. My two cents include the opinion that you in fact honored the woman by writing back. Perhaps she simply wanted to vent, but technically, by writing you she opened a dialogue and you entered in. I think readers can feel that writers are sealed away, don't really read their own mail, don't care - whatever. She learned that you are accessible for dialogue, and are genuine. What she does with your response is up to her, but in my POV, you "kept your side of the street clean" as they say. I think your tone was gentle, but you didn't roll-over, either. And offering to refund the daughter's money was generous.
Glad you haven't been too mired by this in the long (medium?) run.
Blessings, Katie

Sheila said...

Thank you for sharing this. Jesus came full of grace and truth. Seems to me that you exemplified those qualities in your response.

Deborah Piccurelli said...

Brandilyn,

As others have said, you were gracious and kind, reflecting God's love. I don't know that I could have done that, or even responded. Well done.

Deb Piccurelli

Elaina M. Avalos said...

Wow. I'm so sorry you had to read something like that. I think your response was necessary and well said.

Hannah said...

I think you were right in how you handled the situation. We here on the F&F, and most importantly God, know that you pray over your writing and that it will reach the people it needs to. 'Tis what every Christian writer wants for their books -- for it to be entertaining, but also encouraging. Maybe this woman didn't realize that a Christian perspective can be expressed even without mentioning God on every page. (Look at the book of Esther; it's in the Bible, and God is never specifically mentioned, with only a few references to prayer.) As Christians our worldview comes out in what we do whether or not we intend for it to.

Daniel Smith said...

Ouch.

That cuts right to the core - yours in particular. My initial response to reading this was "wolf in sheep's clothing" and "pharisee" but I digress.

Christians are expected to choose their words wisely, but that did not happen when this woman wrote this letter. Worse, I think the words that were chosen came out of anger and discontent. Either way, God was not glorified. (I have certainly spoken out of anger myself on occasion so I can stand in her shoes long enough to discern that. Still, that's no excuse - for her or me.)

I hate that you had to endure this, but you are strong enough to do so and I believe you chose a wise course of action. Your response was thoughtful and generous. Maybe you were able to make some amends even though the fault is not yours.

And now you should simply move on. If you can make amends, your response will do so. If not, you have made the effort to reach out to this sister in Christ. Rest easy and leave this in His hands.