You’ve heard the analogy before, but it’s true: an author’s stories are his children. By creating a fictional universe, the author is mother, father, midwife, OB, pediatrician, and occasionally, the story’s childhood psychiatrist. And as a result of this closeness, an author gets pretty dang attached to his babies. It’s why you see authors whose work has been adapted for the screen flip out over changes made to the source material (“How dare Scorsese not include the forty-six page interior monologue scene about a minor character’s childhood trauma involving an oboe and a cockroach!”). It’s why authors sometimes behave badly when their books get bad reviews. That’s partially because no one likes to have his/her work criticized. It’s also because people can sometimes be buttheads when writing reviews. Of course, authors are often buttheads too, so it all balances out.
Where am I heading with all of this?
You see, I wrote a novella a few years ago called OLD ORDER. It was published by a great company out of San Francisco called Untreed Reads. If you look at Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and some graffiti scrawled on a gas station restroom wall in Mud Lake, Idaho, you’ll find that of all my stories, OLD ORDER is the worst-reviewed. I’m not one to criticize critiques, so don’t worry about my going there. I’m genuinely grateful to anyone who reads anything I write, and no, none of the negative reviews of OLD ORDER have been penned by buttheads. At least I have no reason to think they’re any buttheadier than any other people.
But if you look closely, you’ll notice that many of the reviews bemoaned the fact that the story was not an Amish romance, that it had nothing to do with the Amish, or that it was a very offensive story that, by the way, did not contain a single butter churn.
The reason for this is that the story is not an Amish story.
Still, I can see why folks might have thought that. The main character pretends to be Amish to ingratiate himself with unsuspecting victims of his thievery. This makes a group of his potential victims angry. (And yep, I see the meta-irony of having reviewers pan a story about a man who gets into trouble for not being an Amish person because they found out it was a story that didn’t feature an Amish person.) There’s also a rural setting on the cover, which I guess could be construed as Mennonite-ey. So the point I’m finally getting to is…
It’s a really good story. Now, of course I’d feel that way, being the author and all, but when you read reviews by folks who knew they were getting a horror/suspense/thriller, you find a completely different response than the outraged pans. Basically, the tale has bunches of four and five-star reviews and a slew of one-star reviews. This leads me to believe that expectations play a profound role in one’s reception to this tale. Or I could be completely wrong and am just being too charitable with my story because I endured a long, painful labor with it and wasn’t even given an epidural.
So I’ll make it resoundingly clear: THIS IS NOT A SWEET, MOVING, BONNET-WEARING TALE OF A GERMAN BAPTIST GIRL AND HER RELATIONSHIP WITH A STOIC BARN-RAISING LAD NAMED JASPER.
It’s a suspenseful, scary, erotic, ferocious roller-coaster-rocket of a tale with all sorts of things that would make many readers blush (or gasp).
So if you like that sort of thing, I really hope you give OLD ORDER a chance (for only 99 cents at the link!). I think you’ll be happy you did. Of course, it’s entirely possible you’ll hate the story even if you’re expecting a horror/thriller/suspense tale. And that’s totally cool. But I’m guessing that the percentage of happy readers will rise if everyone knows what kind of story this is.
*Note: I know that German Baptist, Amish, Mennonite, and Old Order are not interchangeable. I’m just trying to cover all the terminology used in the different negative reviews I’ve read.
**Another Note: I like the German Baptist folks I know. Seriously. The ones with whom I’m acquainted are really nice people. And they aren’t named Jasper either. I’ll have to ask them about the butter churn thing.
5 thoughts on “OLD ORDER (or The Dangers of Not Writing Amish Romances)”
JJ–It always humors me when reading through some of the comments on sites like Amazon, etc. It never fails that Chuck Wendig will be raked over the coals for his vulgarity and you will be housed with the hogs for Old Order. And every single time, I have to wonder if they read the bleeping blurb. I can’t help but wonder if perhaps they misplaced their thinking caps–if they ever had one. You’ve handled your criticism with grace.
Well, if people rake me the way they rake Chuck Wendig, I’m in great company!
And yes, I too wonder if folks ever read the blurb. If they do read the blurb, there really can’t be any doubt about what kind of story this is.
Great to hear from you, distractedwrite! 🙂
Another thoughtful and honest post (and cannot stop thinking of Harrison Ford in Witness, the scene where he threatens the elderly tourist woman by strangling her by her brassiere), and gotta buy this book! 😉
Yeah, Witness…I really loved the Viggo Mortenson ice cream violence scene. Great stuff.
And I hope you enjoy the book, Chris!