When loathsome characters say despicable things…

…is the author also despicable?

I’ve recently been taken to task by a reader for a piece of dialogue in THE SILENT GIRL in which a nasty character says in frustration to Jane, “Are you a retard?” The reader wrote to tell me that she has a mentally challenged child and she was furious at me for using such a word. She felt I was insensitive and should never have used it. And the truth is, I myself would never use it. Just as I would never call anyone a chink, a whore, a gook, and any number of things.

But over the years, my characters have used such words. And they were not nice characters. Their choice of words, in fact, helped define the type of people they are, and evoked an emotional response in the reader. Many times, writers get slammed by readers because those words turn up in our books. We are supposed to clean up the language of our characters, however nasty they may be. Our characters — even the murderers, the crime lords, the gang bangers — are supposed to speak in antiseptically sensitive language. They must never speak the way they’d actually speak on the street.

Writers face tough choices with every word we pick. Do we write dialogue that’s realistic, or dialogue that doesn’t offend? Do we sanitize every line of dialogue so that it’s lifeless, stilted, and completely unbelievable?

Instead of saying “Are you a retard?” should that nasty character, a mobster, have said instead “Are you mentally challenged?”

It just doesn’t sound right. Does it?

Are you a Jane or a Maura?

Take the poll and win a chance at a “Team Jane” or a “Team Maura” free tee shirt!

Webcast from the Poisoned Pen

The amazing Barbara Peters of Poisoned Pen just sent me the link to a webcast of my appearance there. If you’d like to take a peek, here it is:

And now crazy time begins

On this, the eve of the release of my new book, I’m feeling all sorts of emotions. Even though THE SILENT GIRL is my 23rd published novel (when the heck did I write all those other books?) I’m feeling the same mingling of anticipation, anxiety, excitement, and yes, even a bit of dread, that I’ve felt with every book release before this. Will anyone buy it, or will it sit in untouched stacks in bookstores? Will readers like it? Will I face empty seats at my book signings?

Even long-time authors get the shakes.

The first week of release is always the scariest. It’s like a movie’s opening week — what happens that first week pretty much determines whether you’re considered a success or not. That’s why so many authors urge their readers to buy the book when it first comes out. If a book flops the first week, there’s no momentum to propel future sales. And everyone gets very, very depressed.

During these last few hours before the book goes on sale, anything’s possible. So I’m taking a deep breath, packing my suitcase for tour, and preparing myself for whatever happens next.

Oh, and I’m writing the next book. So I can go through this all over again.

How Editors Make a difference

Read about my experience in the UK market – and how an editor saved my career — over at Murderati.com.

And with THE SILENT GIRL going on sale next year, there are lots of other media links to catch up on:

First, a nice interview over at World of Books.

An article in the Las Vegas Review Journal.

And check out the sight I saw while visiting New York City for the Romance Writers of America. It was on the corner of 7th Ave and 48th Street: