Last week I mentioned going to a book club where I was invited as the author of Cinders to take part in the discussion. I was forewarned that several of the members didn’t like my book. In fact, my friend who invited me warned me that one of the readers really disliked the book. Meaning, to me, she hated it. A lot.
I was nervous. I told myself not to defend my work or feel upset by anything that was said. I made the long, long drive to my destination and entered feeling extremely nervous, but confident that I had written what I wanted to write and I would not feel ashamed by anything anyone had to say.
I’m happy I made that resolve beforehand.
I’m a very sensitive person. It doesn’t take much to upset me, especially when it has to do with my writing and something like a novella I self-published because I wrote it just for me. The discussion started off really well with questions from each member. My friend Susan confessed that she didn’t understand the book at all when she first read it, but since she felt there was something deeper going on that she wanted to understand, she read all of the reviews she could find and then read the book again. She fell in love with it the second time. Amazing what that will do! Susan then asked whether or not I chose specific names for a reason and then there were other questions I don’t really remember now. Many of them were things I have answered in interviews and other discussions I’ve had with friends.
I did realize after awhile that I’ve made a huge mistake in assuming everyone knows Cinders is a continuation of the Brother’s Grimm original fairy tale of Cinderella. One of the only things I took from the Disney version is the fact that there is a fairy godmother instead of a magical tree. And because of this assumption, I forget quite quickly that I am:
(1) messing with one of the most beloved fairy tales and characters of all time, and…
(2) telling a story that takes such a deviant course from the Disney story it’s no wonder many readers don’t like the end…or my version of the character Cinderella.
I think if I do a reprinting of the book I may add a short note at the beginning about the original fairy tale. I may also add some book club questions at the end to help guide readers toward a more structured view of the work as I intended – specifically outlining the more subtle layers I added to the story. Readers could, of course, always choose to ignore the questions.
Overall, despite one of the readers not budging in her opinion that Cinderella is a terrible person who adds no empowerment to women for the story (I have my own very strong opinions on this that I will not get into here), I had a great experience. In fact, I stepped away from that meeting realizing I had accomplished exactly what I wanted to accomplish: Cinders makes readers think, feel, and discuss a character and her choices…often quite passionately!
In the end I honestly don’t mind people not liking the story or the characters. This experience was phenomenal and it was fascinating to get down to the nitty gritty of why someone didn’t like the story. I will never forget this. I learned a lot, and I want to thank each and every one of those readers for their opinions and sharing them with such courage.