Does the Creator’s Opinion Matter?

Don’t worry, this isn’t a religious debate. It’s in regards to an idea I was introduced to via a video on YouTube (link will be at end of post).

Background

If you’ve followed the blog for a while, or my Twitter/Facebook/YouTube feeds, you’re probably aware that I am a fan of anime (Japanese Animation). One of my favorite series of all time is Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Evangelion (Eva, or NGE, for short) was an anime in the mecha genre released by Gainax in 1997. Depending on who you talk to, it either revolutionized anime or was a narrative mess. Regardless, it has had a long and lasting impact on the fan base and particularly on the mecha genre.

The video I recently watched was in regard to the creator of Eva, Hideaki Anno, being quoted as saying he didn’t understand all the fuss. That in his opinion Eva was a simple show with a lot of symbols and such thrown in just to make it look cool. The video then asks a simple question; Even if that is what Anno thinks, does it matter?

Creators, not Interpreters

I’ve published two novels and have several more works either underway or in the planning stages. Each of them means something to me. I’ve tried to weave meanings into them that may never be apparent to anyone other than myself. But does that give me the right to tell every reader what their own interpretation and meaning is?

Assuming we release art (by which I mean all forms of expression) for more than just profit, we must be seeking an emotional response from the people who view and consume that art. Art is conversation, not lecture. If I wish to convey a specific message and it fails, I have no one to blame but myself. On the other hand, if a reader finds an entirely different message that means something to them, who am I to say they are wrong?

Our personal interpretation of art and evaluation of its merits is informed by our own experience and emotional core. Since no two people have lived an identical life, there is bound to be a difference of opinion. If anything, that prospect thrills me. I find it disheartening that any creator would devalue their own work, and their fans’ opinions, in such a way. Besides, if a work contains symbols and archetypes that are just thrown in without any thought to how they belong, the audience is generally intelligent enough to realize it.

Once my words are on paper, my job is finished. I won’t be hovering over your shoulder as you read, pointing out my intended subtext (good thing too, that would be creepy). Some will love the words, others hate them. To some, the words will speak to them, while others will be left feeling cold. That is the nature of art, and I have no place to tell someone whether they are right or wrong.

This also speaks to the cardinal rule of authors, which is to not make comments on the reviews left by readers. Certainly, if the review is nothing but personal attack, issue should be raised, but when someone presents a well thought out and balanced criticism, it shouldn’t be ignored. In fact, it should be heeded. There are many unfortunate instances where authors didn’t keep their mouths shut. Their insistence that the audience was wrong did nothing but damage their careers and alienate the very people they supposedly wanted to reach.

In Harbinger, I left a few dangling ideas and story bits. I did that because I wanted the ideas planted, but didn’t want to fully address them until Suture. These dangling ideas were probably the most cited issue people had with Harbinger. And so, in Suture, I sought to leave no dangling ideas. By the end, characters are in precarious positions, and there’s still one or two mysteries left, but they are ongoing ones, not one off sentences that are never addressed again. You the readers, who voiced your opinions, made me change mine. In the same way, Bleeding Worlds Book Three might be influenced by the response to Suture. Like I said, it’s a conversation.

So if you’re an artist, make the best art you can. But realize the moment it leaves your hands, your exclusive right to say what it means is at an end. And if you are a consumer of art, let your heart tell you what it means without fear of being “wrong.”

Talk further soon,

JR

Suture Release Date

Hey everyone.

Mark your calendars–Suture releases on Tuesday, August 6.

For real this time. No more delays, no more teasing.

Watch for the first chapter to be posted later this week.

Thanks again for hanging in there with all the delays. My second beta reader/editor gave the book high marks and said it was far better than Harbinger. I hope you feel the same.

All the best, and talk to you soon,

JR

Quick Update on Suture

The first draft is complete.

The first read through and edits are done.

The book is being sent out to my three beta readers tomorrow.

Yes, we’re progressing nicely to seeing this one released in July. I’m very happy with it. I hope you all enjoy it as well.

Talk to you soon,

JR

PS, Here’s the official book description…

suture-cover-thumbSuture. An organization created by immortals who once walked the Earth as Gods. A place containing eras worth of secret agendas.

Gwynn joins believing he will learn about his abilities, assisting to protect the world from the Veil.

Instead, he finds an ancient evil stalking him. A face from his past shows up in an unexpected place. And ghosts that prove to be very much alive.

Faith, friendship, family. All are tested within Suture.

Book Two of The Bleeding Worlds Series

Suture Cover Reveal – and a new Harbinger cover to match

Hello everyone. So I’m managing to keep my promise and returning with further news regarding Suture, The Bleeding Worlds Book Two.

The specific news today is to reveal the cover for Suture.

While I enjoy the cover Harbinger has sported for the past eight months, writing Suture made me want a change. I hesitated to do it, but I wanted new covers that would feature the series title more. So my cover designer and I went back to the drawing board and came up with the following….

harbinger-new-small-res

And now, for the cover of Suture…

suture-cover-web-res

The male models are images by GraphicPAStock http://graphicpastock.deviantart.com

All other photography and editing by Carolyn Macpherson.

Hope you all like the new covers. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.

An Update – Where is the Sequel?

Hello everyone. I’m sorry for being away so long. Truth is, I’ve just been pouring every bit of creative writing energy I have into writing Harbinger’s sequel, Suture. However, I visited my Amazon page tonight, and saw that someone had asked about an update regarding Suture. Funny enough, Amazon won’t let me post directly to that thread because I haven’t purchased the book, so I thought I’d answer here and hopefully it will be found by the person wondering.

Back in January, I mentioned I was about a third of the way through Suture. By March, I’d completed half the book. Then, about mid-March, I threw it all out.

It’s a daunting task to look at 35,000 words and decide that only a tenth might survive. But after reading some of the comments left on Harbinger, and weighing my own feelings, I decided it was the right thing to do. So I started over.

Currently, I’m working on the last two chapters. I’m very pleased by how this new draft has worked out. My hope is to have a completed first draft by the end of the week. Then edits, then release.

The good news is I’m a much faster editor than I am when writing the first draft. Giving ideas shape is so much harder than making the shapes slightly prettier.

So my goal is to have Suture released by July.

I know, I had originally said Spring. At that time, I didn’t know I’d be starting over so late in the season.

It thrills me that people are still picking up Harbinger, and based on comments and ratings, a number of you are enjoying it. Right now, I feel confident that if you enjoyed Harbinger, you’ll find more to love in Suture.

Thank you so much for hanging in there. In the next week I will have more news, including the cover reveal.

All the best, and talk to you soon (I promise).

JR

Progress on Harbinger’s Sequel, Suture

Since Harbinger released, I’ve been pouring my writing energy into its sequel, Suture.

While I don’t know that I’m the one who should be giving writing advice, I figured someone might find an interest in my current writing process.

Yes, I say current because I believe that as I continue to grow as a writer, my process will evolve. At least, that’s my hope, because my current process is tedious at best.

Right now I’m 23,000+ words into Suture. I’ve accomplished this through some forethought, much humming and hawing, and just forcing myself to spew words. Thankfully, this haphazard approach has yielded something that is starting to look like a decent first act. This is a pretty critical time in my process and it’s when I bring in the big guns. My wife.

See, my wife is a voracious reader who devours everything from Nietzsche to Twilight. She’s a massive Star Wars nerd who can recite the original trilogy from memory and who can have an intelligent conversation about why the fourth Indiana Jones movie never should’ve happened. In short, she’s perfectly suited to tell me if I’m on track or missing my mark.

Because of the loose way I plot on the go, I need this feedback at the approximate third way mark. At this point, I’ve written enough that I have a clearer path for the rest of the novel. On the other hand, I haven’t written so much that I can’t handle axing a few thousand words to change a direction or two. This feedback helps give me direction. But more than that, it helps to give me some confidence.

Writing is a wonderful and horrifying hobby. Creating worlds and characters feels magical, but words on a page feel like an invite for self criticism and, at times, loathing. For every sentence I love, there are dozens that make me shudder. It’s why some authors take forever to release a novel. Having someone tell me I’m on the right track helps bolster my confidence and allows me to carry on to the end.

So Suture is getting the third-way-there preview. I’ll let you know how it goes in a couple days.

Some Reflection a Month After Release

As we sit upon the precipice between November and December, it seems like a good time to take a look back at the past month and what it has meant for my little novel, Harbinger.

I released the book on October 30th (though that date varied by vendor depending on how fast their systems processed the files). I did this with modest fanfare. I announced it across my social networks, posted the news here on my website, and then proceeded to post samples of the book on the various sites that allow you to do such things (Scribd, Wattpad & Figment to be precise). I approached one person to see if she would do a review, but that’s yet to happen. After the first few days, I stayed quiet about the book. I didn’t continue to flood my Twitter feeds, nor did I post on Facebook every day that people should read my book and PLEASE give me a nice review on Amazon. I’m not great at that sort of thing. If anything, I would’ve just come off sounding whiny. So I continued to look at other places where I could post some news, samples, etc.

So how has the book done? Well, I’d like to think it’s exceeded my expectations for its first month of life.

  • In week one, I sold 12 copies through Amazon.
  • In week two, I sold 4 copies through Amazon and 1 copy through Kobo.
  • In week three, I sold 18 copies through Amazon and 1 copy through Smashwords.
  • In week four, I sold 116 copies through Amazon, 1 copy through Kobo, and 1 copy through Apple.
  • This week could see my sales top 140+ on Amazon.

So within five weeks of release, Harbinger will have sold about 300 copies.

I have no idea how this compares to the experience of other Indie Authors. I have no idea what magic I cast in week four that sent sales into the triple digits. I suspect it’s because I made enough sales in weeks 1-3 that the book started showing on Amazon’s Customers who purchased this also purchased…. type lists. On Amazon, more sales=more exposure=more sales. Also, it was about week three that I posted the first four chapters on Scribd. Over 100 people read those chapters, and I have to wonder if some of them then went and bought the book. In short, this is all dumb luck, and I’m at a loss to provide hard evidence of what happened.

It could be just the time of year as well.

So now I enter into the next phase of trying to generate some interest in the book. Print copies have finally arrived in my hands and I’ve set up a book giveaway on Goodreads (check out the contest here).

I hope that this will create some more interest in the book and keep the forward momentum going.

But this perceived success has given me reason for pause. I had planned to plow ahead and work on a separate novel, Gloom, and then work on the sequel to Harbinger, Suture. But I feel an obligation to these wonderful people who’ve given my book a chance. I’ve decided to focus my energies on completing Suture and temporarily shelving my other projects. It hurts a bit, seeing as how Gloom is over 50,000 words, but I know if I keep dividing my energies, I’ll fall behind on Suture-or deliver a book that pales in comparison to the first. A step backward would mean the end of my writing momentum. So, since no one was really all that eager for Gloom and Seeds, I’m putting them on the back burner until Suture has been finished and is seeing the light at the end of the edit tunnel. I’ve also decided to not even try to write anything new that could be a series. One series at a time. Any other books will have to be content with being oneoffs.

So there it is. My progress and my reflections. I know, maybe a little dull, but I felt like all this had to be said… if only for myself 😉

Thank you for all your support and time. If you’ve read Harbinger, send me an email and let me know what you thought.

All the best,

JR