Thousands of people read my books. (Quick aside: that phrase still rattles my melon — thousands of people read my books. Livin’ the dream, boss.)
But in any large enough population, you get groups of people who look at the exact same thing and see something completely different. People tend to imprint their worldview upon what they experience. Most of the time this is beneficial to my work; most of my readers tend to believe I think just like they do, because that’s what they see in my stories. I treat their particular group well by making deep, realistic characters that are a lot like them. For the simple reason that I do not marginalize any group or make people stereotypical negative caricatures, people seem to feel I am on their side. Crazy right-wing gun-nut? Bible-thumping Christian? Hard-ass atheist? Athlete? Gamer? White, Black, Hispanic, etc? You’re in there somewhere.
If you think that not insulting your group means I’m “one of you” or “on your side,” you’re probably wrong. I would prefer you don’t see the hand of the writer at all in my stories. I want the characters to stand on their own. We are a world of different people, so I put different people on my stage.
Most of the time me positively representing many races, colors, world views, beliefs and political stances works out like gangbusters. Sometimes, however, the perception can flip the other way. Some readers see me being positive about something they don’t like, and therefore feel I am pushing a political agenda on them. That’s right: they read the exact same text you read, Stalwart Junkie, yet like the classic optical illusion of “faces or vases,” they see something completely different.
Case in point: an email I received about my novel PANDEMIC, the final book in the INFECTED Trilogy.
I am reading “The Pandemic”, and it is good so far, but.
A female heroine who is gay, a female heroine who is Hispanic and married to a Black, and a female President… Trying to make a point?
That’s OK, but also 100% of Republican bloggers are unable to spell? Conservatives are not a uniform group, and not all uneducated. Liberals are typically not as open-minded as they like to think. I am conservative, an atheist, and love my gay daughter. You seem to be grinding an ax to iron filings. It detracts somewhat from a good story.
For the most part — as I mentioned above — people who read beyond the story think I am on their side. When they think I am against them, however, they sometimes make their perceptions known. Once upon a time I was dumb enough to engage angry readers on Amazon, in blog comments, etc. I’ve learned that people who post such things probably aren’t interested in dialogue to begin with. They don’t want to converse, they want to lecture, to berate, to reinforce their worldview no matter what information you give them. It all falls into that “if you don’t agree with me, it’s because you are evil” mentality that dominates the internet.
So we avoid comments and reviews and most blog posts, but when those letters are sent directly to us we tend to respond. Now you might think something like, “Awwww snap! Sigler’s going to go off on this dude!” You’d be wrong. Even when people come at me from a position of hate or ignorance (which often times go hand-in-hand, oddly enough), I try to at least address their concerns with compassion and logic. Hence my reply:
Thanks for your note. Happy to see you put so much thought into it.
I’m wondering how far into the novel you got before writing that note? In particular, did you not notice that the “female president” was Republican and a devout Christian? In fact, the character was my take on “what if someone like Sara Palin became president, and in a time of ultimate crisis, proved to be the perfect leader for the job.” So, in short, an ultra-conservative president who unifies the nation and makes decisive, difficult decisions at a time when most leaders would drag their feet. Yeah … sounds like I’m trying to make a point.
And “100% of Republican bloggers are unable to spell?” Are you talking about the blog posts in PANDEMIC, or the people comment on those blog posts? Maybe you’re referring to the Tweets listed in the book? I ask, because comments and Tweets are not “blogging,” so Internet slang or misspellings in those are not maligning “conservative bloggers.” The “100%” claim is extending your argument to absurd lengths. Which “conservative” blog posts in PANDEMIC, exactly, feature misspellings? If you ever read Tweets and blog comments (as I do, frequently), you know full well that they are full of misspellings, typos, poor grammar, and knee-jerk reactions by lever-pullers on all sides of the political spectrum.
What I think you might be referring to are “blog posts” or comments by the anti-vaccine movement. So, are you trying to equate the anti-vaccine movement and conservatism? Because if you are, I am a conservative, and I am offended by your assertion. If you are an anti-vaxer, I’d rather you come at me for that political viewpoint than try to hide it in “conservatism,” because that is an analogy that will not support even the most cursory look at facts. As you pointed out, many conservatives are highly educated, and highly educated people tend to see the value of immunization.
If you’re sad that there aren’t enough White Male Heroes, just keep reading. There are plenty later on, including both the kind of blue-collar guys I grew up with, active members of the United States Armed Forces, and a veteran who moved into government work after earning the Purple Heart while serving his country in Viet Nam.
I write books primarily about Americans. Americans come in all shapes, sizes, colors, religions (or lack therof) and orientations. If you don’t like books with Hispanic heroines or “Blacks,” then possibly you should seek your entertainment elsewhere.
I hope you keep reading, and I hope you see that the characters in PANDEMIC cover a wide swath of my countrymen.
Strangely enough, I did not get a reply. I would like to think that this reader continued the book and saw he’d fired off his email a tad too early, before he saw the full scope of the book.