Gettin’ Judge-y with It

Posted by:
Susan Rooke
September 27, 2018

The reference section of my home library holds some of my most treasured and depended-upon books. This hefty volume is my trusty Webster’s dictionary—the Third New International, Unabridged version.

It lives in my office right beside my desk. I have a number of dictionaries of the English language, as well as dictionaries of other sorts . . .

. . . which are all very useful in their own ways. But the Webster’s, so full of fascinating tidbits, is the one I turn to most often. [I had no idea that “isinglass” is first defined as a very pure type of gelatin originally made from the air bladders of Russian sturgeons. Probably another reason those sturgeons are in decline.] Just today, in fact, I consulted Webster’s for its definition of “novel.” And here, at the top of page 1546, is what it says:

“An invented prose narrative of considerable length and a certain complexity that deals imaginatively with human experience through a connected sequence of events involving a group of persons in a specific setting.”

What particularly catches my eye there is the word “invented.” Yep, it’s just as I suspected. Novels are made-up! Who knew?

Well, everybody who reads novels, you’d think. But apparently not. The Daughter’s prediction, made years ago after she read an early draft of The Space Between, is coming true. One year after its publication, my book is managing to offend a tiny but slowly growing segment of the population that doesn’t understand the “invented” part of the definition. Some of them clearly think I’m going to Hell. As a person who tries to be kind and get along with everybody, I find that rather surprising. Hell? Me?

One person on social media even went so far as to share a picture of the book’s cover to their own feed. They commented on it, beginning with the disclaimer that they know nothing of me or my book. And then, after openly admitting they know nothing, guess what they did? That’s right. They got all judge-y on me. Complete with a quotation from their choice of holy text. (A text I wouldn’t dream of transcribing here, because I’m not sure it’s permitted.) It was basically about the swell fate that’s in store for my soul when I’m dead. (I’d like to thank that person for the warning and for taking the time out of their busy day to think about my immortal soul.)

The thing these people all have in common is that they think I’m playing fast and loose with the facts of their religious beliefs. But here’s the catch: I’m not playing with facts. I’m a novelist. By definition, this means I’m playing with fiction.

So what’s a misunderstood writer to do in the face of such objections? Keep writing, of course. In The Realm Below, the soon-to-be-launched second book in the series, my characters carry on speaking with their own voices and making their own decisions. I gave my good guys the space to be good, but also far from perfect. (One of them demonstrates his imperfection in a rather memorable fashion.) My bad guys had all the freedom they required to be nuanced and . . . interestingly flawed. Fictional characters are notorious for developing minds of their own, anyway, and mine are no different. And so they will continue to steer their own fates when I write the third book. I couldn’t stop them if I wanted to.

This means, I suppose, that The Realm Below will offend people too. (Including the ones who can’t be bothered to read it. Perhaps especially those people.) P.T. Barnum, circus owner and consummate showman, is said to have claimed that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Maybe that was the case in the 19th century. I don’t know how true it would be today, with our modern capacity not only to gratify ourselves instantaneously, but also to troll from the shadows and feud with virtual virulence. But bad publicity or good, it doesn’t matter. It’ll be how it’s going to be.

Come *ahem* Hell or high water.

The latest news: The Realm Below: The Rise of Tanipestis will be available for pre-order in early December, with the cover reveal coming in November!

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20 comments on “Gettin’ Judge-y with It”

  1. Well... I told ya so! 😉 But don't fret. If you are going to Hell, I certainly am. I'll make sure to bring my cocktail shaker with me.

    1. AHAHAHAHAHAHA!! Oh my gosh, kid, I do love you! We'll be together and having fab cocktails--it can't get any better! (This means your father and Wesley have to go to Hell too, though. They might have other plans.) <3 <3

        1. Yay, you're here! Welcome, Wesley, it's a party now! I hope you had room in that handbasket to bring what Katie needs for tiki. Since it's Hell, I'm afraid all they have is vodka. EEEEK!!

  2. Susan, I'm right there with you with my series Angels & Patriots! I had one reviewer totally melt down over my religious depictions. W-h-a-t E-v-e-r. We're brave and great writers! See you in Hell with martinis in hand.......Kettle One please....

    1. I LOVE it, Salina! (Brave and great--I'll put that on my bathroom mirror.) Yes, the more the merrier, and you and I can drink martinis together! Our companions may want tiki drinks, but maybe we can join them on occasion. 😉

  3. Be of good cheer! I have it on good authority (Book of Claire 4:12) that the angels at the pearly gates absolutely love a good story and it even counts as collateral, and since you are such a fabulous human being in addition, you will actually arrive with a credit balance. In fact, the gate keepers would probably just wave you on through except for the fact that you have such a good imagination, so instead they will likely ask you to sit a spell and happily open a bottle of wine.

    Leaving aside all of the themes of forgiveness, redemption, humility, sacrifice, love, and kindness that show up in The Space Between and which were overlooked in the comments you reference (maybe they didn't even read the book?), it always seems to me that those who criticize in the manner you describe seem most interested in their own self-promotion. Ain't nothing enlightened about them, I don't care what book they are quoting. They are sure the world is eagerly awaiting their judgment on every little thought that goes through their heads, and that they are accomplishing something of great significance with brilliance and flawless insight. That kind of personality has been around forever, common referred to as blowhards (and, as my trusty J.I. Rodale Synonym Finder tells me) know-it-alls, windbags, braggarts, and blatherskites. They lack imagination and are no fun at all.

    You just carry on with your bad self, and keep inventing. I am looking forward to reading The Realm Below!

    1. Awesome!! Thank you, Claire!! Glen threw his arms up in the air and said, "TOUCHDOWN, Claire, that was perfect!" 🙂

  4. Just think how boring your stories would be if you wrote them with an eye for offending no one. In these divided times, people aren’t happy unless they’re angry. Meanwhile, you’re a fabulous writer with truly original ideas, and those idiots probably can’t write an original Facebook comment! Sign me up for the hand basket party!

    1. Woohoo!! Come on in, Diana, the water's fine!! Hell's vodka and handbaskets for everyone!! 🙂 (And thank you so much, my dear! ;-))

  5. Well it looks like you're going to have quite a crowd accompanying you down below. Can I join your gang too, 'cos I sure as Hell don't want to spend eternity with a bunch of mealy mouthed bible bashers who cannot get their heads around the concept of FICTION. What type of person posts a book review without first reading it anyway? Sheesh! What motivates people like this?

    I love how you have your Websters dictionary resting on its own lectern. As to the definition Websters give for a 'novel', well they took the words right out of my mouth. Ha-ha.

    Keep on writing Susan, you have far more fans that critics.

    1. Hi, Maureen, it's great to see you here! I'm so happy that you'll be joining us, it's going to be fun! I hear they have some lovely hot springs. (Or maybe that's lava?)

      Thank you so much for your words of encouragement and support. I will hold them next to my heart. They mean more to me than I can ever say!

  6. I’ll be there as well because I’m sure Jim may be there drinking vodka cocktails already. Can’t wait for book 2 !!!!

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