Wednesday, August 14, 2013

GUILTY AS CHARGED (HOLLY SCHINDLER)



I’m guilty.  I’ve written my own summer romance.  PLAYING HURT is the story of two former athletes: Chelsea’s basketball career ends abruptly after an injury on the court.  And Clint’s girlfriend is killed in a car accident on her way to his hockey tournament; afterward, his head is no longer in the game, and he has to hang up his skates.  Chelsea and Clint meet when Chelsea’s dad takes the family on a vacation to the Minnesota resort where Clint works…and their unexpected romance winds up helping them both heal for good.

The story has not been without controversy among bloggers.  Mostly because Chelsea has a boyfriend waiting for her back home (Gabe) when she has her love affair with Clint.  I suppose I could have taken the easy route and made Chelsea boyfriend-less when she heads out on vacation.  But to me, an important subplot is learning the difference between loving someone vs. being IN love with someone.  Chelsea thinks she’s in love with her boyfriend…until she meets Clint.  

I do read my reviews online…mostly because each book is a learning process, and a good portion of the learning, I think, comes from my readers.  What PLAYING HURT taught me is that some (and by some, I mean a lot) of readers have to like a character to like a book.  This was completely new to me—I’ve never had to like a main character to enjoy the book.  Ever.  But it’s a lesson I’m not soon to forget.

…I also tend to remember the “mixed bags”—the reviews filled with loves and hates (they seem more honest to me).  Here’s one of my faves (lifted from Goodreads):

This book was very well-written by an obviously talented writer. The plot is well-developed and the characters multi-dimensional, with backstories of their own and true-to-life action. But something about this book leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

Playing Hurt is about a girl who cheats on her boyfriend over the summer with her personal trainer. Obviously there's a lot more to the story, but that's the central plotline. Chelsea is portrayed as a sympathetic character, like her actions were justified. And I had a hard time with that.


Part of why this was so difficult to read was that everything in me wanted to side with Chelsea--and I had to take a step back and look at her actions, separate from her character, to judge what was going on. She's doing something she knows is wrong and the reader has to realize that on her own time--it's not implicitly stated. You have to separate the character from her actions.


Overall, as I said, this is a fantastic book. But it is not an easy read. It'll stick with you.

Love that last line.  Mission accomplished.

14 comments:

  1. Your experience with reviews is interesting to me. I think it highlights how differently people read. (For the record, I don't think one way of reading or interpreting or reviewing a book is any better than another. Or that there even IS a right way.) Reading response is personal.

    That said, until recently, it never occurred to me either that I would have to like a character or agree with her choices and actions in order to enjoy a book. In fact, I kinda like reading about people I would never hang around with in real life.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's so true, Jody--a reading response really is personal...and kind of innate, too...

      Delete
  2. I totally agree with you, Holly! I was bewildered when people said they couldn't get into my first novel because they didn't like the heroine--1. I never thought of that as a requirement for liking a book and 2. she got nicer when life taught her a few lessons. I mean, didn't they read THE SECRET GARDEN, for Pete's sake?

    I loved PLAYING HURT and it never occurred to me that Chelsea was doing anything wrong. Well, maybe she should have broken up with Guy 1 before getting serious with Guy 2, but it was clear that while she was fond of Guy 1, she wasn't in love with him.

    Synchronicity--just opened this blog mentioned on PW today. The writer gives as her first reason not to like a book the fact that she doesn't like the MC. Sigh. http://blogs.publishersweekly.com/blogs/beyondherbook/?p=8452&utm_source=Publishers+Weekly&utm_campaign=87a69d5998-UA-15906914-1&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0bb2959cbb-87a69d5998-304447705

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! Characters are supposed to grow and change as the book progresses...that's the point of the book! Thanks, too, for loving PH...I found it virtually impossible to depict the love / IN love difference without two guys. (And thanks for that link, too...FASCINATING!)

      Delete
  3. I'm one of those, who have to love the protagonist to really delve into a book. If the protagonist lacks moral integrity, I have a hard time picking the book up. Especially when there a so many books written where I can find a protagonist worthy of my time.

    When I was reading the description of the book, I thought this is one worth reading, but when I saw that Chelsea had a boyfriend back home, I have to be honest, I passed on this book. Love triangles are ok, (It creates good drama), but I have to been in the mood for it, and quite frankly that's almost never.

    I do look forward to reading and blogging about some of your other books. I'm glad you posed this question on Twitter, it makes for good dialogue.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your honesty, Michelle--that's what I love most about the book blogosphere. Bloggers' honesty allows me to grow as an author! My debut MG is set to release in early '14; the MC for THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY is such a sweetheart. I have to admit, I've missed her ever since turning in the copyedits.

      Delete
  4. Sometimes the writer is inviting the reader to answer questions such as: Is this character doing the right thing? Do you understand his/her motives? What would you have done differently?

    I strive to make my characters understandable but not necessarily admirable.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOVE that, Jennifer--I feel that way, too. I may not agree with a character, but I should understand him / her.

      Delete
  5. When I began reading reviews of my first book, THE BEGINNING OF AFTER, I was also surprised by readers' criticisms of the m.c. acting "selfish." I guess I always assumed that books and character journeys should reflect human nature, and human nature is not always "likeable" or automatically driven to do the right thing. I'm sure that for every reader who has a problem with Chelsea's choices, there's one who's been in a similar situation and learned something about themselves as a result of the read.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Jennifer! I so hope that's true, that readers have identified with and learned from Chelsea's choices...

      Delete
  6. Yes! To all of this fabulous conversation! And not only am I okay with "unlikable" characters--I am fascinated by them. My favorite reads come from characters that make me uncomfortable. My most recent was Delarobia in FLIGHT BEHAVIOR by Barbara Kingsolver. I've been pondering this a lot lately and I think that it's my own fears of being unlikeable that I project on characters I read and write. It makes me feel safer. Love this post and dialogue!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Kim! I think I also like to be unnerved a bit by characters. When I get a bit of an "oh, no" feeling, that can propel me forward...

      Delete
  7. I think writing flawed characters is a great skill so good for you! It's good if a book leaves someone thinking. I'm glad your book had lots of stuff to talk about. None of us are perfect and yet we often expect characters to be.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Oooh! That is a great last line in the review. As an author, what more could you want? The thing is, Chelsea sounds real. That's how people are: complicated. As a reader, I do like having someone to root for, but I don't like flat or unrealistic characters. I'm fond of characters who make mistakes and learn from them. I like redemption stories. And I think your book sounds great!

    ReplyDelete