I got this interesting email from a reader the other day.
After a couple of chapters of Last Shot, I was hooked. Then came the cheap political barbs agaist Cheney & Ashcroft, and I kind of lost patience with it. Too bad your so jaded. It looked promising.
I wrote back:
It always surprises me when readers take political dialogue or comments of the characters and assume them to be the position of the author. My characters tend to be apolitical or anti-political - they're a cynical, suspicious bunch. The Clinton barbs in my books during those years inevitably led to emails from angry liberals. But no one interprets a rapist character's rantings as the author advocating rape, or revealing his true position.
In any event, if you find such remarks off-putting, there's not much I can say to that.
To his credit, the man responded:
Thank you for your reply. It did seem that a point of view was being expressed. I'm sorry if I have jumped to a conclusion. I'll give some of your earlier books a try to get some context, and perspective. Thanks again.
To which I replied:
It's an interesting question. In Do No Harm, I wrote about a liberal doctor colliding with street-smart cops. The doc is too naive, and the cops tend too aggressive. In the book, the path to successful resolution of the issue lies directly between the two. It was funny for me to see how people on either side of the political fence reacted, everyone thinking that the characters' opinions were the author's -- but usually only the characters whose opinions they disagreed with. Maybe we're set up to interpret that way.
It is an odd issue -- when people decide to get offended and why. Sometimes, a book DOES display a clear bias. But sometimes, as in Last Shot, the opinions are what make the most sense for a character. At times these opinions can overlap with the author's, but not always. Bizarrely, I've also had people email me thinking I was racist because my antagonists use derogatory terms(!).