By Kristi Belcamino
A few months ago at Bouchercon in Long Beach, I met a woman who was interested in buying one of my books for her book club to read.
She asked me which book she should buy. Now, normally I would say start with the first book in the series, but she wanted more than that.
I told her that my two books in the Gabriella Giovanni series were a bit different—one was much darker than the other.
It is hard to recommend one book over another without knowing a little more about the reader.
Finally, as we kept talking the answer became clear when she said, "We won't read anything that has bad things happening to kids."
"You're going to want to read my second book," I said.
In all fairness, people don't complain about the subject matter in my first book. I'm sure it's because it is not gratuitous or there for shock value. It is written with the utmost empathy for victims. In fact, I've been praised for handling a distasteful subject in a manner that is palatable without downplaying the horrors of reality.
Are there any subjects that are taboo for you as a reader?
I know that some people won't read a book if anything bad happens to animals.
So, bad things happening to animals and kids can be deal breakers for readers. Anything else out there that might make you put a book down?
Bad things happening to kids. Romanticizing rape.
I'll read about anything, but I would find the romanticizing of rape really irresponsible for a writer to do ... thanks for weighing in.
I'll read just about anything, but how certain subjects are handled (rape, child molestation or violence done to children, torture) has everything to do with whether I'll continue.
I have a hard time w/ violence toward animals and children. I loved AMERICAN PSYCHO but had to put it down when he started torturing the puppy. And ditto for PRECIOUS--there's a scene where her mother molests her and I just couldn't take it. I know it wasn't gratuitous but it just really got to me.
I don't know that I completely rule anything out, it's more that I'm not drawn to certain themes. I happen to have just read The Killer Next Door by Alex Marwood, which I got with my Bouchercon bag and was written by an author who was recommended to me there. The killer in question has some rather macabre tastes and I was a bit put off. However I briefly thought I had lost the book in my travels, and wasn't going to replace it. But I was surprisingly happy when I discovered that I had it, and from that point forward, I realized that the community of people around the killer was quite engaging. In the end I was quite happy that I'd persisted, even the more gruesome aspects still aren't my cup of tea.
THanks Dana, and Holly, and Seana for weighing in.
I think Dana summarized how I feel, as well -- it isn't the subject matter as much as how it is handled. I think as a writer I purge my fears by putting them on paper - the subjects that truly frighten me, but I try to treat them with respect. In other words, I am not going to gloss over a heinous crime, but I'm not going to romanticize it either.
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