A group of my closest work colleagues took me out for dinner the other evening. It was a generous gesture, marking my decision to cut back considerably on my working week, in order to spend more time wriitng. They regaled me with witty anecdotes from our shared past, and I felt very glad, as well as touched, that they had enjoyed working together over the years,.
One question they asked was how I felt about being reviewed, and in particular about negative reviews. My feeling on this has always been that anyone who publishes a book has to be prepared for the inevitability that some people won't like it. It's also inevitable that, sooner or later, you will have the misfortune to come across a critic whose motives are questionable. No writer enjoys bad reviews, but as long as a review is written in good faith, and is fair-minded (so the reviewer should, I think, strive to blend criticisms with proper recogntion of postive aspects of the book), there's no point in being upset. Criticism that is constructive, whether from an agent, editor or reviewer, is valuable, and I've certainly tried to improve over the years by listening to people whose judgment I trust. Equally, theres no point in being distracted by the opinions of those with an axe to grind. If there is an advantage to not being a best-seller, perhaps it is that people with axes to grind tend to focus their attention on the big names!
All the same, it's always pleasing to read some unexpected enthusiastic comment about one's work. Through lack of time, I don't spend as long checking out the various excellent book blogs as I'd like to, but I've just come across a post by Puzzle Doctor which made my day. Is Yesterday's Papers in particular, and the Harry Devlin series in general, under-appreciated? Of course, I'm tempted to think so, just as I like to think that their increased availability, thanks to the arrival of ebooks, will help in time to remedy that..And I must say these appreciative words about books I wrote, for the most part, in the early days of my career as a novelist, truly gratifying..