Everyone says no book will be interpreted the same way by any reader, and this is without a doubt true. I've read some 'best-sellers' that I thought were absolutely horrible and I've read some books that I thought were great that the critics lambasted. The old saying, 'there's a book out there for everyone.' hit it right on the nose, but today, I want to talk about how when we pick up a book, sometimes, we might find that changing our perspective changes our opinion. Since the definition of perspective is simply put, a point of view, then it stands to reason changing your point of view might change your experience, right?
Recently, I released a novel about a disabled hero who never had much luck in the romance department. He had learned through experience that women didn't want a guy with crutches on his arms and a giant lift on his shoe, regardless of who the rest of him was, that was all they saw. Then along comes a girl who doesn't focus on the crutches or the shoe lift, but rather on who he is as a person. By doing that, his perspective changes, too. Suddenly, he's faced with a different point of view about himself that he struggles with because of his prior experiences with love. The heroine is also facing a change in perspective and is struggling with a new point of view about herself that she isn't sure she can trust. So the question is, how do these two disabled people, who are trying to find a new way through a new perspective, fight against their old one? I guess they do what humans do in that situation; they talk about it. Many times. They need reassurance that what they're feeling is real and validated by the other person. They say 'I love you' A LOT (It is a romance, after all) and they need that reassurance from their new partner that they accept them and their less than perfect body, at least their less than perfect body in their mind. The reality is, they were perfect for each other. Here is where it gets interesting. Many of the reviews for this book say, and I paraphrase here, "They say I love you too much and they talk about their feelings too much." This is not the first time I've seen this when it comes to my novels. I see it ALL the time. I see it so much that it has become like the word 'the' when I read a review. But the other day, I happened to read one of those reviews right before interacting on Facebook with a reader about my new novel. This was the interaction:
I don't know who this reader is and these comments were on a post from another author friend of mine who was giving away my book. I think that is why I really took notice of what she said. This was someone quietly reading my books and yet she used that word. Do you see it? Writing from this perspective. Writing from my perspective of a disabled person who is missing a leg and has a tube sticking out of her side that is the only thing that keeps her alive. Writing from the perspective of still needing reassurance from her partner that she is accepted and lovable. That got me thinking about the reader who isn't disabled and what happens when they pick up one of my books. That's when it CLICKED. It clicked. They're reading my books from the perspective of not needing constant reassurance that they are important in someone's life. That made me wonder what would happen if that same reader picked up one of my books with the perspective of someone who has no self-esteem left because of past relationships, has suffered trauma, has lost a body part, or feels that what they have to offer that other person isn't as much or as good as what someone with both legs, or not in a wheelchair, or without a chronic disease would have to offer. How would that change the experience they have with one of my novels? I have thought about this and nothing else for a week now. Being disabled, I suspend reality a lot when I read because my reality is different from so many able-bodied characters in romance novels, and that's okay. I enjoy reading books from a perspective that I don't really remember (I was injured at thirteen and never had good return of function to my leg). I read them from the perspective of, for just a little while, not factoring in all the little things I have to factor in during my real life that bind me in reality. As a disabled person, this is pretty easy to do because we live in a world that caters to the able-bodied. Understandable, but, that got me thinking how a reader's reality might change, and how different that book review might read, if that same reviewer had come at the book from the perspective of the character rather than their own.
Now, let me clarify here that I am in no way upset about these reviews. After ten years of writing disabled romance, I get it and I take no offense. I will get more of those reviews too. Why? Simple. I'm always going to write from my perspective. I know that readers who are disabled and who are looking for representation in romance, want the representation to be accurate and truthful. All of those little conversations, whispered I love yous, and constant reassurance that they are with you because you are the one for them, is the most accurate, truthful, and painful part of dating and finding love as a disabled person. If you made it this far, thanks for letting me ramble about something that I still haven't quite figured out the answer to. I just know that I wanted to address the idea that there has to be a limit on the number of times you can say "I love you" to someone else. Maybe, in the end, that is what this comes down to for me. Love is the one thing that makes a human being feel better, even if it is only for a fleeting moment, so why must we limit that? Perspective, I guess.
Katie Mettner writes small-town romantic tales, filled with epic love stories and happily-ever-afters.
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