My boyfriend is really lovely in that he’s super supportive when it comes to my writing career. And it includes all facets of it: cooking dinner so I can finishing up drafting a short story, listening to my confusing ramblings as I try to verbally work out plot holes as I’m editing my novels (even if he has no idea what I’m talking about, as he hasn’t read them), driving an extra hour during our roadtrip so I can finish reading an ARC and get my review posted on time. I am so thankful for his support, both with writing and reading.
Because my writing career isn’t just about writing. Reading–and being a book reviewer–is a huge part of it, too, especially as I’m still trying to break in as an author. Ever since I started working with Titan and Orbit, getting ARCs after starting my book review blog, it’s become a much more prevalent aspect of my life. Not that reading hasn’t always been important, it’s just that I didn’t start writing reviews over the books I read until a year or so ago. Having someone in my life who is willing to help balance other things so that it can always be an important focus is something I will always appreciate and can never be hyped up enough.
The other day, while we were in the laundromat, waiting for our clothes to dry, we were talking about book reviews: my process writing them, how they work, things like that. Somehow, we got onto the topic of me as a writer and, once I become published, whether or not I’ll read all my book reviews, if I’ll avoid Goodreads like the plague or if I’ll see if someone will vet the reviews ahead of time and only let me read the good ones. My boyfriend was surprised to learn my opinion that reviews are for readers, not for authors, and no author is required to ever read any reviews written about their books. I’m not entirely sure how that fits into the overarching opinion, amongst the community, but that’s my take, at any rate.
As we discussed, my boyfriend told me he was worried about me, for when I reached that stage of my career, when people were reading my books and publishing reviews. I don’t, um, have the thickest skin. It’s a lot better than it was, let me clear that up right away. I used to take every bit of criticism of my writing as a personal attack. Obviously, not true. Even though I’ve toughened up a little bit more, since, I know it’s going to be a very different experience, getting “negative feedback” from a beta reader or critique partner occasionally, to potentially getting negative reviews without explanations and one star ratings daily by hundreds of readers (of course, one only hopes to have hundreds of readers, but you see my point). I know I’ll need to continue working on toughening my skin.
But then, the conversation took a sadder turn than I expected.
Basically, we started talking about all the plus and minuses of my dream coming true, of becoming a published author: people are reading my books! People are reading my books. My story is out there! Negative reviews. Getting to go to book talks, readings and cons! Fan-art! Fanfiction! Getting paid for my writing!
Getting sexually harassed or assaulted at cons.
I’m not even sure how we got to that topic, but the way my boyfriend brought it up; the way he said it, not as a fear, but as an expectation; and the way that I didn’t bat an eye, like my brain responded with, Yes, because I’m a female author, of course that’s bound to happen at one stage in my career or another, as likely as a bad review. Guess I have to get prepared for that, too.
That’s…really fucking sickening and really fucking sad.
It goes without saying that shouldn’t be a reality that I might have to face, as a female writer. My boyfriend, also, is ridiculously sweet in his belief in me, always telling me that my books are going to be getting six figure deals, I’ll be able to write full-time, I’m going to be so famous. The realist in me reminds him that’s not at all how the publishing world works and how truly rare that kind of feat is, but his belief in me is sweet, nonetheless. But in discussing the book that we both believe might be the one that opens the door for my career, we couldn’t deny how controversial the main topic (periods) is and how not only will I probably receive negative reviews (especially if I reach the level of fame he so kindly believes I will), but also hate mail, death threats, misogynistic bullshit and sexual harassment, to name a few.
Because how else are men going to respond to a woman who writes unabashedly about periods?
Yeah, fuck that mentality.
I am so excited to start this career. I am so excited to make it, in a field I’ve dreamed being a part of since I was a kid, that I’ve been working towards since I was in my teens. I’m so excited about how publishing is moving forward, becoming much more diverse and accepting. I know we’re going in the right direction and I can only imagine how wonderful it is going to be here in the five, ten years; how many people, from underrepresented identities, races and sexualities, will finally be able to see themselves more often as heroes in the written word, on covers and in books entirely about them.
But I’m also terrified of how likely being abused and harassed is for my future, as a female writer.
I don’t want that to be a reality, for anyone. And it bloody hell shouldn’t be even be a plausible one, ever. But from our discussion the other day, sitting in a janky laundromat dreaming about the future, it already came up as an expectation, rather than a fear, as we discussed different ways to combat it or prepare for it. I’m not really sure how to end this post, only I guess to say that it’s not okay. I truly hope it’s not actually the case and sexual harassment or assault, hate mail and death threats aren’t so common in the publishing and writing industry that they are considered more the norm than simply fears and worst case scenarios.
Regardless of what is actually the truth, we still have a lot of work to do.