I’ve just returned from a multi-city book tour. There were happy meetings and reunions, great Q&A sessions, bookstores converted to speakeasies, and at the last stop, a basket of champagne and strawberries from my publisher. I enjoy posting photos from readings and cities I visit to support those who support me–the towns, the bookstores, the reviewers, and the people–but I always hesitate before hitting “upload” because there are quite a few writers out there still trying to find an agent, facing rejection, and unable to get a publisher. This is the exact arrested state of publishing misery in which I resided for nearly a decade, and while I was happy for others and their success, on bad days, seeing it felt like lemon juice in a paper cut.
So, to counterbalance all of the “happy-happy”, and to illustrate that publishing is not all speakeasies and chocolate covered strawberries, I’m going to post excerpts from some of the negative reviews I’ve gotten along the way. These statements are what I think of every single day when I sit down to write. They reinforce the demon in my head that tells me I’m not worthy. They haunt me with every revision, every book proposal, and every public or private sharing of my work.
Hemingway said that if you believe the good reviews, you have to believe the bad. He also ripped off his shirt at a fancy dinner and punched a critic who called his overt masculinity a mask, hiding his true nature. I don’t advocate punching critics, but I won’t say that I haven’t fantasized about it.
In a sick way, I do think it is just as important to have negative feedback as it is to have the wonderful reviews that so many of you have given. I treasure the positive, and they are the sweet balm I need after what you’re about to see, but we need to be reminded that published art is for the public and doesn’t totally belong to us once we send it into the world.
After reading this, I don’t want any of you to comment with, “No, no, you’re work is lovely!” If you have the cajones to share some of your own bad reviews, do it. If you have a favorite bad review of mine, mention it. If you’d like to silently read and shake your head, go for it. Just remember at whatever stage of the publishing process you reside, it is always, always hard. Every day you have a handful of good and a handful of bad. It is an emotional roller coaster at every stretch, so make sure you fasten your big-girl pants for the ride.
Without further ado…
- “[E]ven the dramatic arrival to the Florida Keys of a horrific fact-based 1935 hurricane can’t save Erika Robuck’s clichéd plot and soggy prose. Time to let poor Papa rest in peace.”
- “In “Hemingway’s Girl”, the story is predictable and not very entertaining; even Hemingway ‘s character fails. It’s a quick read and asks little of its readers. Hemingway would hate it.”
- “[I]t was nauseatingly lovey and cheesy at times, and not compelling to read.”
- “Grooooooaaaan. Chick lit dressed up as historical fiction.” (**This is my favorite. I want it made into a sign to hang in my office.)
Call Me Zelda:
- “It was for me a mistake to read Erika Robuck’s CALL ME ZELDA after having read [THE OTHER ZELDA NOVEL].”
- “This is not a serious treatment of mental illness or of the tragedy of Zelda Fitzgerald. It’s cozy wish-fulfillment, the ultimate expression of Robuck’s desire to fix her subject.”
- “[T]his book was just Dull, capital-D dull. Maybe two capitals: DDull.”
- “CALL ME ZELDA is the sort of novel that is enjoyed by ladies who want a somewhat romantic story to pass the time while enjoying a good cup of coffee.”
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need a good cup of coffee…with something strong in it.
“…[T]onight, as I gazed into the dense woods, I took in a slow breath and gratefully accepted whatever offering might come my way. I thought about that old saying, how we can never go home again. But I think it’s more like a piece of us stays behind when we leave–a piece we can never reclaim, one that awaits our next visit and demands that we remember.” Beth Hoffman, LOOKING FOR ME
From the Publisher:
“Teddi Overman found her life’s passion for furniture in a broken-down chair left on the side of the road in rural Kentucky. She learns to turn other people’s castoffs into beautifully restored antiques, and eventually finds a way to open her own shop in Charleston. There, Teddi builds a life for herself as unexpected and quirky as the customers who visit her shop. Though Teddi is surrounded by remarkable friends and finds love in the most surprising way, nothing can alleviate the haunting uncertainty she’s felt in the years since her brother Josh’s mysterious disappearance. When signs emerge that Josh might still be alive, Teddi is drawn home to Kentucky. It’s a journey that could help her come to terms with her shattered family—and to find herself at last. But first she must decide what to let go of and what to keep.
Looking for Me brilliantly melds together themes of family, hope, loss, and a mature once-in-a-lifetime kind of love. The result is a tremendously moving story that is destined to make bestselling author Beth Hoffman a novelist to whom readers will return again and again.”
When I read Beth Hoffman’s SAVING CEECEE HONEYCUTT in 2010, I fell in love with her vivid prose, engaging southern style, and memorable characters, so I couldn’t wait to read her new novel LOOKING FOR ME. I was every bit as charmed and touched by this book, and I will forever be a fan of Hoffman.
LOOKING FOR ME is a layered novel. Multiple time periods and story lines keep the reader turning pages, but it is its themes of nature and family, past and present, and restoration that make the book resonate so deeply. From a battered old chest, to the forgotten elderly, to abused animals, Hoffman invites the reader to look deeply in places from which we sometimes turn away to see their true value and worth. Through tender care of others, Hoffman’s characters touch our hearts and invest us in their struggles and triumphs. After reading LOOKING FOR ME, there is a lot in the world that I will never look at the in the same way.
If you enjoy heartwarming and realistic family stories that span decades, I highly recommend LOOKING FOR ME. For more on Beth Hoffman, visit her website:
“Louise leaned against her window. Her cheeks were flushed, her eyes bright. No matter how she shifted in the window’s light, it seemed to love her face, its angles and its softness, her pale skin framed by the black hair. Cora stared at her grimly. Louise could afford to laugh. She was the beautiful daughter of indulging parents. She believed she was above everyone. Rules didn’t apply to her.” Laura Moriarty, THE CHAPERONE
THE CHAPERONE by Laura Moriarty was issued in paperback by Riverhead/Penguin. I reviewed it when it debuted in hardcover, but I loved it so much I wanted to re-post the review, and encourage fans of historical fiction to read it if you have not already done so.
The book begins in the summer of 1922, when the respectable, thirty-six-year-old Cora Carlisle takes a position as a chaperone to fifteen-year-old Louise Brooks, as she auditions for a dance company in New York. Louise may be young, but with her black bob, red lips, and provocative ways, she is much more worldly than her older companion.
Cora is a complicated woman with a past full of secrets, and she has her own motivations for applying to travel with Louise to New York. When they arrive, Cora finds her job much harder than she imagined. Trying to guide and keep track of her young charge while making discoveries about herself and her past becomes overwhelming, and she nearly loses control on all fronts.
THE CHAPERONE is a brilliant period piece with a captivating plot and cast of characters. Moriarty weaves Cora’s past expertly into her present, and gradually reveals a total picture of Cora, while liberating her from convention. As the title implies, THE CHAPERONE is more about Cora than it is about the young actress, though Louise’s rise and fall are just as fascinatingly portrayed.
Most of the action takes place during the summer of 1922, but the last third of the novel deals with the consequences of that time and the saga of the rest of the lives of Cora and Louise, showing that mere months in our lives can irrevocably change the course of the future.
If you enjoy period novels set in the twenties or strong family drama you will love THE CHAPERONE. It was a bestseller for good reason. If you read it, please let me know what you think.
by Laura Moriarty
Riverhead Trade Paperbacks; June 4, 2013; $16.00
“Then he wakes and he’s in a place where there’s just wind and waves and light, and the intricate machinery that keeps the flame burning and the lantern turning. Always turning, always looking over its shoulder./If he can only get far enough away–from people, from memory–time will do its job.” M. L. Stedman, THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS.
THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS was published in July of 2013 and is 352 pages. I purchased an audiobook of the novel for my travels, and it was exquisitely narrated by Noah Taylor. Though it broke my heart over and over again, THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS is one of my favorites of 2013.
Beginning in the years after the first World War in Australia, THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS is the story of Tom Sherbourne, a decorated war veteran who seeks employment and solitude as a lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, an isolated island far off the coast of the continent. On leave from the island, Tom meets and falls in love with spirited, young Isabel Graysmark, and the two marry and begin their lives together on Janus.
After a series of tragic miscarriages, a grieving Isabel hears the cries of a baby on the breeze. At first she thinks it is her imagination, but she quickly learns that a boat has washed ashore carrying a dead man and a baby–very much alive, and in need of care. Against Tom’s better judgment, he respects Isabel’s wish to wait on reporting the incident, and Isabel soon has the child at her breast. Days turn into weeks, which grow to months, and then to years, and the Sherbournes, at Isabel’s prompting, come to think of the baby they call Lucy as a gift from God for their own losses. The world believes Lucy belongs to them, and Tom and Isabel continue the lie until they are confronted with the terrible truth of Lucy’s parentage, forcing them to wake from their dream to a living nightmare.
THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS is morally complex, beautifully written, and emotionally compelling. The characters are fully realized and layered, and face dilemmas to which there are no easy answers. Right and wrong become tangled until it is impossible to distinguish one from the other, and the human cost resulting from Tom and Isabel’s bad decisions and lies is high.
This is a book that wants to be discussed, so I recommend you read it with a book club or friend. The characters and their shared and private pain haunt me, and will continue to do so long after I’ve finished the story. I miss the characters, and know they have made a lasting impression on me as a reader and a writer.
If you enjoy evocative novels that challenge your beliefs, you will be entranced by THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS. It is profoundly affecting, and is one of the best books I’ve read this year. I give it my highest recommendation.
“He closed his eyes for a moment, imagining the cocoon of books shielding him from all danger, inhaling deeply that familiar scent of cloth and leather and dust and words. His rushing pulse began to slow, and when he opened his eyes he scanned the shelves for something familiar–a title, an author, a well-remembered dust jacket design–anything that might ground him in the world of the known.” Charlie Lovett, THE BOOKMAN’S TALE
THE BOOKMAN’S TALE: A NOVEL OF OBSESSION by Charlie Lovett was released today, and is 368 pages. I received an Advanced Reader Copy from the publisher, Viking, for possible review. It became clear to me early on that I would be happy to recommend this book, because I found it completely engrossing.
In a multi-period novel from Shakespeare’s time, to the Victorian era, to the late twentieth century, THE BOOKMAN’S TALE is the story of antiquarian bookseller, Peter Byerly, whose quest to find the artist of a watercolor that bears an uncanny resemblance to his late wife, becomes a struggle for life and death on both the physical and emotional level. Embedded in the mystery of the portrait Byerly finds in an old book is the exploration of the famed debate over the true author of Shakespeare’s work.
While the plot of the THE BOOKMAN’S TALE is intricately woven, the story is highly readable and compelling. There is a natural suspense generated from books set in many eras, and the added layer of intrigue in this novel surrounding Shakespeare’s writings makes it impossible to put down. Bibliophiles will delight in Byerly’s search through famed Shakespeare forgeries and references, but it is the extreme reverence for the written word and the binding of it that makes THE BOOKMAN’S TALE a love letter to reading and writing.
Fans of Kostova’s THE HISTORIAN and works of literary suspense will devour THE BOOKMAN’S TALE. For more on the author or the novel, visit Charlie Lovett’s website at
I’m delighted to announce that I’ll be partnering with the Annapolis Bookstore in Annapolis, Maryland to send signed copies of my novels to readers all over the U.S. I have received many requests from people near and far for signed books, and this will not only support an independently owned bookstore that enhances the community, but it will give me a way to get books to you.
The Annapolis Bookstore does not yet have a cart on their website, so you’ll have to call (Mary or Janice will answer) if you’d like to order a book: 410-280-2339 . Shipping and handling will be $3.00. Please specify when you call to whom you’d like your book inscribed.
Thank you for helping me support local businesses.
Receive Me Falling
Call Me Zelda (starting May 7th)
- CMZ has been selected for Penguin’s What the World is Reading program, one of their six recommended trade paperback releases of 2013.
- CMZ has been featured in Harper’s Bazaar Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today for the Fitzgerald trend in books and film.
- Audio and Large Print Rights have sold for CMZ.
- Book Trailer:
- I’m honored that HG has been selected for Penguin’s Read Pink program in 2013 to support the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
- Audiobook and Large Print Rights have been sold for HG, as well as foreign rights in Hungary and Poland.
- If you’ve read HG, please consider leaving a review at your favorite online retailer or book sharing site:
- RMF, my first self-published book, has continued to do well. As a courtesy to old and new readers, the ebook is now permanently available for Kindle at $2.99.
I had the great pleasure of visiting Baltimore’s NPR affiliate, WYPR, Maryland Morning with Sheilah Kast, to discuss my new novel CALL ME ZELDA, and my upcoming appearance at the Annapolis Book Festival. To listen, click here.
The Annapolis Book Festival is this weekend at the Key School. I will be a part of a panel discussion on Saturday, April 13th at 10:30 a.m. with The Book Maven, Bethanne Patrick, and novelists Caroline Leavitt and Christoper Tilghman. For a full schedule of events at the book festival, click here.
I hope to see you in Annapolis!