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February 25, 2014



I love the Harry Potter books. They are fantastically creative and written in a way that appeals to adults without being too sophisticated, scary or dark for older children. That's hard to do - or I assume it is, since not many do it. I suppose Ms. Shepherd will suggest this year's Olympic gold medalists should retire from their sports, George Clooney should only direct from now on, and Rachel Ray should hang up her tv apron because, hey, she isn't really a chef anyway.


Between this and the Allende situation, it's been an interesting news cycle for authors making less than stellar decisions.

My favorite part of your post is:
"We writers are in competition with HBO, Netflix, X-box, Wii, multiplexes and scrapbooking, not with each other."

It gave me a smile, but also is a very accurate statement.

I went into my blog knowing that I would not write bad reviews - I'd rather just ignore those books that I don't like - and that was a personal decision. But I can't ever condone writing any type of critical declaration (good or bad) about a book that one has never read.


Truth! I tend to prefer to share good reviews, to help friends enjoy what I have enjoyed. Mom always said, "If you can't say something nice, say nothing."
Rowling has led so many to reading, including my eight-year-old great nephew, whose interest in reading was piqued when he held a H.P. book I picked up from the library. "What's the deal with this big book. Are you a book worm, Aunt Mary?"
In an email yesterday, I read that when Isaac Asimov was asked what he would do if he had only six months to live, he answered, "Type faster." You who write, please keep writing. We readers need you.


Going to add a retired English-teacher snark . . . just can't resist, as my hand twitches toward the red pens.

If one is going to suggest someone else stop writing, should that post not at least be edited well?

"mainly because there's so many other books out there that are surely more stimulating for grown-up minds."
there's . . . books?


So well said, Catriona--thank you! My issue with Ms. Shepherd's piece is quite similar to the one I have with Ms. Allende: Reading is good. When people read, the world becomes a better place, no matter what they're reading. As Kris points out, JK Rowling has gotten more people reading. And I am grateful to her.

When folks were bemoaning the fact that 50 Shades and its brethren were taking bestseller spots, I had the same reaction. Look, if some folks want to make reading an elitist activity, I don't suppose we can stop them, but it just doesn't make sense to me, particularly from an author.

I haven't read HP (no slight on the author, just not my thing), but I read THE CUCKOO'S CALLING before The Revelation, and I thought it was a decent first novel (I know...seems a stupid reaction now!), and I decided immediately to read Mr. Galbraith's next. I think publishing it under a pseudonym was a class move, demonstrating great respect for readers.

Eileen Rendahl

Well said, Catriona. Would I like to have even a fraction of Rowling's success? You bet! I doubt having her stop writing would make that happen and on top of that it would deprive all of us of her books. I really didn't think Shepherd's argument made any sense at all.


Sandi - hilarious! and Julia Roberts should never smile.

Kris - you are a gent.

Mary - I know! It was quite incredible to witness what happened between 1997 and 2000ish as those books exploded.

Erin - you are officially cool forever now, having read The C's C before!


And then there's this. Before the weekend Shepherd's latest book had 3 one-star ratings on Amazon. Now it's got 49. And I can't bring myself to feel bad for her.



Huh - I didn't know we couldn't post links in comments.


I do have to step in and say that I don't really agree with the giving of one-star reviews to Shepherd's books.

If we are going to call her to task about judging a book without reading it, we should hold ourselves to the same standard.

Don't buy her books, that is a valid response, but we really can't rate them as one-star based on comments she made in the press.


I do agree with you, Kristopher - really I do. I just can't sympathise.


Great post, Catriona. I feel a little bad about what's happening to this writer's reviews on Amazon now. She was dumb, but you know the HP editor was the one who plucked her out of obscurity and gave her a platform that would ruin her. And Huff Post editors don't happen to have books we can one-star review in revenge.


I would normally feel bad about the poor ratings but in this case ... Shepherd broke into a pet shop to steal puppies and got bitten by the guard dog. At least the reviews are making it very clear that they're based on the article.

(Thinks - maybe I should have one more cup of coffee before I embark on analogies!)


Lori - that's true about the editor. For him/her, all traffic is good.

Susan Shea

Hear, hear! Well said and I think you should offer this as a rebuttal on Huff Post. The original whine was bad in so many ways and you've cataloged all of them.

Eleanor Jones

Great article, Catriona. Well put (in 4 items) without sounding too angry. Better than I could do yesterday! I've found members of the mystery-writing community that I've met online and at conferences to be helpful and encouraging across the board to new writers.

I can't figure out this woman's M.O. However, her sour grapes have left such a sour taste in my mouth I'll never, never read her. That's a real shame as she was able to get a contract with a major publisher and has good posted reviews by major reviewers. That wasn't enough for her, I guess.

Karen in Ohio

From the shooting oneself in the foot department: When the first Harry Potter came out my youngest daughter, who has read them all many times (including in German), was nine years old. Now she is 26. And still a voracious reader, as is her husband.

Ms. Shepherd would do well to remember her own childhood and her own favorite books and authors. And how it influenced her own reading and writing.

LynDee Walker

I was taken aback by this yesterday for so many reasons, but the most basic one is this: as writers, aren’t we all readers first? I know my love of books is what made me want to be a writer in the first place.

Suggesting that readers everywhere should be deprived of a talent like Rowling’s for such personally selfish reasons is several shades of crazy to me. And talk about shooting your own career in the (pick an appendage). I’m just shaking my head.

Well said, Catriona. Thanks for sharing.


We are, LynDee. I'd say we are. I read The Da Vinci Code and (started) 50 Shades, purely to see what all the fuss was about. Out of nosiness about what was going on in what I think of as my world.

Ramona DeFelice Long

Lesson: Mess with an avid fan base at your own peril.

People in the children's writing world are pretty steamed as well, but there's a backlash to the backlash. Some of the Pottermaniacs are popping up to remind the 1-star reviewers that a primary theme in HP is tolerance and acceptance. People have the right to be wrong-headed (see Draco Malfoy). I disagree with her post on every point and may never read/buy her work, but purposefully trying to hurt her career is wrong too.


Of course, Ramona is right. The one-star reviewers haven't met Harry, Ron and Hermione's standards of behaviour (but they're comfortably inside the zone where Shepherd's happy to operate).

Dana Cameron

I really like Erin's point about some who want reading to be an elitist activity... it brings out my inner guttersnipe.

Yes, writers write. And I applaud your invocation of The Hulk, as well, Catriona.

Donna Andrews

What Catriona said.

I taught a session this past weekend at the Bay to Ocean Writers Conference, and one of the things I advised the writers there was not to pull an Allende. By which I meant that before writing in or criticizing a genre, you should widely and deeply in it.

And maybe now I'll add don't pull a Shepherd. It's not a zero sum game, and someone needs to read Jennifer Crusie's classic essay, "Green is Not Your Color: Professional Jealousy and the Professional Writer."


Matthew Clemens

Thank you for saying this with an even-handed voice, Catriona. Every time I read the, "I've never read a word ... so I can't comment" or the "...think it a shame that adults were reading them ... mainly because there's so many other books out there that are surely more stimulating for grown-up minds.", my eye twitches for a moment, then I burst into flame. Thanks for being the voice of reason, as always.

Elaine Viets

Quit? Should Dickens quit because he was successful? A great writer should retire when she has nothing to say. Rowling hasn't reached that stage. I'm not in favor of giving her critic one-star reviews, either, but I won't waste any Kleenex crying for her.


Exactly, Elaine. I am just beginning to imagine what a horrible day Shepherd must be having, though. I hope she's surrounded by kind friends who're keeping her away from Amazon. And Donna - I'm just off to follow that link.

Mysti Berry

Testify, sister! Literally every mystery writer I've ever met has been kind, generous, and supportive, even NYT bestsellers and award winners!

Thanks for demonstrating what MOST writers are like. Big-hearted people focused on telling the best damn stories they can.

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