Guest Post by YA author Catherine Ryan Hyde. Leave a comment to get a copy of her ebook

Today I have a special treat for you–a guest post by YA author Catherine Ryan Hyde, author of Pay It Forward, Jumpstart the World, Becoming Chloe, and many other books.

Catherine’s book Second Hand Heart, a crossover YA book, was first traditionally published in the UK (and is now available in in paperback on Amazon). Catherine has just made it available as an ebook–for only $2.99!

If you’d like a copy of Catherine’s ebook, leave a comment on this post telling her so (along with your email address) this week (Oct 22-Oct 29) and you will get a free copy. That’s right–every single person who leaves a comment on this post will get a copy of the ebook, guaranteed! What an incredibly generous offer!

And now, to Catherine’s thoughtful guest post.



Guest Post: Catherine Ryan Hyde


I had an interesting conversation with a reader a few days ago. Well, I call it a conversation, but it actually took the form of direct Twitter messages. These days that’s a viable conversation.

This reader is a blogger who had just reviewed my novel Second Hand Heart. And it was a good, thoughtful review, in which my book came off well. But there was one part of the way the novel developed that was not okay with her. That she just did not like.

I’d read a more detailed and honest description of her feelings about this on Goodreads, and I was able to match that up with this review. I wanted her to know that, in my mind at least, there was more love and consideration in that moment than she might have gathered. But I was unsure how to approach the situation. Because I try to take a step back and view the reader experience with a lot of latitude and respect.

Did it really matter what I intended for that scene, as opposed to what she took away? Many writers, especially ones newer to reviews and feedback, might say yes. For years I sat in writer’s workshops and listened to authors “straighten out” the group about how their work should be received. I’m sure at one time I tried it myself. But there comes a moment when we accept that we send our novel out into the world unaccompanied. Like a child we’ve finished raising, we let it have a life. We can’t follow it around to alter how it’s being received. Nor should we.

The truth of the matter, in my opinion, is that we don’t own the novel once it’s in the hands of its reader. The reader has to take the experience from there. And the reader is not a blank slate. The reader comes to your work with a lifetime of experiences, opinions, judgments, likes and dislikes. And…here’s where it gets interesting…the words you wrote and the mind of that reader meld. And the result is a unique experience.

I find this wonderful. I suspect some other authors do not. Well, let’s just say it’s easier to love it when it goes the author’s way. In a recent viral “author behaving badly” meltdown, a reviewer pointed out some problems with the writing, and the author got into the comment section and said, “The writing is fine,” then began hurling angry invectives. Such stories—and there have been many lately—never end well. Apparently she wanted to convince the reviewer that he was wrong about what he perceived as a problem. But the reader is never wrong, because fiction is too subjective for right and wrong.

I had a particularly interesting time with this about twelve years ago when my novel Electric God was released. It was a character study of a violently angry man. Granted, his violence was aimed at defending the innocent and righting wrongs. Think of him as the Robin Hood of breaking jaws and getting thrown in jail. In the end it was a book about forgiveness. Forgiving one’s self first, then others. Making peace inside so no wars need to play out externally. In the end, Hayden forgave—himself, and others. And laid down his anger. But some readers still didn’t forgive him. Most, but not all. I had some interesting conversations with readers, some of whom were surprisingly forthcoming in admitting to me that they were not very forgiving people. Not so surprisingly, they had trouble with the book. This is when I realized that, when people tell me what they thought of my book, they are actually revealing a great deal about themselves. They are describing to me the unique experience that came about when their life history mixed with my story. I learned to listen more objectively.

Back to Second Hand Heart. This reader and blogger was nice enough to explain her own views in a way that made it clear why she would read this scene differently from most others who picked up the book. Ultimately, her reality has to be validated, which is what I did. It doesn’t pay to say, “Nine out of ten people liked that.” It could be 99 out of 100. Doesn’t matter. Doesn’t make the hundredth reader wrong. Just different.

I told her I thought it was important to let readers own what they take away from the work. And that authors who quarrel with that are fighting a losing battle and making everybody unhappy, themselves included. I told her that’s what I love about reading. It’s not just the words. It’s the words in special combination with the reader.

Anybody who lives a life deeply surrounded by books has watched some of this unnecessary pain playing out. Feelings get hurt in the writer’s group, beta readers become awkward ex-friends or sworn enemies, and well-known and once-well-respected authors put a reviewer’s phone number on Twitter so people can call her up and tell her she’s wrong.

I’ve noticed in my own life that any time I feel a deep sense of frustration and stress, I’m probably trying to change something that can’t be changed. Like someone else’s opinion, for example.

So I try to get better and better about getting out of the readers’ way and respecting the unique bonds between them and my book. And if their perception occasionally doesn’t match with my intention, probably it’s because they’re not me. I do this because I deeply respect the process of reading, because I want my reader to be happy…and because I want to be happy, too.


17 Responses to “Guest Post by YA author Catherine Ryan Hyde. Leave a comment to get a copy of her ebook”

  1. Natalee Says:

    A great post! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Cindy Says:

    So interesting. When I was teaching middle school, I used to tell my students that their writing was a gift to the reader, and it was up to the reader to decide what to do with it. I’m sure we would all like EVERYONE to love EVERYTHING we do. Alas…
    Thanks for the insight.

  3. Robert Thompson Says:

    I never considered opinion as a factor in writing. Great insight.

  4. Robert Thompson Says:

    Insightful take on how opinion affects both the reader and author.

  5. Lisa Jenn Bigelow Says:

    “But the reader is never wrong, because fiction is too subjective for right and wrong.”

    I think it’s always valuable to be reminded of this. (I say this even though, a year away from publication, I’m already biting my nails over what readers will think of my book.) I work as a public librarian, and kids and parents are always asking, “Is this is a good book?” And I say, “Well, I thought it was an exciting pageturner!” or “Lots of kids think it’s hilarious,” and the response is often, “Yes, but is it GOOD?” How can I answer that? The best I can do is say, “Why don’t you check it out and start reading? Then you can decide if it’s good or not.”

    Loved Jumpstart the World and Becoming Chloe, BTW.

  6. Kathryn Merkel Says:

    Yeah, an author that gets it. Everything that happens to us in life gets filtered through our personal bag of baggage, why should reading a book be any different? I wish I had realized this sooner myself, like in college when I was trying to defend one of my English papers to what I perceived as a pigheaded teacher.

  7. Sean Says:

    I don’t need a free copy, but i wanted you to know that I was here and read the post. 🙂

  8. julie barrett Says:

    i’d love to read this, thanks for the offer
    Julie

  9. Angela Says:

    What a wonderful way to think about reviews…and so completely true!!

  10. Loraine Says:

    Ms. Hyde,

    What a wonderful post. Perception can also differ by the day. Have you ever reread something and seen a whole new side to the story line?

    May you have continued success!
    Loraine Hunziker

  11. Catherine Ryan Hyde Says:

    I have! In fact, I’ll often reread something if I know I’ve changed a lot over the years since I first read it. Because I know I’ll see something entirely new, and I’m curious to know what that will be!

  12. Len Lambert Says:

    I’ve just read ‘Don’t Let Me Go’ by Catherine Ryan Hyde and I loved it so much! I will be posting a review of this on my blog. I have another one of her books, Love In The Present Tense.

    What a lovely interview here! Thank you Catherine and thank you Cheryl!

    I would love to have a copy of Second Hand Heart. My email is conversationswithlen@yahoo.co.uk

    Thank you so much!

  13. Sharon Says:

    Catherine,
    First I have to slobber all over you and tell you how amazing your writing is. I have learned to hold on through the grittiest parts of your novels because of the redemption that is to come. The light is brighter and more beautiful because of the dark.

  14. Catherine Ryan Hyde Says:

    That’s a very lovely comment, Sharon. Thank you!

  15. Donna Cooper Says:

    Sounds so wonderful!

  16. Kristin Says:

    Interesting concepts. Thanks for some thought-provoking ideas.

  17. Abel G. de la Cruz Says:

    ‘It doesn’t pay to say, “Nine out of ten people liked that.” It could be 99 out of 100. Doesn’t matter. Doesn’t make the hundredth reader wrong. Just different.’

    Well, that’s interesting… As a writer I have to say that, when I show one of my writings to people, I always hope there will be this reader who will be honest to me and say ‘Abel, really? What did you do in that part of the book?’ or something like that. And I am hoping it because that’s what really keeps me going on my writings. One good friend of mine told me once that Art was making people feel, and that’s what you do when you’re sharing your words with people, both if they like it or not.

    Even when a writer reads one of their books after let’s say ten years, then that author might not like the reading, or a part of it. But it’s important to keep in mind that you write what you feel like writing in the very moment you’re doing so, and that’s the other perspective of Art, isn’t it?

    Catherine, I really enjoy your books, but you know it already (:

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