Facing Fear of Failure

By Jeffe Kennedy

The Talon of the HawkThis is the cover for my next TWELVE KINGDOMS book, THE TALON OF THE HAWK. It comes out May, 2015, but the Addicted 2 Heroines blog is running a Hottest Heroines cover contest for all covers revealed in 2014. I was thrilled they chose the TALON cover for round one, and even more delighted that it won that round! Even more, I'm really pleased that Kensington gave my warrior princess such a strong pose.

She's fearless and it shows.

Not so easy for the rest of us, but then our battles tend to be less overt. I was talking with a writer friend the other day about fear and how starting each new book is an act of courage. She'd tweeted something that struck a chord with me and we went back and forth about it. It was a well-timed conversation for me because I'm drafting a new erotic romance, the third in my FALLING UNDER trilogy. And this week I saw two Publishers Weekly reviews for my books. One, for UNDER HIS TOUCH, the second in the FALLING UNDER trilogy, which comes out in January, is pretty good. But it penetrated my brain, little whispers of it echoing as I draft this new book. Worse, the other review, for THE TEARS OF THE ROSE, the second book in THE TWELVE KINGDOMS, which came out two weeks ago is really quite terrible. One of those deals where the reviewer did not get at all what the story meant to do. If the very same book hadn't been nominated for best Fantasy Romance of the year in the RT Reviewers Choice awards, I'd have been devastated.

As it is, I can recognize that this sort of thing is inevitable when I make bold choices as a writer. In THE TEARS OF THE ROSE I took on writing an unlikable heroine. One that most readers say they feel like slapping for the first half of the book - until they discover they've slowly grown to like and admire her, until at the end they're cheering. That's exactly what I wanted. I don't think our heroines should be perfect people. We celebrate the deeply flawed hero who redeems himself - I wanted the same thing for this heroine. I knew going in that some readers would not get this at all. We can talk about the social reasons that women are held to different standards of likability than men, but it's an old conversation. This book was my offering to that dialogue.

It took courage to write it anyway. It's hard to hear harsh criticism, even when you knew it was possible, even likely.

I think it's even more difficult to battle this fear in this age of dense social media. Everywhere I turn I see harsh reviews, pet peeves and rants about books. In fact, I wrote a whole blog post on how damaging I think it is for writers to read any of those lists or articles on "tropes that need to die." The upshot is that fear of criticism kills creativity.

As I said, all of this has been heavy on my mind as I draft this new erotic romance. I'm a write-for-discovery writer. While I know my general premise, I follow the story as I write. This book is taking me to dark, angsty places. I resisted the story for a while, thinking about potential criticism. Which led to me spinning for a number of days. When readers and reviewers question why the author made a particular choice, I think they don't realize how often it's not our choice at all. It's the story's choice. At least, that's true for me - I can either follow the story or I can fight it. Guess who eventually wins?

Still, it takes courage at every stage - writing, sending out to my agent and editor, revising, release day, facing reader feedback and reviews.

If only I had a big golden sword, huh?

Jeffe Kennedy
Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author whose works include non-fiction, poetry, short fiction, and novels. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial Award. Her essays have appeared in many publications, including Redbook.

Her most recent works include a number of fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns; the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion, and an erotic contemporary serial novel, Master of the Opera, which released beginning January 2, 2014. A fourth series, the fantasy trilogy The Twelve Kingdoms, hit the shelves starting in May 2014 and book 1, The Mark of the Tala, received a starred Library Journal review and has been nominated for the RT Book of the Year while the sequel, The Tears of the Rose, has been nominated for best fantasy romance of the year. A fifth series, the highly anticipated erotic romance trilogy, Falling Under, released starting with Going Under in July.

She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.

Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com, every Sunday at the popular Word Whores blog, on Facebook, and pretty much constantly on Twitter @jeffekennedy. She is represented by Connor Goldsmith of Fuse Literary.

4 thoughts on “Facing Fear of Failure

  1. I’m struggling with the same thing with my debut–one of the first responses to an ARC sent out was that the heroine was completely unlikeable and the reader couldn’t get past it and wouldn’t finish. It was devastating. I’m grateful the reviews coming in since have been positive. They’ve gone on the journey with her. They get it! Yay!

    But yes…a big golden sword would be amazing. Until then, I’ll bookmark this post and come back to read it when I need a reminder to be true to the story. Thank you for writing this. It came at exactly the right time.

    • I’m so glad to hear this came at the right time for you, Katie! Fighting the unlikable heroine thing, in particular, is an uphill battle, but an important one. Keep on with the good fight!

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