Bill Murray in TOOTSIE, and what a novelist wants

Jeff the playwright, played by Bill Murray: “I don’t want a full house at the Winter Garden. I want people who just came out of the worst rainstorm in history. These are people who are alive on the planet… until they dry off. I wish I had a theater that was only open when it rained.”

Yesterday the mail brought me the return of IMMORTAL from a reviewer. She had emailed me a month ago saying that up to 200 people a day visited her book review website, and could she please have an ARC, an Advanced Review Copy. I responded that there were none left, but I did have a finished copy. I sent it on to her.
And it reappeared yesterday, with a note: “Although Immortal is beautifully written, I regret that I was unable to read it. As a former career nanny and mother of four, I’m just too sensitive to read about child prostitution and murder.” Her note was kind and it was a gracious gesture of her to return the book.
Part of me was disappointed: I am seriously promoting IMMORTAL right now. I am a new novelist and I am not just in the business of writing novels, I am in the business of selling them. Every review on the internet–or in print–builds my platform for selling copies. And earning $$.
But another part of me was pleased: my story affected this woman so deeply that she wouldn’t even finish the book! She put it down rather than confront what I wrote! In her turning away, she demonstrated the power of my words, characters, plot.
I think many artists have this deeply non-commercial instinct, where we care more about the impact on the audience than on sales. Where we want people to show up and be 100% present to experience our creation. Even if that means they’re dripping wet from a ferocious rain, or if they send a book back, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
That said, if you’re reading this blog, kindly go out and buy a copy of IMMORTAL for yourself!

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