Those winged critters are irrevocably linked with religion, and few topics inspire more passion, both positive and negative.
I knew this going in, and I knew I'd have to tread carefully. But not too carefully, because that's just, you know, boring.
I really didn't worry about offending someone, because of course I was going to offend someone. Hell, I could manage that walking the dog in my pajamas or driving barefoot.
Still, I did make a conscious effort to weave a respectful tone throughout the story, in regard to the spiritual aspects. I didn't do that because I felt I had to, I did that because it's part of the plot, I'm not an asshat, and I hold genuine respect for my own beliefs and those of others. That being said...
My characters are opinionated bastards who don't always share my views.
Despite mental preparation for such an event, I was a bit stunned when an acquaintance of mine - who happens to be very devout - gave me back the autographed book I gifted him. He only read a few chapters before deciding it wasn't his thing. Fair enough. I was disappointed on a personal level, but not angry or upset. I don't even want to imagine a world where everyone likes and dislikes the same things. And I appreciated the honesty. I'll take Hard Truth over Easy Lie for eternity, Alex.
Then The Incident happened.
Devout Acquaintance started listing aspects of the story he didn't like, and they all centered around my interpretation and representation of certain religious aspects. He told me where I was wrong and had a list of bible verses to prove it. An actual list. Hand-written. In bullet form.
Upon further discussion, I discovered Devout Acquaintance assumed that what I wrote in my book was a reflection of my own beliefs. Beliefs that might be my one-way ticket to a fiery afterlife, and he assumed (rightly this time) that I was more of a pro-heaven type of gal.
I did my best to explain. Had I been writing Christian fiction, I would've followed religious canon, but I felt no such obligation with Urban Fantasy.
Sadly, I think my words bounced off and went spinning into space like a rogue asteroid. I disengaged as quickly as possible, but my retreat wasn't nearly as cool as I would've liked. Think stammering, awkward smile, fumbling with my phone and pretending to get a text. Smooth as an elbow to the boob.
I've thought about The Incident a lot, much more than I'd like to admit. It's weird. I've received all sorts of feedback on the story - positive and not so positive, glowing reviews and harsh reviews and everything in between.
I've handled it all pretty well, but for some reason, the assumption that I was trashing religious belief really, really got to me - so much that I'm blogging about The Incident nearly a year after it occurred. Closure. Get some. I know.
I'm not angry, just a little butthurt because I know that's not what I'm about, and it's not what Fires of Providence is about, either. But short of putting a warning label on the cover, there's not much I can do. Five hundred readers, five hundred views, that sort of thing. I get it.
What I'm trying to say is this: if I do something or say something or write something that could be interpreted in different ways, I hope people choose the one that doesn't piss 'em off. Because that's probably what I was going for. :)