When my book was first picked up from the Harper Collins site authonomy, I unwittingly discovered the world of the Internet troll. It was true that the person who spotted my book had seen it before, but there was never any secret about that. Unfortunately my troll seemed to think they were a latter day Sherlock when they discovered a five year old post about it, and used this to accuse me of all manner of things. I could (partially) understand if they accused me of nepotism – after all if someone didn’t understand the business, and didn’t understand that it takes more than one person to like your work to get published, then it may (at a very cursory glance) have appeared a little odd. But five minutes of thinking about it would have allowed anyone with even basic intelligence to see that it takes a whole lot more than one person supporting your work to get published. It actually has to be good. No publisher worth its salt is going to throw money at a bad book as a favour – it just doesn’t make sense.
That didn’t matter to my troll. I was accused of doing all sorts of things to get my book published, including “whoring” myself out in return for a contract. This was (of course) by someone who had never read my book or anything about it. That one troll lead to a small number of others who seemed to be more along the jealous haters track. By these I was accused of “thick as sh-t high school French” (one of my characters is called D’Scover – he’s not French and there is a reason for his unusual name, but you’d have to read the book to find out) and even accusations of being “totally mentally sick” as I was “glorifying teenage suicide” This baffling accusation apparently came from the name of my character – Edie Freedom. The hater said “come on, e- die freedom, like saying death is freedom?” Actually the character is named after my daughter, and her surname is from the commune on which the character lives. Edie is very much alive and takes great pains throughout the book to remain so!
The point of this is that none of them had actually bothered to read the book. They had bothered to troll around the net, stamping angrily under their shabby bridges and roaring at anyone attempting to quietly pass by, but they couldn’t be bothered to read my story.
I was advised to ignore them, and I did, and they went away, but that’s not always as easy as it sounds. Today a positive online presence is essential to marketing your “brand” (yes, I know, but that’s another issue!) and people hurling crap about can grubby-up your image pretty quickly. We rely on good feedback and good reviews, and trolls drag behind them a bandwagon that is very easy to jump on. All it takes is one to get it started and soon others will follow like flies on a carcass.
Hugely talented writer and illustrator Debi Gliori experienced this in a horrible way, an escalation that almost threatened her career and had misguided people bandwagon jumping with only the flimsiest bits of information.
One thing that always startles me is just how much hate some people allow into their lives. My case was very minor, and I’m thick-skinned, but some of the well reported cases such as the Caroline Criado-Perez case, were truly horrific. How you you laugh off death threats? How you you laugh off threats of such incredible violence and brutality? Surely that’s not possible? I am stunned that people have such hatred in them and are prepared to direct it at real people.
Maybe that’s it, maybe their social disengagement has reached such a profound level of isolation that they can no longer see us as “real” people.
Well, we are. We all are, every single time someone writes something it is from the mind of a real person. Flesh and blood, and with real feelings and real family too. If you choose to voice a strong and balanced negative opinion, then that is your right. If you wish to express your dislike of something then it should express why you feel this, and why you feel the need to tell others. If, however, you feel the need to express the desire to “rape her in the eyes” – it’s genuinely time to seek some form of counselling or intensive anger therapy for your own sake. It’s simply not healthy to allow that level of hatred and anger to dominate your life. How can people live like that?
So get back under your bridge, get some help, live happy, enjoy the world, and let us all trip-trap over to the quieter pastures beyond.