Yesterday a thread on the JD Robb Facebook page was hijacked by the question “Isn’t it time for Eve and Roarke to have a baby?” This particular commentor went on to write “you’re basically saying their lives will end when a baby comes.” When the Nora answered “No, it doesn’t say their lives would pretty much end. But babies CHANGE lives–and should. And I’m saying having kids would change the tone and direction of the series. Which I simply don’t want to do. Major difference. NR” the response was that the commentor just wanted to see them be a complete family.
Nora then asked me to post that the question about babies would no longer be addressed – we’d just post a link to a very eloquent blog post here. Honestly, if Facebook allowed you to disable comments, I would have done so. It wasn’t a statement meant to be debated, it was announcing the new Standard Operating Procedure about the baby question. No more answers, just the fact.
But FB doesn’t give you that option and so comments exploded. I vetted the post and thought Nora was firm, with a side element of exasperation. After all, the question keeps hijacking threads about other things from Goodreads voting to a photo of Nora with a Harris Hawk in Ireland.
She wasn’t rude, and the majority of commentors understood. But there was a great deal of anger from some readers who insisted Nora was mean, nasty and didn’t deserve their business any more.
Because after all, readers are why she’s successful was the solution to the angry equations.
I’m here to tell you that readers are a factor and for the most part, a friendly enthusiastic factor. But talent, discipline and the fierce drive to tell the best story – the one Nora wants to tell – come first.
I just want to see…
I think you should…
Wouldn’t it be great if…
Why don’t you…
Will there be…
Those are the Top 5 stock phrases that start a great many FB comments, blog questions and reader email. They are the first few words in requests for everything from more books in a trilogy to Nadine or Baxter finding true love (preferably together) in the In Deaths. A lot of the time, the answer is already public knowledge (part of the FAQ on the website, posted on Facebook) but to the person asking it’s brand new, shiny and of course, never been asked before.
Buried in those phrases are the true, sincere compliments of how readers respond to Nora’s books – they trust her and want her to show them everything in the worlds she creates.
The emails have started already about continuing the Cousin’s O’Dwyer Trilogy. There are regular requests to expand the Bride Quartet so readers can see Emma’s, Laurel’s and Parker’s weddings as well as find romance for Mrs. Grady or Mal’s mom. Depending on what’s recently reprinted, there will be an Aubrey Quinn or a MacGregor question asking for more from those stories.
On the In Death side there’s the baby for Eve and Roarke, the marriage/baby for Peabody and McNab, the more babies for Mavis and Leonardo, romances for Baxter and Nadine, a yen for Jamie Lingstrom to be a cop, a yen for Trueheart to be a detective, and yens yet to be named.
At what point do you say enough? I think yesterday we found out.
Nora had approximately 15 months (June 1995-October 1996) without an Eve and Roarke and baby question — from Naked in Death through Immortal. Then, as soon as Rapture opened — when readers realized that it wasn’t a trilogy that closed at the wedding, we were going to get to see the marriage — the plea for a baby started. Slowly at first since most people could see how damaged Eve was, how much work she had to do. But once Eve and Roarke visited Dallas in Reunion in Death (2002) all bets were off and the baby notion quickly became the most FAQ in the Nora-verse.
Nora adores babies. She is completely, utterly besotted with every single baby who comes into her path. At the signing on Saturday, she stopped what she was doing to hold and give some love to two tiny babies.
She also knows babies utterly change a parent’s world. The focus has to expand to include a baby and all the love and worry and needs and wonder that child brings along.
When her boys were young, Nora shaped her work day around the school schedule – while still being homeroom mom, chorus mom, carpooling mom. She worked when they were in school, negotiated time when they were home and stopped what she was doing when being the parent was the priority.
It’s not, and never has been an issue of what sort of parents Eve and Roarke would be. Never. The issue is that JD Robb (aka baby-besotted Nora Roberts) has no interest in writing a series that has to take the time to consider child care, sick kids or school schedules.
And JD Robb knows that when a child comes, Summerset will not be the surrogate parent.
But readers, more and more, can be lazy or — worse — entitled. They want the next story now. They want a happy ending now. They want the author to write the way they want or they whisper ugly questions like “is she still writing the series?” The demands dressed up like requests eddy all over the internet, gaining some potency as people repeat what they’ve read or condensed other’s opinions when they recognize a like complainer, until eventually those demands become social media fact.
Back to those angry comments on FB. I saw some hurt that Nora could shut down an avenue those readers had already walked in their heads. Basically, those comments read between the lines “I thought I knew you because I read all your books, I’m disappointed that you shared your very human exasperation to a question you’ve heard a million-billion times.”
A writer who tells stories that sing to you is a wonderful storyteller, not a best friend.
As I mentioned here, I was a reader first and foremost. I’ve worked with Nora going on a decade now and had to make a transition from basically speechless superfan (sorry gang I’M the biggest fan) to a trusted partner in certain areas. Nora recently said to me that respect for and trust in the people you work with are the two most important pieces of a working relationship. Friendship is not a must.
To me, the writer/reader relationship embodies those things: the writer shows respect to readers by writing the best story possible while the reader trusts the writer to do just that. When a writer doesn’t uphold her end of the bargain, the reader is free to walk away.
But if a writer consistently gives a reader that respect, most times it’s best to sit back and enjoy the ride she wants to take.