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Thanks for the thought-provoking question, swissmiss. Unlike some writers (and actors, directors, etc.), I do actually read all the reviews of my books. And I look forward to reading them, even if I'm afraid of them. I'm going to answer your question in a roundabout way. I attended a creative writing program in fiction writing back in 1986-88, and the aspect of it that I found, and continue to find, most valuable was learning how to discern criticism that is valuable to me and criticism that I should discard. That might sound harsh or silly, but it often boils down to a matter of taste. Any writing that is truly interesting will not appeal to everyone, so if one can find a reader or reader who is simpatico with one's work, but will still be critical, that's a critic to listen to. If a reader just doesn't really like what you do, there's no use in paying attention to that.

That said, I pay very close attention to review if the reviewer takes into account my intentions as a writer. And sadly, there are many reviewers who do not do this. A case in point would be the review of The Fourth Star in the New York Times Book Review (I wonder whether you happened to read it?). Thomas McNamee, the critic, found fault with the book because I didn't dig up a lot of dirt. Since digging up dirt was not at all my aim, I didn't take it to heart (though of course I was somewhat upset that the Times couldn't manage to find someone to review the book fairly). He also found fault with my prose style, without giving examples of what he found objectionable. To me this is unprofessional. 'Nuff said about that. But when I do find a review that takes my intentions into account it might affect my work the next time around--if I agreed with the criticism. But generally speaking, reviews do not affect how I write.

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Thank you very much for your informative and honest answer. I did read Thomas McNamee's review. Unfortunately the American public wants the dirt on anyone, but it is always deplorable to see the NY Times condone such a fact.

Anne E. McBride

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