by Jim Denney
I just did something authors are NOT supposed to do: reading Amazon.com reviews of my book.
Why shouldn’t writers read their reviews? Some say nothing good can come of it. The five-star reviews will swell your head and the one-star reviews will wither your soul.
But I’ve learned to let both good and bad reviews roll off me like water off a mallard’s back. I’m grateful, of course, when someone takes the time to say good things about my books. Good reviews help other readers find my work, and that helps me to make a living in the writing trade.
A negative notice means my book was reviewed by someone who is not my intended reader. It doesn’t mean my book was bad, nor was that reviewer a bad person. It just means that my book and that reader were not a match.
The reviews I read were for Battle Before Time, my time travel adventure novel for readers age eight to twelve. Most reviewers gave the book five stars. One of my favorite comments was this: “I read this series as a kid and they have remained four of the most memorable books from my childhood. Well-written and action-packed, they helped me understand important concepts like, ‘Why does God give us free will?’ I was so wrapped up in the story, I didn’t realize I was learning until later.”
I loved it that my books got kids hooked on reading. One reviewer said, “I was looking for a Christian book series that would capture my 12-year-old’s interest. He wasn’t much of a reader and I needed something. WOW! I picked up this book and he just loved it. I soon bought every one of the Timebenders series.”
Most of the reviews are like that. Only two were not. The fascinating thing about the two one-star reviews was that had completely opposite views of my book. One complained because Battle Before Time is a Christian book: “It was fun until they ended up with the whole good and evil thing. . . . Give me a good novel without trying to rub my face in religion!” Well, you can’t please everyone.
The other negative reviewer claimed the book doesn’t promote Christianity — it promotes evolution! “Evolution contradicts the Bible and a Christian world-view,” this reviewer said, “and it’s dangerous to try to mix the two [evolution and the Bible].” I was completely floored when I read that. There’s not a word in my Timebenders series in support of evolution. Yes, there are dinosaurs, but including dinosaurs in a time travel story hardly constitutes Darwinian propaganda.
I take my responsibility to young Christian readers very seriously. The first readers for these books were my own kids, and I would never write anything that would lead my own children astray.
The idea for Battle Before Time actually came from my son Ryan. One day, when he was five years old, he approached me with a question that warmed my heart: “Daddy, could me and you write a book together?”
“Sure, son” I said. “What kind of book would you like to write?”
“I want to write a book about a time machine and dinosaurs.”
Ryan and I worked on that book a half hour a day for about a week. My son found out how much work is required to write a book, and he soon lost interest. I set our little project aside and forgot about it for a few years. One day, I came across the pages Ryan and I had written together — and I decided to finish it.
I wrote the book, sent it to a publisher, and the publisher said that if I could turn it into a four-book series, we had a deal. I can’t thank my son Ryan enough for giving me that idea when he was a kindergartner. Those books generated more reader mail then any of the other hundred-plus books I’ve written.
A dad in Australia told me that the Timebenders books turned his nine-year-old son into an avid reader and was the only thing that could get him away from his Sony PlayStation. A mom in the midwest told me her son almost had his copy of Battle Before Time confiscated by his teacher — he was so engrossed in the story, he didn’t hear the teacher say that reading time was over. One six-year-old reader emailed me (with his mom’s help) to ask if I had ever built a real time machine.
Kids take their reading very seriously — even when the subject is as far-out as whooshing through time and space in a beat-up old Volkswagen. And I take my young readers very seriously as well. I write the books I wish I could have read when I was young — and the books I would still like to read now.
I want to give my readers a roller-coaster ride through God’s universe and through spiritual reality. I’m honored and grateful every time I hear from a parent or a young reader who is as excited as I am about this amazing thrill ride we call the Christian life.
God bless and inspire you on your journey!