I am pleased to feature a guest post by the author of Lauren Carr as part of a blog tour for her latest book. It is written from an author’s perspective, but anyone who wants to hold an opinion – and voice it – will be able to relate to this post!
I’m Sorry If I Offended You … Now Grow Up
The year: 1508
Setting: Sistine Chapel
Michelangelo enters the Sistine Chapel with his paints and scaffolding. He has a great image in his mind. This will be his piece of art that will define him as an artist. The creation that he puts on this ceiling is going to put his name in the history books to immortalize him as a great master painter.
As Michelangelo is setting up, someone comes in. Spying one of the cans of paint, he asks, “Is that red paint you have there?”
Michelangelo says it is. The red will be needed for much of the paintings: for example, in the creation of Man.
“Can’t you use another color?”
“No,” Michelangelo says. “Red is one of the primary colors.”
“But it is so offensive.”
“Red is the color of evil,” the visitor says. “Evil is offensive. Therefore, red is offensive.”
“It is the color of blood which gives us life,” Michelangelo says.
“Maybe according to you, but a lot of people don’t like the color red and if you use it you will offend them, which will make you and us look bad. People will think we’re endorsing evil.”
With a shrug of his shoulders, Michelangelo relents and takes the bucket of red paint out of the chapel. He is thinking about how he is going to adjust his painting when he comes in and sees someone else standing over the bucket of yellow paint.
“Is this yellow paint?” the new visitor asks with a glare in his eyes.
“Yes,” Michelangelo manages to say before the gentleman launches into his offense.
“Are you saying that we’re cowards? Yellow is the color of cowards used in terms like yellow-belly and—”
“No!” Michelangelo throws up his hands. “I just need to use yellow because it’s the base color in brown—”
But before Michelangelo can finish the second visitor hurries from the chapel while muttering about bigots and stereotyping of some social group which Michelangelo doesn’t have time to discern before a third person comes in to spy yet another bucket of paint.
“Is that green?”
“‘I need it for the Garden of Eden,” Michelangelo says in a firm tone.
“Why green? Aren’t you discriminating against the color blue? Blue has just as much right to be used for the Garden of Eden as green. Besides, were you there? How do you know the Garden of Eden wasn’t blue instead of green?”
A month later, Michelangelo finishes the Sistine Chapel. When the great ceiling is revealed to the public, they stare up in awe at the great white ceiling high above. After all, after Michelangelo had eliminated all of the colors that offended anyone, all he had left was white—to which, one member of the audience commented:
“Did you have to choose white? White gives me a migraine.”
* * * * *
In January, my ninth Mac Faraday Mystery, Three Days to Forever was released to rave reviews from both readers and reviewers. This time, I took readers on a thrill-ride. Three days before his and Archie Monday’s lavish wedding, Mac Faraday, Joshua Thornton (of Lovers in Crime), and Archie’s mother are running for their lives after a professional hit team attack Spencer Manor.
Many reviewers and readers have declared this suspense-filled mystery the “best of her best!”
Not surprisingly, a small number of readers have expressed disappointment and even dismay because they were offended by a storyline which involved home-grown terrorists. Current political issues were raised and discussed by the characters involved. It would have been unrealistic for them to investigate a case involving terrorism without these discussions. Because some of the views expressed by some of the characters differed from their views, a few readers were offended by the whole storyline.
Based on one of the twists in my suspenseful mystery, a couple readers even took a leap-frog jump to proclaim Three Days to Forever was my political message accusing our current President and his administration of corruption and cover-up.
This response was in spite of an author note on the book page on Amazon and in the front pages of the book reminding readers that:
“Three Days to Forever is fiction. It is not the author’s commentary on politics, the media, the military, or Islam. While actual current events have inspired this adventure in mystery and suspense, this fictional work is not meant to point an accusatory finger at anyone in our nation’s government.”
This is not the first time that I have unintentionally offended readers in my quest to write a challenging and fun-filled mystery.
A couple of years ago, I received a review for Blast from the Past, a Mac Faraday Mystery, in which the reader opened with “Thankfully, this book in the series contained no insulting-to-fat-people characters.”
I did a lot of head scratching trying to figure out what she could possibly have been talking about. When did I insult fat people? Apparently, one of my fans had the same question because she went onto the site to ask the reader, who claimed that in one of my previous books I had presented a fat character in a derogatory manner. The fan came back to say that if it was the book she was thinking of, it was the character, not fat people who were presented in a derogatory manner.
The fact remains, this reader was so offended by my use of an obese character in It’s Murder, My Son that she felt compelled to carry out her grudge by posting a negative review four books later.
In It’s Murder, My Son, the character of Betsy is a victim. She is sloppy and, yes, obese. Her low self-esteem puts her into the perfect situation to be manipulated and used by the killer—who is slender and attractive, by the way.
Rightfully, it should be the skinny people posting negative reviews about me making them out to be manipulative and homicidal. In It’s Murder, My Son, I killed five skinny people to the one fat one. I mean, if I’m prejudice against fat people because I killed one—I must really have it out for skinny people!
How can a mystery author write books that are entertaining without offending anyone? Well, obviously, I can’t have fat characters be victims because they will offend readers like the one I mentioned above. I also can’t use them as killers because I will be saying that fat people are homicidal maniacs—unless they are driven to it by skinny people.
I guess I should stop using women as murder victims. People may start to think I’m sexist. For that matter, I should no longer have the killer be a woman. Then people will think that I’m saying that women are bad people. Heaven forbid I kill a blonde woman—then they’ll think I’m prejudice against blondes, even though I am one!
Furthermore, I really should avoid using short people—because I will offend those readers who suffer from dwarfism.
In recent history, the world has become a great melting pot. Along with the melding of cultures and people becoming more aware of each other’s differences, sections of our society have felt justified in demanding that everyone else—including artists—walk on eggshells in order to not offend them or anyone. Children can’t even pray in school because they may offend the one atheist child in the room of thirty students.
This post is not directed toward those sensitive readers who throw hissy fits in the form of negative reviews because their feelings were unintentionally hurt in the name of art. Nothing I, or any author writes, can change their perception. Rather, this is directed to writers who may fear being on the receiving end of such a tantrum when they have, without intention, offended someone somehow someway.
If writers bend to such criticism, they might as well throw away their laptops. All murder victims in mysteries will need to be white men (because they deserve it); and the killer is always going to be the white man (because they’re always the bad guy).
Mind you, these white men have to be of average height and weight.
I guess they can’t be bald either because you may offend those readers who are bald.
Also, they need to be heterosexual otherwise you’ll be called homophobic. (Been there! Done that! More than one reader accused me of being homophobic when a homosexual couple died in A Wedding and a Killing.)
They can’t be Muslim because the terrorists will be justified in coming after you.
I guess you need to make them American because we are the great bad guys …
The end result would be authors shaking in their boots afraid to write, “It was a dark and stormy night,…” for fear of messing with Mother Nature.
The pathway to political correctness is a very narrow strip in the middle of the road. Realistically, no one can travel it.
So writers: Be bold. Be brave.
As Jerry Senfield told David Letterman, “We offend everyone. If we haven’t gotten to your group yet, just wait. We’ll get to you.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Thanks Lauren and good luck with Candidate for Murder!!
About the book:
It’s election time in Spencer, Maryland, and the race for mayor is not a pretty one. In recent years, the small resort town has become divided between the local year-round residents who have enjoyed their rural way of life and the city dwellers moving into their mansions, taking over the town council, and proceeding to turn Deep Creek Lake into a closed gate community—complete with a host of regulations for everything from speed limits
to clothes lines.
When the political parties force-feed two unsavory mayoral nominees on the town residents, Police Chief David O’Callaghan decides to make a statement—by nominating Gnarly, Mac Faraday’s German shepherd, to run as mayor of Spencer!
What starts out as a joke turns into a disaster when overnight Gnarly becomes the front runner—at which point his political enemies take a page straight out of Politics 101. What do you do when you’re behind in a race? Dig up dirt on the front runner, of course.
Seemingly, someone is not content to rest with simply embarrassing the front runner by publicizing his dishonorable discharge from the United States Army, but to throw in a murder for good measure. With murder on the ballot, Mac Faraday and the gang—including old friends from past cases—dive in to clear Gnarly’s name, catch a killer, and save Spencer!
About the Author:
Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Thorny Rose Mysteries. The twelfth installment in the Mac Faraday Mystery series,
Candidate for Murder will be released June 2016.
Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, son, and four dogs (including the real Gnarly) on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.
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