It's been a while since a reader has emailed me to scold me about the language in my books. I think that's mainly because my tattoo shop series doesn't have any cussing in it, and the Annie Seymour series is out of print so it's harder for people to get their hands on it, meaning they aren't getting offended by the f words. But sometimes readers "discover" me and my first series, and that's when it gets interesting.
Case in point: I got an email this morning from someone who did not want to be included in my email list. He/she said, "REading you for 1st time. good writing but is it necessary to use the \"f\" word so much, does not add to the plot and makes the heroine sound like a filthy slut."
I naturally bristled at that, since when I created Annie, I didn't say to myself, hey, I think I'm going to make her a filthy slut. And to do that, I'll make her say the f word.
As I've told many readers who are offended by Annie's language: It is not gratuitous. Reporters talk like that, and anyone who says otherwise is lying. While I already knew those words, they really became a part of my own vocabulary in a newsroom. It's funny that now I don't work in a newsroom anymore, my use of those words has eased off quite a bit. Annie is also a police reporter, and cops are even worse than reporters, so it's natural she would use those words. Perhaps what makes it difficult for those people who are easily offended is that the book is written in first person, so Annie's language is front and center.
What's amusing to me, though, is how these readers who write me that they're offended by the language tell me that I'm a good writer and they enjoyed the book. It's a total oxymoron. I'm not sure whether to preen with the praise or bristle with the criticism.
People don't have to read books that they find offensive or don't care for. It's easy to put a book down and not finish it. I do that all the time. That's why these emails from people who clearly have read the entirety of my novel but scold me about my language are so perplexing. Don't they know they don't have to read it? And the bigger question: Why take the time to write the author and scold her?
I did make a conscious effort with my tattoo series to not have Brett cuss at all. There comes a time when a writer is tired of getting scolded (I actually had one reader say: "You look like such a nice person, how can you use such language?") and decides to come clean, in a manner of speaking. So Brett, a nice Catholic girl who just happens to be a tattooist, will never be mistaken for a "filthy slut" because of her language. But then again, she's fighting the stigma of being a woman who is tattooed. But at least there are no pictures.
What is your stance on cussing in a book?