I had the opportunity to talk at length with a reporter who worked in Glasgow during the time of the Bible John investigation. He was surprised I knew about it... obviously, I knew about it because of a Rankin book.

He told me, "He got a few things wrong." Then he said, "I shouldn't say that. It's not like he'd know, and it's a good book."

Do you guys ever start feeling too much knowledge can be a curse?

We all make mistakes. I have. So, this is not about me being perfect and others being idiots. Not at all. But in the past few months I've hit on things in my reading that I tripped over. In one book, following up a lead in Ontario, Canada meant calling the RCMP. (I don't want to spill details of the lead, but trust me, this is a 'local jurisdiction' thing.) Wonder what the Ontario Provincial Police would think... but then, it's just Canada, we're used to it. Not many foreign novels that touch on Canada get it right. Law & Order almost never does. (I'll never forgive them for saying Muskoka is a town. Of all the bloody things, were you too lazy to even check a map? It's a district. Pffft.)

I was reading something else and it included an arson investigation and Kevin kept asking if I was enjoying it. Finally I said, Yeah, but... See, Evil Kev's a trained arson investigator, and a firefighter. As soon as I told him how the arson investigation was handled he knew why I was having trouble with it. It was 100% wrong.

Now, I'm trying not to be extra grumpy, because I got a rejection letter yesterday based on a partial. The reason? Something in my story wasn't realistic. Only the "something" they mentioned isn't something that happens in my book. And since they didn't have a full in front of them, I guess they just projected the outcome of the story? Skipped reading the outline?

I don't know if I should be doubly amused or annoyed to have my work rejected over an element that isn't realistic that it doesn't include when I'm reading other books from big publishers that have major things wrong... But I'm leaning on amusement.

And then I'm asking myself what's fair to assess. The average reviewer wouldn't know anything about arson investigation. Would it be fair for me to criticize the author over it? Maybe it's unfair, because I'm in a position to know too much?

And then, there's the question of creative license. For crying out loud, we're trying to tell stories without bogging them down in tedious detail. Sometimes, you have to cut someone some slack.

I find if the overall writing, characterization and the story are compelling I'm more forgiving... Except when it comes to certain errors. I'm being completely honest when I say I have my pet things that piss me off more than others, and I think we all do. Just like the reporter who knew first hand, from participating in the Bible John investigation, details that others wouldn't be able to know easily (investigators scattered to the four corners or deceased) I know about arson investigation, and other stuff. If I were writing a review (which I'm not) my obligation is to the reader, not to myself. And does the average reader know? Would they care?

I can be really annoyed about Law & Order's 'Muskoka' error, because inside of a five minute (ten if we're being lazy) google search anyone should know it's not a town. But some of the arson stuff is a lot harder to come by. Should ease of access factor in to how seriously we view the error?

How do you decide when something's just your hobby horse and you're being really nitpicky and should just let it go, or when it's worth holding it as a criticism?

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I guess I should ask my agent. It truly never occured to me until yesterday. I guess I thought editors might make rejections based on facts about the manuscript, not assumptions.

Then again, I had something rejected once because the editor didn't like some character names. Bloody hell, I've had to change character names before. Has to be one of the easier edits to do, actually. Struck me as being about the dumbest reason going for a rejection.
I think yes, you should mention in your bio anything that has a direct bearing on something in the book -- and in this case, that would be your status as wife of an arson investigator.

About that rejection: Perhaps it takes a bit of the sting out if you can realize that what you want in an acquiring editor is someone so totally in love with your book that he/she will go to bat for it all-out. It's a gut thing more than a head thing, and anybody reading the partial who's so into their head as to make conclusions like the one you cited is NOT going to have that kind of relationship to your manuscript. So don't fret, just be glad that person is no longer holding things up and keep going.

Dianne
I agree with you Dianne. As an aside, it was an editor I wasn't sure should have ever had the package sent to them, because they don't deal with mystery/thriller fiction. Overall, from the time I heard that editor had the proposal I felt uneasy, so although the rejection was a bit bizarre, I think that's exactly why I can laugh about it. If it was an editor I was really keen about I would have been more disappointed.
Dang it, I'd better know my stuff better than most of my readers -- always excepting the scholars. But the scholars of Japanese history and literature haven't complained (though I only know of one who read and wrote me). You are right that someone may well know some small detail that escaped me, but I hope not. I have been at this via scholarly research for too many years.
As for the comment on amazon: I watch my books on amazon. I think what happened is that amazon published a Booklist review on my page which angered another author's fans. But I have no control over that sort of thing and wish the review hadn't made the comparison.
As for my "assumptions": they are based on fan mail. Should you find a mistake, I'd be extremely grateful for the information.
Peace! Let's just say that I take great pains to get it right. And misquoting me is not helpful.
I think back to something that Sean Chercover said about the use of guns and gun play in books. He said if you don't know anything about guns then keep the description about them to a minimum.

For example with the arson investigation, it is just as easy to have your character talk to the investigator and view pictures of the scene. I think if a scene is critical to the book, then research it. If not then stay clear of going into too much detail. Solves the problem and avoids reader discussions about the errors in the book.
Interesting question. A few months ago, I critiqued someone's manuscript in which the antagonist was running from the law. To get to his destination, the character drove through the Midwest (Ohio and Indiana toward Missouri). I'm sure the author thought I was being nitpicky, but since I"m from Indiana, it drove me crazy when I found the wrong spelling of towns and highways--major highways. Or to read that the antag was driving from one city that is in the south east portion of the state to one further north in order to drive west while the text indicated he was driving stright across to the other side of the state. It was very obvious he hadn't looked at an atlas. I'm one for getting it right.
I think you were being reasonable. That's the kind of thing anyone can find out/know from going there or looking at a map. I've been to Indiana. I don't profess to know it well, but it would bug me more if even I knew it was wrong.
You're right, John. Illinois is immediately west of Indiana. The character was driving through Indianapolis and if you go west from Indy, through Illinois, you'll end up in Missouri. Or... he would have had he had a map! LOL

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