Do You Read Your Reviews?

Question:

I have yet to read the newest installment of your Alice series but intend to buy it for my Kindle soon. I have noticed, however, that according to the reviews that your readers have written on different book sites,  that they’ve reacted with disappointment to Alice Aboard. I’m just wondering if you read the reviews that your readers write, or if you try to avoid seeing them. If you do see them, do you ever agree with anything they say, even if it is a criticism? Or do you not really pay any attention to their opinions at all?
Why do you believe reviews for Alice Aboard are so negative? Do you think the change in setting had something to do with it? The line of thought a lot of your readers seem to offer is that things are happening to characters on the cruise and not to Alice herself — she is basically just narrating the events unfolding around her. They say the characters we’ve grown to love have taken a back seat to new characters and become peripheral. Why did you decide to introduce so many new characters? Should readers expect them to have impact beyond Alice Aboard?
I’m really very curious with how you approach reviews. Do you see them as valuable feedback or opinions that don’t really impact what you do? I’m sorry for being redundant. I’m definitely not trying to be rude. I’ve been reading Alice for years — practically half my life at this point. I’ve loved how she’s grown and changed, and I will be genuinely sorry when the series comes to an end.
Phyllis replied:
 
Your letter was so long that I only posted half of it here.  I read most of my reviews, but there are dozens and dozens of places that review my books and I don’t have time to search for them all.  I did notice that a number of writers did not like “Alice on Board” as much as some of my other books, and there are probably a number of reasons for that:  first, perhaps I really didn’t do as good a job writing it; secondly, some readers don’t like the books that take her out of her familiar Silver Spring setting (I also got negative feedback on “Patiently Alice” when she and her friends became counselors in a summer camp, though others loved that book most of all); Alice is growing up, and many readers miss the funny dialogue between her and Patrick when she asks questions about life at the dinner table, etc. etc.   So I have readers who want the series to stay in familiar territory, then I have my editor wanting more diverse settings and plots and friendships.  I had truly thought that Alice’s friendship with Mitch onboard the ship, and the trauma of Pamela’s mom were interesting enough to write about .  All I can do is try to get inside Alice’s skin and think of what she would most likely do next, and what new friendships her experiences would bring.

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