We've talked before about the "colorful" language sometimes used in novels and my readers represent many different opinions on the subject.
My opinion is and always has been that such language should not be gratuitous (same with graphic sex and violence), but it's sometimes necessary. (note: those of you easily offended had better skip After the Storm, the sequel to Before the Storm, due out in June 09. Written in part from the point of view of an angry seventeen-year-old boy, it's loaded with spicy language. I'll address what it was like trying to get myself into his point of view as it gets closer to the release date. But I digress. . . .)
Over the years, I've received letters and emails chastising me for using four letter words or for "taking the Lord's name in vain." Most of the time, the letter will go something like this: "I loved your latest book. The story was wonderful, but it was nearly ruined for me by the language. It's completely unnecessary to use the 'F" word and cheapens your story."
Writers are used to this sort of criticism, but I'd be lying if I said it simply runs off my back. I always take my readers' feedback seriously, even though I feel confident I've made the right decision in what I put into my books and what I leave out. In After the Storm, I struggled with the language, but Keith is just not a "gosh darn it!" kind of kid.
Anyhow, what made me revisit this conversation is something I heard the other night when I visited a local book group that was discussing The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes. One of the women told me she found some of my older, out of print books at the library. She was reading Brass Ring and discovered that someone had used white- out on all possibly objectionable words. I was amused at first. Then sad. Then angry, because this reader not only defaced a library book but she/he interfered with someone else's enjoyment of a story as well.
So my plea to all of you is, if you borrow a book from the library and find it offensive, don't read it. Just take it back. And if you buy one of my books and find it offensive, return it. You can also let me know, if you like, but please don't impose your standards on the enjoyment of others.
End of lecture!