As more reviews are coming in for The Man on Top of the World, taking a moment to reflect on reviews, and the nature of them, is as important a part of the journey in writing as it is with life.
This is by no means a post for the reviewers or about reviewers. I'm grateful, I'm thankful.
This is about the bottom line that I really appreciate, and even adore, because it is human nature:
Through it, what people see, it's all that they see, and that's a choice.
Even when there's more than the surface, perception reigns.
See the negative, all you'll see is that. Vice versa with the positive. All you'll see is positive.
See both sides, the positive and the negative, you unravel the layers.
The Man on Top of the World is layered, as are the characters and their romance. Some will see soulmates, and that despite their flaws, bullshit, drama, and baggage, they were meant to be.
Some will hate the characters. They are frustrating. Rightfully so, because after all, they are frustrated. They may piss us off. Because they are pissed off. They may not be all-around likeable, but they don't make an effort to fit in. They casually get high. It was the 70s - drug use was casual. As was sex - it was casual. With both, they had lots of it. Their life on tour is repetitive. Like it is with our day-to-day lives, touring is repetitive. Jonathan's voice may not be everyone's style, but it wasn't meant to be. My writing style isn't for everyone. This book isn't British enough, it wasn't written by a Brit, with not a British audience in mind. It's not colloquial enough to the culture, but I didn't by any means, in no way, shape, or form, made a mockery, caricature, or stereotype out of the characters, their country, or the culture. If I did, then I could understand the problem, but I didn't. I simply only didn't use enough British colloquialisms, dialogue, and slang, that's it. That can turn some people off, sure, because some people prefer for books to be colloquial, but at the end of the day, it's so harmless and innocent, it shouldn't be this big deal. My "Americanized" version of 1970's London is only fiction - it's not real, it's not accurate, and it's ridiculous, as it's supposed to be. This is fiction.
These characters are rock stars. It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that rock stars can be drama queens that lead such theatrical, over the top, and unbelievable lives offstage as they do on. They wouldn't be rock stars without it. This is a rocker story. It's par of the course that there will be drinking, doping, and crazy happenings. Just because it seems like that's all that the characters do, it doesn't mean that is all that they do. Some will not see a romance between these two. It's an oxymoron, but some will see Jon and Izzy as just two fuck buddies that only hurt each other despite how much was said, shown, and believed beyond the sex and the hurt. And there's a love triangle here. Love triangles are always swamped with drama - non-stop drama even! All that negativity - yes, it is there, but how people treat its existence is, again, boiled down to that reader's perception of it all. It's their choice to see that, and only that, and not all else in-between. The positive and the good, the warmth, the love, will naturally be underplayed or not mentioned at all, so all they're reviewing is mostly the negative, and projecting their strong bias against the rock and roll lifestyle and/or the rocker genre in general, instead of actually reviewing the book for all that it is, not just part of what it is. All the bias and projection doesn't erase the layers and the depth. It doesn't mean that the good, the positive, and the love wasn't there. The negative is just what they saw most, it's only how they feel. In the context of the era, time, and place, everything in The Man on Top of the World makes sense.
And it all happened for a reason.
Some will just not know it and will not see it. But some have, and many did, see it clearly. They saw all the layers, the good and the bad. They are the audience that The Man on Top of the World is for.
We all know what a romance is. And yet, many of us even have very different perceptions on that.
This is mine. And this is only how I feel.
Jonathan and Izzy are not fuck buddies. Sex alone is what makes people fuck buddies. Nobody can possibly be fuck buddies if it goes beyond the sex. If there's love, if there's hurt, if there's pain, even when there's a lot of sex, you have lovers. Jonathan and Izzy have, and are in, a relationship.
There is no one way to have a romance. Not all of them are, can, and should be warm and fuzzy. Not all are a happily ever after. A "happily ever after for now" doesn't take away a romance, not when love is still there, not when the pain is less or gone entirely. There is no one way of falling in love, like how there is no one definition of love. There is no one side to anything. There's not even one way to hate. There are many ways to hate. There is no one way to see what love is. There is no one way to see what hate is. Even with some of the other elements that The Man on Top of the World explores, from BDSM, sexuality, and gender identity, there's just not one way to have and enjoy what we do and love. Whether it's to the extreme or not, there are far too many layers out there for just one.
As are perceptions. Perceptions will vary aplenty, not just with how people read/review books, but how people look at and examine life in general, in all its many complexities. Some might also see The Man on Top of the World being like a Ziggy Stardust fanfic. Izzy is Bowie-inspired. I make that transparent in my author bio. So there's no surprise about that. And most can't help but see David Bowie in Izzy - so naturally, people will also see Ziggy. Izzy may be channeling Ziggy Stardust/David Bowie in his own way, but that's the character, not the story. The story is not a Ziggy Stardust fanfic. It's Jonathan's story, a story about his most complex relationship with Izzy.
Some may not understand or like this book at all for all the reasons above and, possibly, for many reasons more. Or some, for all their excitement for it, may not feel it, even though they tried.
But you know what?
It's only human nature. It's perception. And I love it. "It's like sex without touching."