This week I read all four books of the Me and My Friend Maddie Gothic Book Series, just to get back in touch with them as it has been four years since I’ve written one of those books. I was apprehensive about getting to Book Four, The Dead Girl I Like Heart and Stuff because of criticism I received stating that the book was offensive to the trans community. Gothic Beauty Magazine even refused to review the book after overwhelmingly positive reviews on the three preceding books. At the time I took that as a favor, thinking it was better to receive no review than a bad review. But now I don’t feel that way.
Of course it was not my aim to offend or disparage people of the trans community. I have trans and nonbinary friends who are very dear to me and I would never think of hurting them or anyone else.
When I set out to write that book, my goal from the beginning was to write a book where Maddie was flawed and would learn something from her BFF, rather than him always learning from her. Upon rereading it this week, I don’t know if I accomplished that. I felt like she understood what her BFF was trying to convey to her, but that her mentality was far more complex than the simple flashcard solution he presented could appease. Though it is unclear, even to me, whether Maddie learned from her BFF, it is certainly clear that she is flawed, and that’s how I want all of my characters to be. That’s what makes them human. During these rereads, I was reminded that Maddie was already portrayed as not perfect in the third book as she self-identified as a former cutter and then succumbed to the temptation to cut again.
One of the reviews I received considered the end of The Dead Girl I Like Heart and Stuff to be a cliffhanger of an ending. I never considered it as such. I walked away from that book thinking it clear that Maddie and Jackie Jinxed would be together, but I guess that was not as clear as I thought. Perhaps I felt it was clear because in my mind I always knew they would be together in the fifth book.
I’ve talked to readers who didn’t find Maddie’s reaction to discovering her boyfriend was born biologically female as unreasonable. They told me they too would have been surprised to make such a discovery. Some said they would feel unsure of what they would do. Some even said they would have felt lied to. Though those expressions gave me some assurance that Maddie’s reaction was within the realm of plausible reactions, it was not much consolation, for I still knew my book was seen as offensive to a community I am strongly supportive of.
Be that as it may, I am concerned that the fifth book will come across as an apology for the fourth book, as Maddie will admit to Jackie that she was wrong and that she is not perfect. But that was always the plan. Perhaps I should have let that scene play out and end the fourth book instead of where it ended. But at the time I didn’t know that I would spend the next four years writing the first two books of the Black Wax Vampire Trilogy. I thought the fifth book would have come out soon after the fourth.
I don’t want the fifth book to read as an apology. Because I make no apology for my characters being flawed. Still, I hate thinking that The Dead Girl I Like Heart and Stuff gives the impression that I am prejudiced against the trans community, as I know I am not. And I feel that that sentiment smears a series that I have loved writing and know many have loved reading.