I swear to God, I'm still trying to get my head around some readers' adversity to cursing and profanity in my books, and for that reason, I'm embellishing on an older post I wrote some years ago explaining why there appear to be 'so many' swear words in my novels.
I hope this goes part of the way to explaining why I drop the odd f-bomb and why I refuse to take it out, but if it still gets under your skin, feel free to get in touch and let me know (colourful language most welcome!)
Every now and then I get an irate reader outraged by the profanity in my books, demanding to know why I need to swear so much and refusing to read anymore of my work until I desist.
And I don't blame them.
There are a lot of swear words in my stories, I admit that. And while the vast majority of my book reviewers/fans seem to have no issue with it (one committed reader confessed she never even noticed until I pointed this out!), I do feel compelled to explain myself to those of you who are upset, distressed or shocked.
It's not premeditated, I promise!
Like the aforementioned fan, I never even realised there was much profanity in my stories until an Australian expatriate now living in Canada got in touch to say she'd forgotten how much Aussies swear until she read my first novel Killer Twist, and it made her feel quite homesick! Obviously it makes some of you just feel sick, and for that I apologise.
I never set out to intentionally upset, distress or shock anyone when I write. I am in fact just trying to compose stories that are both entertaining and realistic. Just as characters and plot lines develop and unfold as I write, foul language appears out of nowhere (well, usually from the mouths of 'baddies', although not always). It seems to be a natural, fluid process, one I can not control. Sometimes, when I read back through the copy and the bad language feels overdone or jarring, I remove it, just as I remove cliches and descriptions that don't work. But I have to confess, most of the time I barely notice it.
And the reason...
Aussies swear a (bloody) lot!
It's a truth universally acknowledged that your average Australian cusses like a trooper. It's just a fact. Listen in on any conversation on any Aussie street, in any Aussie pub or office block, and you'll hear a colourful variety of words. 'Bloody' is the common one, but they get a lot, lot worse than that. We recently had a court case here where a teenager got off for using the 'F-word' at a policeman. The judge was forced to concede that it's now so common, it can't be construed as offensive. It's everyday language whether we like it or not. And my stories are everyday Australian stories (albeit with a little murder and mayhem in the mix). I need my Aussie characters to not just be colourful, but to sound like, well, everyday Aussie characters. My editor Maria at Glossy magazine (Killer Twist, Last Writes, Dying Words) is the perfect example. She is modelled on two real-life editors I used to work with who swore a hell of a lot more than she does. A hell of a lot. I have, in fact, toned her down for the books.
Murder is okay but swearing is not? Huh?
I find it really strange that the same people who take umbrage at swear words seem to have no issue with people getting murdered in my books. Slicing someone's throat or leaving them in a dank basement to be devoured by rats is okay, but cussing is not? I'll never understand that one. Sorry, guys but these are murder mysteries, not fairytales or children's books. I think you have to expect a bit of grit when you pick one up.
To censor or not to censor?
Hate to break it to you, but I won't take the profanity out any time soon. There really isn't that much, and to do so would be bordering on censorship. It feels contrived. It wouldn't be real. It wouldn't be honest. And it would be swapping credibility for sales. Once you start doing that, you might as well just give up and ask your readers to write it for you with all the reality taken out.
I have, however, considered publishing two versions of each book—one for the Americans who seem to be the main people who take offence, and one for everyone else. And I'm happy to do that if anyone feels strongly about it (please send me an email or leave a comment here). But I do think the real story needs to be available in one format with the real street language included for those who want, well, reality.
What do you think? Please let me know, I'd love to continue the conversation. In the meantime, happy (slightly wicked) reading everyone.