Saturday, 8 May 2010

Weekly Geeks – Does the Person behind the book matter?

A couple of incidents have prompted this week's topic.

  1. I very much enjoyed the two Susan Hill novels that I’ve read and already have the next book in her series Simon Serrailler series on my audio book playlist. Then I discovered, via the author’s opinion column in a UK newspaper, that I don’t particularly like her personality (this piece is an example of what I found mean-spirited and inaccurate about her rants but there were other articles too). Suddenly her books did not seem so appealing any longer.
  2. Craig Sisterson's excellent blog Crime Watch featured an article about historical mystery author Anne Perry who, as it happens, committed a particularly grim murder many years ago (at the ripe old age of 15). "Thank heavens I'm not a fan of hers" was my first thought.

So I have been pondering the issues of whether it is possible to separate an author's non-writing life from the books they produce and thought I'd throw these questions over to you. Feel free to answer one or more of these and give examples if you have them.

Does an author's politics matter to you? Do you have a favourite book or series written by someone you know to be your political opposite? Or have you stopped reading works by a particular author after discovering that their politics was radically different from your own?

What about their personality? Have you ever stopped reading an author's work after seeing or hearing them talk because you didn't like what you saw or heard?

And how about that secret past? How would you feel if you found out your favourite author was a murderer or some other kind of criminal? Are there some crimes that you would be OK about and others that would stop you following their work? Do you know about the pasts of 'your' authors? Do you want to?

This week's topic is brought to you by Bernadette at Reactions to Reading

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My thoughts

This weeks topic is a very thought provoking one and does require all the Geekers to give some level of honesty about what they read and why they do so.

I have stopped reading authors for a variety of reasons, and that include behaviour unbecoming of someone who should know better.  Authors bring alot of issues to their work – and after reading some author’s work for a while I tend to either lump some in my own little created categories or I know what to expect from their work and it’s a matter of personal choice from there whether I accept it yes, or no.

Does an author's politics matter to you?

I would like to say it doesn’t bother me, but after reading so widely I would say it depends.

I am a big fan of Bobby Michaels works- but make no mistake he does push his politics and his own brand of rant across in his books.  I might not agree with some of it, but it’s nothing that I cannot tolerate in order to meet the characters that he introduces me to.

Then during my days of reading historical fiction – I stop reading Catherine Coulters works because alot of what I amount to out and out rape scenes were prettied up and called alpha male aggressiveness. A few books in and I just could not take it any more, it bothered me alot and I had to wash my hand of that authors work. Don’t get me work I know nothing about her stance on force sexual encounters in RL – but most of her books has the same sort of set up in terms of sex.

What about their personality?

I am not one to follow blog gossip, I am not very curious when it comes to an author’s life outside of their work. To some degree I accept that authors have a life outside of their written work. The fiction they write and the fictional characters they introduce me to might just even be their very own break away from their own real world.

Where I have a problem with authors is where those authors come directly through into my inbox and do the silly rant and nasty “boo hoo – you did me wrong” stint. I never let that slide I do reply and put a few home truth home to them. Those are probably the ones that get struck off my list faster than anything else.

Then every now and again I hear about an author really behaving badly – I don’t go searching the gossip out and in some ways I am probably fearing it might be an author that I love – but I just honestly cannot be bother, I just want to read an authors work and not worry about what they do when they stop typing up that manuscript.  

And how about that secret past?

No matter to me, Everyone deserves to live their own life. Whether they make mistakes along the way – it’s called life, we are entitled to make them and that shouldn’t limit anyone from moving on and doing something else (within certain remit).

I have read books by authors who have commit crimes from theft to murder and I deal with it. I however find that knowing does make a difference, It does make me want to read their work more than if I didn’t know – I respect that level of honesty. 

22 Speak To Me:

Chris on 8 May 2010 at 15:53 said...

Good question this week. Authors behaving badly tend to put me off their work. There's someone I'll not buy at all because of GoodReads shenanigans.

When I was growing up, I read lots of Edgar Rice Burroughs, particularly the Barsoom and Tarzan series. Discovering later in life that he was a white supremacist really, really put me off him. Looking back at his books, it shines through... not that a kid necessarily picks up on that consciously.

Tam on 8 May 2010 at 16:21 said...

I don't follow too closely but there are a few authors I steer away from because of their behaviour or opinions. I think by buying the books of someone who is perhaps white supremacist (to use Chris' example) you are basically contributing to the cause. My book buying money, goes to him who may be then using it to support the issue, directly or indirectly.

Same with bad behaviour. I'm not going to reward you by giving you my money. If a store owner is rude and obnoxious I take my business elsewhere and same with authors. It's not like there are any lack of books out there.

As for crime, if you did your time and paid the price then it's over. Obviously someone who has repeat issues I'm not going to support. I'm not going to buy a serial killers books or a child molester's, however one screw-up in life won't necessarily mean you are off the list if you appear to have redeemed yourself.

Kassa on 8 May 2010 at 16:45 said...

This is a great topic! I don't follow a lot of author blogs (mostly reader blogs which I enjoy sharing thoughts and seeing what they think about books and all). The problem I've found is that authors are those I admire and I like it that way.

I'm not trying to say authors aren't human and don't have opinions, make mistakes, and do absolutely everything I do - good and bad - but I'm not sure I want to know about it. In fact if I see author guest posts on blogs, more and more I stay away.

I've unfortunately stopped reading at least 3 authors whose work I liked due to their comments on blogs and the like. I don't go seeking this stuff but if I see it in my normal travels, I'll read it. So I hate seeing authors ask like asses or disrespect their readers (even if other readers disagree on the comment). I would have preferred never knowing.

I don't care for the most part about an author's past, present, future, their personal history, their politics, beliefs and so on. As long as they are not trying to push an agenda onto me (ie. anti-gay or something) then let me read my fiction in peace. But if I see the behavior, I am going to stop reading/reviewing/ promoting the author.

More and more I'm surprised that authors interact online at all. It's like a mine field.

Eyre on 8 May 2010 at 16:56 said...

Fabulous topic! I, like many others, stay away from the gossip; however, when I see an author behaving badly first hand, then I stay away from his/her books. For example, I mentioned an Twitter once that I wanted to read a particular author's book. Another author sent me a message that said, "Read my book____. It's much better." Um, no. He's off my list forever.

Also, I know that a book is an author's baby, but when an author attacks a reviewer who was simply tactful and honest, then he/she gets knocked off my list forever. A few months ago, you may remember, Lily got a request to review a book. She didn't love it to bits, but was kind in her review. All of a sudden, new accounts were created at GR and their sole purposes were to attack Lily's review. Can I prove the author did that? No, but I still won't read her books.

When it comes to an author's past, I have to say that it depends on the circumstances. I like Chris' example of ERB. I can forgive a youthful mistake, but I cannot forgive hatemongering. I don't like thinking that my money is going to support someone else's prejudice.

Kara on 8 May 2010 at 17:09 said...

Great topic!!! I can't read an author that has plagiarized. I have always wanted to try a particular author but when I found out that some of the work was plagiarized, I just couldn't do it.

Author's behaving badly...luckily, I haven't had this experience, but if I ran across an author I really enjoyed and then witnessed them behaving badly online...I think I would stop reading their books.

Lily on 8 May 2010 at 17:38 said...

Interesting topic, EH

If I've 'seen' firsthand an author behaving badly or I find out something about them that is totally against what I believe in, then yes I'll probably hesitate to buy their books again.

However aside from the casual blog/GRs following I'm not out there reading up on author's lives. I just don't have either the time or interest for that.

Erotic Horizon on 8 May 2010 at 18:55 said...

@Chris..

There's someone I'll not buy at all because of GoodReads shenanigans.

Unfortunately I am turned off by alot of the goings on on goodread...
But I can understand not wanting to give away your hard earned money to silly twits..

My Dad told me about Borroughs, because I was a big fan of the Tarzan series - but as you said, through a childs eyes things dont really make an impact until you are older..

Sad though - those are some good books..

E.H>

Erotic Horizon on 8 May 2010 at 18:59 said...

@Tam..

I do agree with you,Unfortunately I had to buy a few books and then investigate site and whatnot to find out some of these faults..

So it's a trial and error thing and knowing what is my limit.. Some things I wont put up with as will alot of people..

Charles Manson started selling his artwork - would I buy them NO, but a clinician doing a book on the mental stability of Manson - definitely..

E.H>

Erotic Horizon on 8 May 2010 at 19:07 said...

Kassa.

Well said..

I hate seeing authors ask like asses or disrespect their readers

Most definitely a sentiment I agree with - In a few cases I acutally read works of authors that are so-so quality, because I really like how they handle themselves on the net, and the respect they have not only for their fans/reader but themselves as well...

More and more I'm surprised that authors interact online at all. It's like a mine field.

I have one author that I follow her work and stalk her - at one point I thought she was dead, after hearing nothing from her for a few years..
but I think she is just weary and not sure where to dip her fingers into the minefield thats called the web.. Authors can't win no metter what they do.

E.H>

Blodeuedd on 8 May 2010 at 19:09 said...

Good answers.
I usually do not mind, and truthfully I do not want to knwo anything about the authors either.
But there have been times that I have read about authors being really nasty, to readers and bloggers, and that has made me think that I will not rush out and by that book

Erotic Horizon on 8 May 2010 at 19:31 said...

@Eyre.

I do remember you mentioning that incident and it is one of the ones that stick with me - That was a low blow by that author..

I thought the whole goodread thing went totally out of control - silly person. Both lily's and Jenre's review were fair and well presented I thought..

But there is no accounting for bad manners is there..

As I said in regards to authors past -Within a "certain remit" - because there are just somethings that cannot be forgiven or overlooked ..

E.H>

Erotic Horizon on 8 May 2010 at 19:37 said...

@Kara..

Plagiarized,Good one Kare - I didn't remember that one.

Yup that's on my no no list as well - I love Janet Dailey's work, but since that Nora Roberts thing I can't read her work any more..

Author's behaving badly...luckily, I haven't had this experience

Keep your fingers cross it remains like that - it's not nice in any context..

E.H>

Erotic Horizon on 8 May 2010 at 19:40 said...

@Lily.

I think the first hand knowledge is the deal breaker with alot of people - you can't really overlook something that's in your face..

I just don't have either the time or interest for that.

Who does - that's why it amazes me when these things happen and there is like a bandwagon of commentor raging...

E.H>

Kerrie on 8 May 2010 at 23:47 said...

When I write a review I usually investigate the author's site etc. but of course you get only what they reveal about themselves. Probably what they reveal in their writing is far more important

Jeff Erno said...

Wow, this topic is so pertinent. There is a conservative political book which has recently been promoted on goodreads which is so offensive to me. When I received a recommendation from another author to read it, I was shocked. I went to her facebook page and discovered that she too was quite right-wing. I was like, "oh crap" because I knew I would be reviewing one of her books in the near future on my blog. Then I got to thinking, can I really be impartial in my review, or will I allow my personal distaste for her politics to interfere with my opinion of her writing?

I think we often pride ourselves about being open minded, but then we also have to ask ourselves just how far we can go with that. I mean the reason I abhor conservative politics is because of their intolerance of others. If I cannot tolerate their intolerance, does that make me intolerant? LOL

As far as authors responding to critical reviews, though, I sort of ride the fence on this topic. I really want to hear a response from an author when they are criticized. I think they have every right to explain themselves and to defend their decisions. If they start making personal attacks or using foul language, though, then I feel they've crossed the line. I guess it just depends upon how they conduct themslves.

Erotic Horizon on 10 May 2010 at 00:33 said...

@Blodeuedd..
Most people are like that they dont actually go hunting bad thing to know about the authors they read - but when they find out, it does make a difference..

E.H>

Erotic Horizon on 10 May 2010 at 00:35 said...

@Kerrie.

So well said and so true - after all this is an industry where you can hide any number of sins..

Probably looking more closly at the written work is the best place to get a true picture of the person behind the words..

E.H>

Erotic Horizon on 10 May 2010 at 00:45 said...

@Jeff

I feel your pain - "oh crap" is the best way to say it.

Finding out good and bad things about the authors we read is part and parcel of this little world of reading that we love so much..

It's all about what you are personnaly willing to accept, on the other hand my Dad always tell me "If you never read the book - you actually dont have a voice in the discussion".

Critical reviews - I would think having your baby picked a part is something all authors have to brace themselves for - how to handle it is another matter..

The majority find their own way - unfortunately a few never learn and handles it in a less than ideal manner and this cannot be a good thing for anyone..

Intolerance - I wish it didn't exist.

E.H>

Kris on 10 May 2010 at 02:11 said...

Terrific topic, EH. I have something similar in mind for a post. Great minds and all that. :)

I spend mosts of time on readers blogs so don't come across a lot of gossip or offensive opinion pieces, etc. The main thing that I see - and it's usually when it's been pointed out to me - are authors behaving badly about reviews. There are a couple of people who I refuse to buy now because of this. Just puts me right off.

Erotic Horizon on 11 May 2010 at 09:43 said...

@Kris.

I look forward to your post - Knowing you, it will be a treat..

I will agree with you that most of the foofha that I hear is always on other blogs that I follow... Some I have stayed clear of since, other just not so quick to run and buy their books now..

E.H>

Bernadette in Australia on 11 May 2010 at 12:23 said...

Funnily enough I find it much easier to cope with the idea that one of my favourite authors is a murderer (or was) than be someone whose 'small p' politics are abhorrent to me. With Hill it was the language she uses to talk down to/about people she disagrees with that turned me off rather than the fact we disagree about things and I decided it would be dishonest of me to give her more money (bu buying more of her books). I could borrow them but that would be cheating :) Thanks for responding to this week's topic.

Erotic Horizon on 14 May 2010 at 19:48 said...

@Bernadette..

Great topic this week...

Knowing that an author I like is a murderer kinda lay all their cards on the table - so I am with you, I would rather that knowledge than finding out they are supporters of some other radical issue that I hate...

As for Ms. Hill

I do live some miles away from one of those shops and I did remember seeing Hill column - Bullying is definately too strong a word to use and the manner of the rant was just ridiculous to me...

You are welcome my dear..

E.H>