Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

When Does A Reader Know Too Much?

There are times when I wonder if being ignorant would have made my life easier.     Over the past few months, the disappearance of my publishing world ignorance   has made its way into my reading life.   Specifically since I’ve begun turning to the internet for book-related advice and news.   My internet de-virginizing has lead me to learn more about authors and publishers than I would have ever known as a blind reader.

There was a rather surprising incident over at a fairly popular fiction blog, for instance, where a blogger made a comment about how she felt uncomfortable with a character’s homophobic comments and (in her opinion) they didn’t have any place in the narrative.   An articulate, honest, and legitimate review.   Then in the comments, I see that a certain YA author who is a fairly large seller is attacking the reviewer because she is apparently calling foul on the author of the book being reviewed.   Even though that didn’t happen.

An author making a complete idiot of themselves over a small controversy involving their work was surprising to me.   I’d soon come to realize this happened with a lot of people, including several large names in YA and romance authors of various degrees of success.   These incidents easily made me rethink whether or not the authors were worthy of buying.

Learning about an author’s politics, religion, sexuality, family life, etc. leads to knowing quite a lot about who they are as people beyond their published work.   The internet provides an all-too available pool of information for readers who want to get to know more about someone they possibly admire very much because of great writing or characters or stories.   It was how I came to find out about the award winning young adult/science fiction and fantasy author Orson Scott Card.   Ender’s Game has gotten thousands of awards and recommendations, and before I attempted to buy it Google was used…and I heard some rumors.

Dreaded confirmation came from @courtneymilan, who sent me a link to this post written by Card himself.   Confirming the views that I pretty much knew to be true.   Then blowing up my anger even more as said views surpassed their possible saturation point.   I am a gay teenager.   I do not need to realize that this author – who is in tons of classroom libraries and on many awards lists – has fans who listen to him say things like this and agree with him because he’s Orson Scott Card.

*Insert many swear words and the sound of banging objects at your own risk*

This brought on an important question to me:   When do readers reach the point where they know to much about an author?   When enough is enough and they realize that the author can no longer be separated from their work?

A popular romance reviewer had a less negative experience involving a recent release.   Her review is a good study in how knowing an author well could spell trouble through their work in a different context.   She   follows the author on Twitter and knows a lot of her in-jokes and the way she speaks.   Reading the book made her uncomfortable and she felt that the was basically writing about herself – creating a one-time case where the author seemed to be writing herself as the protagonist in the reviewer’s eyes.

Now other reviewers found the book readable because they didn’t know the author so well based on her presence in Twitter.   While not as talked about as issues involving author behavior, the insertion of an author’s extremely personal traits and habits could easily effect more readers than ever with the way they can get to know an author through Tweets, blog posts, or Facebook walls.   Not to mention authors like Stephen King and Dean Koontz, who on further research, have political comments and ideals hidden within their stories that go well past a few character quirks.

Most recently, there is controversy over the author-run book packaging organization run by James Frey.   He’d already made a public mark on his reputation from the Oprah incident, making many readers swear off his novel when they realized he blatantly lied to get sales.   Now he uses other authors and cowrites with them, taking nearly all of the money he makes from the books and series he’s had signed.

In depth morals aside, this creates a gap between the books packaged by this particular author and more aware readers.   Many have taken pledges to not read them or read them in such a way that it wouldn’t stimulate a huge increase in sales for the books.   This scenario got a stronger reaction from readers in the sense that it directly effected sales among a large (if fairly isolated) reader community online.   Some readers feel they know too much about the origins of this packaging company and the author that heads it to feel comfortable supporting it.

A good percentage of those readers probably picked up the book prior to this knowledge or were thinking of picking it up.   While authorial knowledge isn’t always a moral thing (in the case of the authorial/protagonist similarity, it was a one time incident resulting in extreme familiarity with an author’s online personae and a newly attempted book format by the author as well), it has the potential to strongly impact the reader in a way that shifts their perspective of the reading experience for a particular book, author, or genre.

Whether it’s religion, politics, ideals, or online actions – exactly where does it get to the point where, as a reader, you find yourself knowing too much?

Ever since a good friend brought him a copy of Johanna Lindsey's Gentle Rogue, he has been hooked on the romance genre. Though he primarily reads in young-adult, he loves to spend time with paranormal, historical, and contemporary adult titles in-between books. Now, he finds himself juggling book reviews, school band, writing, and finding time to add to his TBR pile.

121 Comments

  1. Milena
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 04:18:15

    I don’t really think it matters all that much. However, I come primarily from SFF fandom, where (a certain degree of) familiarity with many authors was a pretty normal thing even before the Internet. Hanging around cons and reading fanzines gave most fans the opportunity to get to know their favourite authors, so I suspect many of us developed a sort of immunity to the confusion.

    On the other hand, once authors’ views start appearing in a more or less obvious manner in their works, that’s a different story. Card’s homophobia is blatant not only in his articles, but also in many of his books, which is why I would never recommend him. There are other authors, with whom I’ve had les than stellar experiences live, but whose books are still great reads, and I don’t have a problem with that. Again, this may be my skiffy geekish side speaking; I’m used to people who are socially awkward. (Yes, I know it’s a gross generalisation to say that SFF fans are geekish types with poor social skills; it’s also at least partially true.)

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  2. Bianca
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 05:37:28

    It’s definitely off-putting to see your favorite author making a total fool out of themselves on the internet. I think the line of no return is pretty fine and subjective to each personal reader.

    For example, I remember loving one very popular romance novelist…and then she made a series of eye-roll inducing comments over on SBTB during the whole Cassie Edwards thing. It wasn’t that big of a deal, but it so completely turned me off that I’ve never been able to read her again. :/

    And, yeah, Orson Scott Card… Whenever an author reveals themselves to be racist, homophobic, sexist, etc. — I think that’s an okay time to stop buying their books.

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  3. Bronte
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 05:55:22

    I guess I try to ignore it as much as possible. I don’t follow authors on twitter or facebook and try not to pay too much attention to authors posting comments on blogs. Despite this I have unfortunately witnessed and have been taken aback by the occasional author behaving badly. I do try to judge the author on their body of work and not their personal life. Having said that, there are some authors that I won’t read based on the content of what is in their books. How do I find out the content of the books? I read reviews and blog posts so I guess I am slightly influenced by what is written on the internet.

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  4. Ruth
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 06:11:02

    I knew about Card’s homophobic nuttiness before I read any of his books, so all I was able to read was Ender’s Game. The book was so good that I was able to enjoy it, but I couldn’t find it within myself to pick up another.

    As for other authors? I follow some on Twitter and occasionally even read author blogs. I really enjoy following Neil Gaiman on Twitter, but that’s because I think he knows how to use Twitter. (no one’s perfect, but he’s adept)

    Sometimes I regret it, sometimes I don’t. I want to be able to enjoy an author’s works even if they’re an awful person (Card), but I want to be savvy enough to know that, for example, I shouldn’t go ’round talking about how awesome Card is because it’s only his writing, and maybe even only his early writing, that’s awesome vs. him as a person.

    Unfortunately, my desires to know and to not-know don’t tend to work together very smoothly.

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  5. Mireya
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 06:30:14

    This was always a concern of mine and the main reason why I try to avoid the “information overload” syndrome that could end up with my being put off by an author I like. So far it has worked out, but in the (over)information age we are living, it’s pretty hard not to find out some details that I may not like about a particular author that I like.

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  6. L.A.D.
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 06:44:39

    Ah, the issue of separating the artist as a person from the fruits of their talent. When Tom Cruise started making statements that mental illness, basically, does not exist, I was pretty livid. I’d really enjoyed his acting. He’s one of the more gifted actors out there.

    Schizophrenia and bipolar run in my family and to hear him say that myself and others out there just need an attitude adjustment…it disgusted me. He disgusts me. Still, I acknowledge that he’s talented but I will never watch another one of his movies again.

    I will miss some great movies because I’m boycotting Tom Cruise. The same will happen with books if I ever boycott an author. I’d been looking into Orson Scott Card but he’s just lost my vote.

    The thing is, I care more about my convictions than I do about reading a good book or seeing a good movie. I’d rather know what kind of people I’m supporting. I’ll never know the political/social views of every actor, writer or artist whose work I spend my money on but if I do find out and I don’t agree with something then yes, that person will lose my support.

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  7. Bibliophile
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 06:53:24

    I generally think that the less you know about an author, the better. I would, for example, have enjoyed The Education of Little Tree much more than I did if I hadn’t researched the author beforehand.

    I do follow a number of author blogs, but I have stuck to the ones who write mostly about the craft of writing and leave out the personal details. I stopped reading Neil Gaiman’s blog because of all the personal stuff that was intruding on my reading enjoyment of his books.

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  8. J L Wilson
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 06:53:59

    @L.A.D.: What you said — money talks and I would like to make my vote count. For that reason, I don’t read certain authors or, like you, watch certain actors. It’s the only way I can ‘vote’, as it were.

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  9. Cris
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 07:45:20

    It unfortunately(?) has a huge affect on my purchasing choices. I’ve quit reading Dean Koontz because of his politics, but I started reading Barry Eisler because of his. But as for recognizing the author as a book protagonist, I get a kick out of that. When I re-read “Talk Me Down” after following Victoria Dahl on Twitter for a whole, I laughed even more when I recognized a lot of her personality (at least her public one) in the heroine.

    So I think it all evens out. I like knowing who I’m supporting and who is getting my money. Perhaps sometimes it’s too much, but better that than trying to get my money back from a known homophobe.

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  10. Cris
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 07:46:16

    It unfortunately(?) has a huge affect on my purchasing choices. I’ve quit reading Dean Koontz because of his politics, but I started reading Barry Eisler because of his. But as for recognizing the author as a book protagonist, I get a kick out of that. When I re-read “Talk Me Down” after following Victoria Dahl on Twitter for a whole, I laughed even more when I recognized a lot of her personality (at least her public one) in the heroine.

    So I think it all evens out. I like knowing who I’m supporting and who is getting my money. Perhaps sometimes it’s too much, but better that than trying to get my money back from a known jerk.

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  11. Cris
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 07:48:14

    Sorry for the double post!

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  12. Mike Cane
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 08:13:42

    The only thing a writer “owes” a reader is the work. I don’t give a damn what Orson Scott Card believes in his private life. That’s *his* private life. I’ll still buy his books because I’m buying the *work*, period.

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  13. Sao
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 08:18:14

    I goggled Little Tree because it totally strained my credulity before I got to the end, despite my library’s copy being old enough to have some sort of endorsement like a ‘seminal work of native American writing.’

    I’m not all that interested in the lives of authors. Most have fairly boring lives and I don’t want to add the expectation that they create an interesting authorial persona at the expense of an interesting character in a book. Polictics which I don’t like in a book are a turn off. If a huge controversy pierced my fog of happy ignorance on an issue I care deeply about or showed an author to disrespect his reader, it might influence my purchases

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  14. Pat
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 08:22:19

    I would like to say I can keep a wall between the artist and the work, but I can’t always do that. I cannot keep what I know of Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot or Philip Larkin from interfering with my pleasure in their poetry. I cannot enjoy the movies of Woody Allen or Mel Gibson as I once did.

    That is why I try to avoid learning about the private lives or private views of authors whose books I enjoy.

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  15. erastes
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 08:27:32

    The subject – although from a “do you care what gender the author is” perspective was discussed recently on another blog and I said that frankly I didn’t care. At the time I was referring to when I was a kid you didn’t know anything about your authors. If you were lucky you might have a bio at the end with a picture, but many editions didn’t–especially if the book was a classic reprint. I had no inkling who the hell “RL Stephenson” was or “CS Lewis” and I couldn’t care less–the only way you could write to them was via their publishers and you’d be very lucky if you ever got a reply.

    These days when everyone from Gaiman to Rowling to Card to Butcher are “available” I think we are too close to the writers. I tweeted a while back about spelling mistakes in one of Gaiman’s books and he replied which rather shook me–it gave me the feeling that he was scouring Twitter for mentions of his name. He probably meant to be friendly, but it gave me a fright.

    There are times when an author’s policies or politics might give me pause–I was tempted to “stop buying Robin Hobb” when she lambasted fanfiction as crap over and over, but I thought “nah” in the end–she wouldn’t miss my royalties, and I’d be just cutting off my nose to spite my face if I didn’t buy her books.

    That being said, I have made decisions for some authors that under no circumstances I would buy their books because of the frothing batshit that they come out with or the way they cause trouble in every forum they enter. However well they write, Idon’t want to put myself into a position where if I said one derogatory word about them, I’d get bat-poo rained on me forever onwards!

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  16. DS
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 08:43:26

    There are several authors I would not buy period due to their behavior/statements and that includes Card. But he was never on my radar anyway because of what I knew threw the sff world. I agree with Milena about cons, etc. (I was really going to date myself by mentioning zines– the purple mimeographed ones.)

    But it seems to involve only contemporary actions. I had early read about Sir Thomas Malory’s behavior but it never affected my pleasure in reading Le Morte d’Arthur.

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  17. Eva_baby
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 08:43:55

    I don’t really want to know a lot personally about the authors I read. I just don’t. No more than I’d want them to know about me. Our relationship stops between the pages of the books they write. And really I’ve learned to limit even how much I “interact” with them.

    I learned this the hard way when I used to read one author’s blog/message board. I had previously enjoyed this person’s books and just listening to them preen and bask in the unending stream of fangirlsboys on the blog just felt distasteful. So lesson learned.

    I don’t follow authors on twitter or facebook or anything like that. I have found one or two author’s whose blogs I read but they tend to keep it strictly about the writing and their books. They limit interaction with fans. I feel this is really the best way go to.

    Truthfully most of the authors I now assiduously avoid and heartily warn people against are based on something they did, not necessarily on something they believe.

    If I do find out something less than positive about an author’s personal beliefs it may give me pause. But truthfully, I have a high tolerance for difference of thought, belief, philosophy, politics etc. And really, in my experience, most of the authors I now assiduously avoid and heartily warn people against are based on something they did, not necessarily on something they believe.

    It is the actions that speak to me more than anything. If you are rude, smug, condescending, threatening, make racist or homophobic remarks, etc. those are the things that will make me keep my money in my pocket.

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  18. jennifer armintrout
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 09:16:52

    You know, I don’t see knowing too much about an author’s personal life and views as a huge problem. I would rather know that I don’t like an author as a person or agree with their ideals, so I don’t give my money to them. I’m sure there are a lot of readers who have been “turned off” by my super liberal political views, and that’s fine. I wouldn’t want to give my money to an author who is going to send it to, say, Right to Life, so why should they give me their money so I can use it to support causes they don’t believe in?
    Plus, if someone is not going to read my books because they feel I shouldn’t support gay rights or marijuana law reform or something, then I’d rather they didn’t buy my books. They aren’t going to enjoy them, any way.

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  19. Kwana
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 09:19:31

    Wonderful post. I find myself in this same situation as knowing too much at times and backing off where I may have not in the past. Human nature says you can’t help it and it’s a little sad and disappointing. It’s like the curtain has been pulled back and we can’t turn away to who is behind it.

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  20. Lori
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 09:31:29

    Great post. I never thought it mattered to me at all what an author did in their private life, but I found out I do have my limitations. For me, it was when the author, on her professional Yahoo board, supported and egged on a reader in having an adulterous affair. That was the day I left the board, never came back, and never bought another book by that author.

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  21. Joy
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 09:37:21

    To be honest? I have no problem separating the artist from their art. Yes, there are authors who have a web presence and whose web presence I enjoy, and that’s great, but it’s an added benefit. And there are authors who I discovered *because* of their web presence, which is also great. I just ignore that if I like their books enough–and that goes for Card whom I find an interesting and compelling artist, even though he also appears to be a homophobic jerk.

    I guess I’m saying that if the author is a nice person, that is an added benefit and may win them new readers. But really reading is about books, and we read books because we like the books, not necessarily their authors. I mean, I don’t approve of men leaving their wives and 10 children for other women, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to toss all my Dickens…

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  22. Joy
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 09:38:34

    I left out an important thing from my post above. Sentence should read — I just ignore that an author is a jerk if I like their books enough.

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  23. ami
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 09:40:34

    I don’t really follow authors on twitter or anything, while I do look at blogs, I haven’t found anything objectionable. Mainly I come here and I see the blow up occurring from what some authors do. I think that stuff is good to know so people can vote with their money. When one famous author used an unfortunate metaphor for what fan fiction does to her characters, although I never read her books before, it didn’t turn me off reading her books entirely. I can forgive that case because it is about fanfiction and a lot of authors secretly feel that way. I read Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow before I knew about Scott’s views, so I was glad I didn’t have to make a choice. I’m afraid that I probably still would have read Ender’s Game despite what I know. After Ender’s Shadow he didn’t appeal to me anymore, but still… I’m a big believer in having information. I love hearing about personal stories that happen to authors, but I haven’t had the case where I felt annoyed that the author bleed into the characters. (Lauren K. Hamiliton.. =/ I still read Anita Blake for the longest time) but eventually if I dislike those turns by the author, the same turns in the story and character also turned me off.

    Dr. Seuss didn’t care for kids that much, but millions of children and adults enjoy his rhymes… depends on how strongly your convictions are held, and how much can you separate or feel comfortable with blending an author’s personal persona and work in your head.

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  24. Jennifer M (OR)
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 09:46:54

    What a timely post. I just recently was reading the wall of one of my favorite authors on facebook and was very disappointed to see so much information on politics that I completely disagreed with and truthfully I see her in a different light. Her next series doesn’t come out till next year so it remains to be seen if I’ll be able to buy them and just immerse myself in her work and not think about her as a person but for sure I am not excited about them anymore.

    But far worse for me was when I went to a conference and saw an author that I had read and enjoyed. Her behavior was so entitled and rude to others that I have never been able to buy another book of hers, no matter how much I enjoyed them. I could just not have my money going to her.

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  25. LVLMLeah
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 10:08:26

    Unfortunately, authors’ online behavior and or beliefs, if expressed, can influence if I will read more of them or not.

    I’m one of those types that aren’t impressed by much in people, so I never get that “fan” girl thing and it’s just as easy for me not bother about an author even if I’ve loved a book they wrote. I don’t feel the loss over not reading them anymore.

    On the posi side though, I’ve bought books of authors I would never have picked up based on their online persona.

    So it can go both ways.

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  26. Jane
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 10:09:22

    @Lori I remember that. Wasn’t that an EC author? Or something different?

    I think that there are varying levels of authorial intrusion. Some authors sound the same in blog posts, in conversation, and in comments to the point that when I read their books, I am seeing “them” and it interferes with my suspension of disbelief.

    Megan McKinney was recently sentenced to three years in prison for defrauding FEMA (among other things) and if she had a recent book out, I know I would struggle with buying a book of hers.

    I don’t think I could watch a show with Charlie Sheen in it, knowing that somehow my $$ would be supporting such a misogynistic jackass.

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  27. SandyH
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 10:10:30

    Very thought provoking post. I have always tried not to let the author interfere with the work but it does happen. I do believe that the work should stand alone but in the age of social media this is very hard to do.

    I for one cannot stand James Patterson’s “buy this book or I kill Alex Cross” commercials. I saw him once on BookTV at a book fair and he was so arrogant that I cannot even borrow, buy new or used one of his books :)

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  28. dick
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 10:12:58

    I’ve said elsewhere that authors should be known in the same way God is–by their works. Keeping that in mind, it doesn’t really matter, when the sky is blue, the sun is bright, and the pleasure in it great, that the same author also made poop, pee, and politics.

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  29. cara
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 10:13:49

    To be blunt, that “too much” point is usually the point at which I see an author making an ass of themselves with their own public commentary. It’s not fair, I know, but that’s also reliant completely on my own personal opinion. If an author is outspoken about something I agree with, I’ll likely become biased in their favor, unless they go beyond outspoken and start behaving rudely to others.

    I’m lucky – so far I haven’t had to suffer any major heartbreak over authors I really love. Those who have disappointed me to that level, I’m usually not that attached to anyway.

    This post, and its comments, make a really good point that I wish more authors would pay attention to, though. This is the information age. We all have podiums and megaphones via the internet. People are watching, and when you make an ass of yourself by losing your temper, flouncing about reviews, or just “ranting on your blog,” *that* is the packaging we see for the product you are trying to sell. There are countless other authors out there trying to be read, and with today’s technology it’s becoming easier for the little names to get their chance, too. I don’t have to spend my money on someone who writes capslock rants about how piracy is making them poor (it’s not), or how homosexuality is like some bizarre cult (what? I couldn’t even make it through the first two paragraphs of that Orson Scott Card post, so I might be wrong, but that’s what it read like to me.), or how fanfiction is the rough equivalent to rape.

    We’re your readers, people. We sign your paychecks. Use a little discretion in your decisions to “express yourself,” or shut up when you lose sales. Oh, but loss of sales is always someone else’s fault, right?

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  30. cara
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 10:22:29

    @jennifer armintrout:

    LOL I wish I’d actually read through all the comments first. I just wanted to say I love your attitude, and you’re a really good example of when it “works.” I “bookmarked” you because of something that linked back to your blog ages ago.

    Like I said, it’s not necessarily fair, but when you put yourself out there, what you have to say on a personal level *will* influence readers, one way or another.

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  31. Julia Rachel Barrett
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 10:26:35

    As an author…oh, this is a hard one…I want people to read my books, I write them to be read, for no other reason. My personal opinions shouldn’t interfere with that. At least that’s what I hope. I am a private person and while I might discuss a funny or unusual incident that happens in my real life, I have no interest in involving myself in internet politics or pissing matches. I respect my readers enough to let them make up their own minds. While I appreciate every single person who buys one of my books, they don’t have to be my friend. I have my family, my pets, my eclectic interests, and my own life, that’s enough for me.

    Right now, I’m bombarded with messages from people trying to tell my that my internet presence is required EVERYWHERE in order to sell books. HOW TO SOCIAL NETWORK. Please. I have little enough time to write as it is. As Dick (above) said, an author should be known by his/her works.

    Ender’s Game? Call me crazy, but before I knew a single thing about Orson Scott Card I was not a fan of the series. My son mentioned that he did not like the author, but he didn’t elaborate. Guess I haven’t been paying much attention.

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  32. Leslie
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 10:31:13

    Do I regret knowing the various stances of some authors – would it keep my from reading them? I admit my own social ideas shape my reading choices but I try not to let them spill over to others – when I hit a SF phase and everyone says “read OSCard!” I politely decline without venting about why I won’t read him (although when asked outright why not, I have stated my position).

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  33. Gretchen Galway
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 10:36:02

    As a reader, I have mixed feelings. Meeting writers in person or online can make me love them more (Lisa Kleypas) or do a 180 and not read them for years (unnamed.)

    As a writer, I feel awkward interacting (like here) in case I offend anyone, but I’m such a huge reader I want to chat just like anyone else. And naturally, writers love to write, and the Internet is a heaven of verbal interaction.

    When I read the post, my thoughts went to music. Like the person who mentioned Tom Cruise, I have been turned off of so many musicians over the years if I know anything about them. I’ve never liked videos for that reason–it totally ruins my dream of what the song is about. (I’m old enough to have been emotionally affected by the song “Safety Dance” when it came out, and let me tell ya, that video ain’t what I was imagining…)

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  34. Ridley
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 10:39:29

    I’m online 8+ hours a day, on average. I follow all sorts of conversations on a whole host of sites. Yet, I can count the authors on my never-buy list on one hand. There’s Card for being a hateful bigot, and there’s four authors who whined about or attacked reviewers over negative reviews.

    Might they have written wonderful books my life will be poorer for never experiencing? Possibly. But I refuse to give them my money in light of their behavior. Futile effort it may be, but it soothes my conscience. YMMV.

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  35. Jennifer Swayze
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 10:45:13

    While I can understand not putting money into the pockets of those authors who are clearly racist/homophobic, etc., I have to admit I do read books by those authors whose political leanings I disagree with.

    Personally, I don’t have a problem with someone disagreeing with me on politics or religion, but when it comes to the human race, that’s where I draw the line.

    For instance, I believe in God, and I’m an avid fan of House, M.D. I know Hugh Laurie is an atheist. That’s not going to stop me from watching the show because that is his choice to make, and he’s not injuring anyone by saying he doesn’t believe in God.

    The ignorant and intolerant of the world, however, do injure people every day with their hubris. Those are the ones I will avoid.

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  36. becca
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 10:48:53

    I like knowing things about authors. I can never buy – nor re-read books I already own – by Card, because so many of his opinions are so hateful. I love Nora Roberts, but love her all the more when I read about the things she’s doing to improve the town in which she lives, and everything I’ve read of her in blogs it sounds like she’s a class act.

    I find that, when I read of an author’s bad behavior, it’s an author that either I didn’t read anyway or that it taints my enjoyment of their books so much that I stop enjoying them.

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  37. LG
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 10:52:15

    I had thought about this issue in relation to actors and actresses before, but never in relation to authors, although I suppose I should have. I’m not really sure there is a measurable (for me) point where I know too much – I think it depends upon what it was an author said or did that upset me. Even then, I might still read that authors’ works – but what I know about the author could color my reading. A work that is borderline good or bad might be tipped in one direction or another by what I know about the author.

    It works this way for both the good and the bad I know about authors. Authors who “behave well” might lead me to read their books – before seeing or reading about the author, I might have only vaguely been interested in their works.

    Right now, I can only think of one book I might have read if I hadn’t known as much as I do about the person involved in the book – I am Number Four. For everything else, an author’s bad behavior generally hasn’t had any effect on me, because I was never considering reading their works in the first place.

    I should add that I very rarely look into the views and thoughts of authors I am already reading – not a conscious choice, but maybe a way of protecting myself from finding out too much? I’ve only ever been to a couple book signings in my life – Neil Gaiman, who seemed tired but very nice, and Laurell K. Hamilton. My first LKH signing was great, so great that my mom, who had never read one of her books before, decided to try her out. I quit reading LKH not because of what I learned about her, but because I began to really dislike her writing. It wasn’t until after I quit reading her that I learned about her bad online behavior.

    So, after writing this rambling comment, I’m not really sure I have an answer. I suppose my answer is, “it depends.”

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  38. Milena
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 10:56:41

    @DS: You’re not the only one who remembers the mimeographed zines. We can just keep it quiet. :)

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  39. Moriah Jovan
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 10:59:20

    I recently made a point to read a couple of books by an author I really really do not like. You know what? I adored the books. Still don’t like her, but love the books.

    Lesson learned.

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  40. becca
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 11:05:33

    ah. Just looked up Dean Koontz. I don’t read horror anyway, but will avoid his books all the more in the future. Maybe I should look into books by Barry Eisler, too – haven’t read his books, but I do like to support authors that I approve of, unless of course I really can’t stand their books.

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  41. Isobel Carr
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 11:08:39

    Authors are brands, just like anything else. There are brands and stores I refuse to support. I don't search out info about favorite author's politics or religious beliefs, but if their views or bouts of misbehavior are impossible to avoid, then, yes, there is a chance they will make my “do not buy” list.

    As an author, I do self-censor in public. I don't post political or religious stuff to my FB page. But I do have a network of friends that link up to my alternate lives as a writer, historical re-enactor, Burning Man participant, and supporter of gay rights, animal rights, and environmental causes. If anyone reads between the lines, there's little doubt where I'm likely to stand in the general scheme of things.

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  42. Isobel Carr
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 11:16:52

    I can't help linking this to what's going on with Galliano right now. *sigh* His collections are pretty much always my favorite part of fashion week. I adore his designs. Lust for them in my soul. And now I feel dirty. Their beauty is tarnished and I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to look back at them with the same pure enjoyment.

    Guess it's a good thing I could never afford to buy one!

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  43. Billie
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 11:34:05

    I can read just about anyone regardless of
    their own beliefs, except one author. I had
    to stop reading Anne Perry when I found out,
    that as a teen, she helped commit murder. I know they say write what you know,
    but this was to close for my comfort.

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  44. kate Pearce
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 11:38:39

    As an author, I present the pieces of me online that I’m comfortable with the general public knowing. I don’t really talk politics or religion and I try to be polite and pleasant like my mum taught me to be. LOL
    I actually like to keep my writing persona and my personal life separate because it protects me. If someone doesn’t like my book because they don’t like my book that’s fine but if they also hate me because I’ve made a big song and dance about why I wrote it like that, then it could hurt me personally and I don’t want to deal with that. Writing is a vulnerable enough profession as it is.
    Btw-I’m another one who cannot watch another Tom Cruise film.

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  45. Ridley
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 11:53:36

    An author has to really go beyond having political opinions to get on your average reader’s avoid list.

    I’m an enthusiastically liberal, atheist, gay-loving MA townie. I am not going to go out of my way to avoid your average red stater author for loving her guns, god and tradition. You would have to put on your ranty pants, complete with your hater belt buckle, and really go to town.

    I think readers, as a whole, accept that authors are people and have opinions. I think the repulsion line is when you go beyond having your opinions into forcing your opinions on others, dehumanizing those who disagree and using your books as a sort of bully pulpit. It something that takes some effort, so I don’t think authors need to be too worried about sanitizing their speech. Just be respectful.

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  46. Goddess of Blah
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 11:59:41

    I think there can be (in most books) veiled references to the author’s political views in books. However, once you become aware of their real life political opinions – it only confirms what you suspected (from reading their books) hence this can stop you from reading anymore of their work.

    I refuse to read books which have any deliberate form of intolerance, whether anti-gay or racism or sexism (many romance FEMALE authors are disgustingly sexist).

    example: a few years back I became aware of an author who endorsed very right-wing republican politics e.g. supported the war in Iraq and opposes same-sex unions etc. In her books there are veiled homophobic references. (I only became aware of her books due to being asked to review the American romance genre based around SEALs (some sort of army people).)

    However, after reading about (and becoming aware of) her political stance, I refused to review any of her books again.

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  47. jennifer armintrout
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 12:00:52

    Cara, that’s cool, because I’m one of those people who totally cannot keep anything to myself. I tried for a little while to have an author “persona”, but it was like this huge chore. Then I figured, “Eh, even with an author persona, I’m not going to make everyone like me all the time. The world doesn’t work that way. Might as well be myself.”

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  48. K. Z. Snow
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 12:06:13

    Wow, John, you’re far more articulate than a lot of writers and reviewers I’ve come across. Great article!

    I’m actually rather grateful when I find out about authorial attitudes or behaviors that rub me the wrong way. Damned if a portion of my paltry assets are going to fatten the coffers of somebody whose values and/or way of interacting with people are odious to me. It’s just that simple, no matter how talented an author (or actor or musician or plumber, for that matter) might be.

    There’s plenty of other good fiction available.

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  49. Joy
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 12:09:32

    SEALs are not Army, they are Navy, an elite amphibious special ops program. Like defusing bombs underwater wearing diving gear, that kind of thing.

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  50. Jinni
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 12:12:03

    Ah, the power of the pseudonym.

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  51. K. Z. Snow
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 12:17:59

    Forgot to add: I wouldn’t even buy a butthole’s books used, except maybe at a library-benefit sale, because this adage is true: If you don’t stand up for something, you’ll fall for anything.

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  52. cara
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 12:23:06

    I just wanted to clarify that, like someone above said, it’s not that authors should have to sanitize their personal opinions, political or religious leanings, etc.

    I think the problem comes in how those personal aspects come across to the public. Trolling reviews/message boards, capslock rants that accuse the “general you out there” of being thieves and meanies, and a general display of ignorance in one’s approach – these things are what turn me off. Granted, some authors seem to have an additional gift with blogging and public relations. Some really, seriously don’t have that gift. And I think those are the ones who might be better off venting their issues privately with their friends, unless they don’t care how it affects their sales. And some don’t care, and that’s fine, too.

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  53. Tamara Hogan
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 12:24:56

    Back when I decided I might want to be a writer, I could’ve written a fan letter (w/stamp) to Stephen King. Maybe, if I was lucky, I’d have a chance to share a few words with him personally at a book signing. But…that was it. I didn’t know his personal opinions about anything, and I didn’t particularly care. I had no expectation that I’d be able to personally interact with him in any way. I connected with his books, his stories, not with him as a person, a writer or a celebrity. I got my autograph, and he went back to Maine and wrote his next book.

    Technology has really changed the game, hasn’t it? It’s changed expectations for personal access, it’s changed the boundaries between public and private, it’s changed how we produce and promote books. As someone who was once a victim of a serious crime, who still has to be aware of personal safety (and hell, don’t we all?) frankly I don’t think all of these changes are necessarily positive. Though I count many authors and some readers among my personal friends, I still, first and foremost, engage with an author’s books, not their online persona. YMMV.

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  54. Nightwriter
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 12:48:03

    There are several authors I can’t read anymore because I got to know a little too much about them through their online presence. It doesn’t always have to be a rant or some kind of bigoted remark, sometimes it can be something as subtle as an offhand comment that’s a turnoff. There are some truly lovely, gracious authors out there, but there are also far too many who are full of themselves.

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  55. Lynn S.
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 12:57:14

    I told myself I was going to leave the probable minefields alone but your post has proven too great a temptation. I will preface by saying that, first and foremost, I view literature as art and my opinion is not addressed toward hack writing.

    As a reader I keep my mind open when reading. An author’s life and beliefs permeate their work, even if they are not aware of it. If you don’t readily see it, it’s still there; the gifted authors are usually the most subtle. It does clear your vision somewhat when the author puts it out there in full view in the real world and I don’t see that as a bad thing.

    Moral issues aside, I think Mike is right; an author doesn’t owe the reader anything and, hard fact here, the book and any promotional duties are only owed to the publisher. Self-published authors — can’t quite wrap my head around that one.

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  56. Jane
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 13:00:47

    @Goddess of Blah I always use Vicki Hinze as my example. She’s pretty right wing, but I’ve enjoyed the romantic suspense books I’ve read of hers. I think as long as the tone isn’t too didactic then you can get away with a lot of things. Heck, I’ve read Ayn Rand.

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  57. MB
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 13:07:57

    Like it or not, I will not forget something I’ve read to the detriment of an author. I can’t wipe that out of my mind, no matter how much I like their books.

    Yes, and that knowledge and opinion does influence my future reading, my personal opinion of the author, and my future buying of their product.

    Now, I may still read their stuff, depending, but they’ve moved down in my internal scoreboard in priority and in ranking. Sorry, but that’s the way it is.

    Now, authors being communicators, sometimes communicate a little too freely. They have the right to do that, of course. Free Speech is real and they have the right to say and think whatever they please, as do I. However, they are also selling a product and maybe sometimes they don’t realize that. Maybe asking someone to be a minder if you have a problem might be a good idea. Someone who isn’t too close to you and your opinion. Think of yourself as a CEO representing your company and selling your product.

    I agree with the authors and actors listed here already. I too tend to view their ‘product’ now with disdain.

    I will mention that one of my favorite authors since childhood, and one well-respected and multiple award-winning in the past has lost a lot of my respect since I came across her personal blog. OH THE WHINING! I find her endless whining to be SO VERY ANNOYING that it has lost her a ton of my respect. And I totally picked up on that in her most recently published book. And this is from a person who most would consider coming from a position of privilege. It has really made me feel different about her and her books.

    Authors, please take care what you put out on the internet. It really does matter.

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  58. Evelyn Lafont
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 13:11:12

    I have a feeling this is more about readers feeling like they “know” an author and measuring whether or not they like them as they would a real-world acquaintance than it is about actually understanding an author’s background and opinions while still enjoying their work. For instance Jane Austen never married. Neither did, if I remember correctly, Louisa May Alcott. But I don’t see anyone questioning their ability to write engaging and believable romance and relationships in their novels. By the same token, Rock Hudson and Robert Reed were both gay male actors. But we never questioned their on-screen relationships with women, and I don’t see a lot of homophobes lashing out at old Brady Bunch episodes.

    As far as an author’s own traits bleeding into their characters, again, I say look at the classics. Austen, Dickens, Alcott and others all created one or more characters who resembled themselves. Do we avoid their books because we know this? Maybe if they were on Twitter we would, but these folks are dead so creating characters in their own image is forgiven.

    Just because the internet gives us the power to see inside the life of an author and maybe even interact with them in a way not previously enjoyed, that doesn’t mean we should start evaluating their work any differently than we ever have. If you enjoy the world and characters that an author creates, then enjoy it–whether they are the religious and spiritual opposite of you or exactly the same. If you don’t enjoy it then…well…don’t :)

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  59. Janine
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 13:19:06

    As I just said in the Midday Links thread, news of Meagan McKinney’s conviction and sentencing has made me aware of how much I wish I knew less about this author. I adore one of her books but it’s going to be harder to enjoy it in the future.

    In general, I try not to think too much about authors whose politics and opinions upset me. I do this for selfish reasons — because I want to be able to keep enjoying their books.

    However, there are some authors and other artists whose works I am unable to enjoy. I’ve been a lot less drawn to Heyer’s books since I stumbled on the antisemitism in The Grand Sophy. I stopped watching Woody Allen’s films around the time Mia Farrow accused him of molesting their daughter who was then four. And I have such ambivalent feelings about Roman Polanski’s films, brilliant though they are.

    So yes, it’s definitely possible to know too much, though often I wish that I didn’t know what I know.

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  60. cara
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 13:20:45

    @Lynn S.:

    No, a writer doesn’t “owe” anyone anything. However, when they freely spew their crap on a public level, they do deserve the response they get from their audience, whatever it is. That’s kind of the point. Orson Scott Card might have *his* “personal life,” but when he posts his views about homosexuality on the web, it’s no longer “personal,” it’s public. And like it or not, when you volunteer your “private” views to become public, you are volunteering to become more than just the stories you write. Your personal life becomes part of the package. Some people use that to their advantage. Others, not so much.

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  61. MB
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 13:23:03

    I also want to point out that in an age of dwindling book budgets for Libraries, that if you are a known controversial author that is likely to be objected to by vocal minority groups, your future literary releases may move down the list in priority of buying. Now, libraries are strongly against censoring. But there is only so much money to be spent. And they are looking for value in their purchases. Something that will last and please the majority of readers.

    Maybe I’m totally speaking out of my hat.

    And if you’re well established, like Card, this may not affect you. But it’s something to think about.

    Bottom line, its a business decision.

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  62. RachelT
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 13:24:27

    I am quite happy to read authors with a range of political, religious and even moral views. After all, we have conversations each day with a diversity of people in RL.

    I’m not much good with social networking etc, so don’t get to know author’s in that way. However, I do join in on sites like this (too many, really considering the time I spend!). The authors I have dropped like a hot potato have been those who have entered discussions with vitriol and/or condescension, expounding a point in a manner which stands out from other contributors. Sometimes they return time and again to re-emphasise their very negative point. At other times I have seen a group of authors hijack a discussion, becoming quite personal and pointed in their remarks towards each other because their opinions disagree.

    Should this affect whether I read them or not? Well, I think that if I behaved like that in my professional life, my colleagues and clients would question my judgement, and cease to listen to any observations and advice I might otherwise been able to offer. In the same vein, their writing loses credibility for me, particularly when they are writing of pleasant things and characters lacks credibility. This seems so out of kilter when they have no compuction in acting in such an unpleasant manner in a public forum.

    Having said all that, I find that most authors join discussions with wit, humour and interesting debate, encouraging me to seek out their work with confidence that I am likely to enjoy their authorial voice.

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  63. Laura
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 13:28:01

    I avoid author blogs, etc., because even minor quirks can ruin my feelings about the author’s work.

    One of my absolute favorite urban fantasy series is written by a husband and wife team. I’ve stopped reading their blog entries because they seem a little cocky to me.

    Another favorite author turned comments off of her blog a few years ago when the covers of her series changed and she didn’t like the negative feedback. I thought she was a real baby about it, since her fans weren’t being mean, just honest. I still read her series, but I no longer read her blog entries and I don’t want to know anything about her.

    Lately, I’ve been tossing aside books in which a character has a snobbish attitude about literature unless it’s very clearly the character’s opinion. When an author’s snobbishness comes through in their work, I can’t read them.

    Part of me would like to know if an author is racist, homophobic or anti-semitic because I do not want any of my money going to them, but I don’t want to spend time researching authors before I read their books. When the info drops in my lap, I act accordingly, but I try my best to know as little as possible about authors. Authors can be worse than actors.

    I will never watch another Mel Gibson movie. I will never watch anything Jonathan Rhys Meyers has been in after his rant using the “n” word on a plane last year.

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  64. Jane
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 13:52:32

    @Evelyn Lafont Conversely, do you think that it would be appropriate to speculate on how an author’s life experiences are affecting their writing. For example, we know now that Linda Howard’s health has adversely affected her writing (pursuant to her own statements). Is it appropriate for a reviewer to discuss whether the author’s illness has prevented her from creating a fully developed storyline with engaging characters? If a reader knows about the author’s sex life (a fairly well known erotic romance author has stated publicly that she believes in the importance of living out the sexual experiences in her books in order to write authentically about them), is it fair to make commentary about how the own sex life must be drab and emotionless given that the sex scenes in her books are methodical and clinical.

    I think when authors are dead they become almost fictional to readers as well.

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  65. L.A.D.
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 14:01:39

    I actually agree that an author/actor/any kind of artist does not owe me anything. At the same time, I don’t owe them anything either.

    I don’t read authors’ blogs. I don’t know how to tweet or read anyone’s tweets. If I hear about someone’s opinions, it means they’ve really made an effort to let people know what they think. Usually, the statements made are strong and controversial. It’s not just someone saying they don’t like kittens. That’s fine because I also don’t think they should have to censor themselves if they don’t want to.

    They don’t owe it to me to keep quiet. I don’t owe it to them to give them my money just because they have talent.

    If a brand of clothing was made by children in a sweatshop, I wouldn’t buy that brand. If a bakery with some really kick ass muffins was run by a racist, I would boycott that bakery. I’m not going to hand over my money and overlook a strong opinion that I find objectionable just because someone writes a damn good story, can act their butt off, or creates the most mind-blowing paintings known to man.

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  66. Kerry Allen
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 14:01:54

    @Evelyn Lafont: “Just because the internet gives us the power to see inside the life of an author and maybe even interact with them in a way not previously enjoyed, that doesn't mean we should start evaluating their work any differently than we ever have.”

    But we do. Once a piece of knowledge enters your mind, it becomes part of the filter through which you process information, consciously or otherwise. You look for “clues” you wouldn’t have given any thought to before acquiring that knowledge. Many a film and literature class is devoted to examining the art through the lens of the creators’ biographical data. The way people interact with art–in the creation and the consumption of it–is pretty widely thought to be part of art.

    “Classic” artists have an advantage when it comes to being reprehensible human beings merely because dead guys don’t have a new book coming out every 6 months to dredge up any unflattering opinions one may hvae of them.

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  67. RachelT
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 14:05:47

    @Kerry Allen: Nor do they comment on blogs, forums or in social networking media!

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  68. Evelyn Lafont
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 14:17:11

    @Jane, those are some great questions. Here is what I think:

    “do you think that it would be appropriate to speculate on how an author's life experiences are affecting their writing” If the reviewer makes it a habit to speculate about how great an author’s life is and that must be why their writing is so great, then sure they could do the same for a book they didn’t enjoy. But why would an author’s life only factor in to an experience we didn’t enjoy, and not one that we did? Personally, I don’t know that it should at all.

    “…is it fair to make commentary about how the own sex life must be drab and emotionless given that the sex scenes in her books are methodical and clinical.” On this I would again say it’s off limits unless the reviewer regularly remarks on how awesome the sex lives of great erotic fiction writers’ are.

    But then, of course, there are caveats. In both your examples, you talk about how the authors in question have already spoken publicly about the effect of their personal lives (and sex) on their writing. Since they are now opening the door to that comparison and analysis, then it makes more sense to me to do so because only an author can truly know (regardless of how loud their web presence is) how much of their personal lives go into their books. After all, we already know that everyone on the interwebz is tall, thin, Mensa material and happy 24/7…so how much of what we’re getting from author blogs and Tweets are even accurate? Maybe they already ARE acting in a way they think will help them sell rather than being themselves. But then too, I have to ask, how much does skill factor in? The author who has lots of sex in order to write her sex scenes and then writes them carppily might have an amazing time in the sack but just be a poor writer. How can you know?

    And we’re still really on a different point, because reviewers are (at least to me) a different animal than your average reader and hypothesizing about an author’s personal life and how it factors into their ‘product’ is different than being unable to buy and read their work because of said personal life.

    Finally, I would say let’s think about music and art for a minute. Apparently, Picasso was a misogynist. I don’t like misogynists, but I friggin’ love me some Picasso. Bing Crosby was allegedly abusive to his wife and kids… but I always listen to him during the holidays and he makes ME feel warm and cozy. If everyone boycotted artists that they had fundamental differences and disagreements with, how far out of the middle ages would we even be?

    I think that punishing someone who has produced a work of art that you enjoy (in whatever medium) because you don't like them as a person is wrong and short-sighted. Forcing an author or any artist to be ‘on' all the time so that their readers can suspend belief and read their books easier doesn't make any sense. If I write about vampires, and I state publicly that I don't believe in them (no, I do, I SWEAR ;-P) does that make it harder to read my PNR? I doubt it will, because my readers don't believe in them either. So if you can suspend your personal beliefs there and get into the author's work, why not elsewhere?

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  69. Evelyn Lafont
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 14:20:21

    @Kerry Allen: It would be so awesome if dead guys DID have book releases though :)

    I definitely see your point Kerry, but then I have to ask if, as readers and appreciators of many kinds of art, we don’t have a responsibility to compartmentalize that knowledge and still enjoy and support the work produced by the individual. After all, major social and cultural growth comes from art produced by douche bags and angels alike.

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  70. M
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 14:22:07

    So my question is – how does telling/warning authors not to voice their real opinions change the “nice girl” vibe in the romance community? From reading all of these comments, it seems like it’s just *good business* to adopt a nice girl persona.

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  71. cara
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 14:36:13

    @M:

    There’s a difference between being smothered by “nice girl” expectations and simply behaving like a professional. If you honestly don’t know the difference, then I guess either err on the side of caution or simply don’t complain when your audience has a reaction to your lack of professionalism.

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  72. Michelle
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 14:41:47

    I agree it is often difficult to distinguish between an author and their work. An author doesn’t “owe” anything to the readers but the work, but a “reader” dosesn’t owe anything to the author either. I won’t read Card’s works. Also a low level author once went on a rampage against a famous author-really reeked of jealousy. So since I adored the author they trashed I wouldn’t touch their work with a ten foot pole. Also on SBTB a low level author went on a rant about the evils of libraries. Sorry if you come off as a raving, illogical ass/twit, doesn’t really motivate me to try your books.

    So you don’t have to be a “nice” girl, but own your actions, and be responsible for repercussions. If you harass, stalk, badmouth readers/reviewers/blogs you can expect some bad publicity. If you delight in torturing small cute kittens don’t be offended if you are burnt in effigy.

    By the way John, you really need to read Megan Whalen Turner’s series, she is a nice, normal author who hasn’t gone on any wild rampages.

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  73. Tasha
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 14:45:14

    Orson Scott Card not only makes hateful, homophobic comments, he actively contributes to anti-gay campaigns and sits on the board of anti-gay organizations.

    When I as a reader refuse to buy a book by an author who would then turn around and use that money for political campaigning in a way that directly affects me, that’s not “knowing too much.” That’s self-preservation.

    It’s one thing to simply articulate an opinion. It’s another to be a political activist –which OSC definitely is.

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  74. Ridley
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 14:45:59

    @M:

    I don’t read this thread as a exhortation to “be nice” so much as “not be an asshole.”

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  75. Sylvia Sybil
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 14:48:34

    An author’s behavior really does flavor my opinion of the book. Orson Scott Card being the obvious example (as mentioned several times above). I bought Ender’s Game and enjoyed it, then stumbled across an interview where he talked about homosexuality. I’d really seen teen me in Ender’s classmates, and it was sobering to realize that no, actually, that could never be me. Because even though teen me was smart, she wasn’t straight, so she wouldn’t be welcomed there.

    It doesn’t even have to be out of text: I read a romance where the “hero” was domestically abusing the heroine. I can’t read any other romance by that author now, not even the ones I’d read before. Because even if this particular hero isn’t abusing this particular heroine, I know the author would be okay with it if he did.

    But it goes both ways. Courtney Milan, for example. I don’t read much historical romance (not enough duels and explosions for my taste). But after seeing her make multiple intelligent, well-thought-out comments around the blogosphere, I picked up one of her books. Actually, I picked one of her books, said Blech, put it back. Saw her make a few more comments, was impressed again by her writing & rhetoric skills, and said Oh all right. Now she’s on my auto-buy list, and I would never have discovered her if not for seeing her around the internet.

    I would prefer to know that this author makes racist jokes (or disses her fans, or throws temper tantrums over negative reviews, or votes for X-party, or what have you) because it gives me a heads up as to what I’m going to encounter in the text.

    And when you get down to it, much of our reading experience is meta-textual. Covers being a huge example. If there are explosions and firefights on the cover and the book turns out to be a sedately paced, philosophical thought experiment, I’m going to feel ripped off. Even though I probably would have loved that book if the cover had been a pastoral landscape.

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  76. Kerry Allen
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 15:02:05

    @Evelyn Lafont

    Avoiding the books of authors one finds personally objectionable isn’t “punishing” them any more than it’s “punishing” one by not buying her Christian YA romance if you’re not into Christian YA romance or not buying another book by an author if you thought the last one you read was garbage. We all make choices every day about what we read (and who gets our money in a variety of other contexts), and personal opinions, whether you think it’s “fair” or not, will often play a part in those choices.

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  77. Isobel Carr
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 15:02:47

    @cara: I think the issue under discussion arises from the informality of the internet. When I'm blabbing with friends on FB and posting pics of my dog, I'm not really acting “professionally”, even though I've got my author hat on while I'm doing it. Readers seem to want to get to know authors they like, and our publishers certainly want us to promote via these informal channels, but there's a downside to that much display and access (and there's always the off chance you'll put your foot in your mouth and shove in a moment of stress, anger, or outrage).

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  78. Sam
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 15:03:54

    I have a couple authors on my ‘do not buy’ list, not because religious/political opinions I might have heard them talk about but instead about their behavior.

    I helped out with a writers conference in the last year which lead me to have a lot of interaction with many authors. One particular author felt that she should be treated differently than everyone else. She lectured us on how much she had done for the romance community and how special she was. I’ll never pick up one of her books and the two that were on my TBR pile, straight to the UBS.

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  79. cara
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 15:16:30

    @Isobel Carr: I think it also is a huge case of YMMV. Some people are sensitive to any political or religious opinions expressed, even if they’re relatively passive. My personal “do not buy” reaction stems from other issues, but mostly just outright rudeness (like I mentioned before – capslock rants on public blogs, attacking reviewers, badmouthing other authors, accusing fanfiction writers of theft and “metaphoric” rape, etc.). I imagine it can be a rather harrowing balancing act, because everyone can find something offensive somewhere, right? Maybe “professionalism” isn’t the right word, because it can imply “formal,” which isn’t what I mean. Anyway, at the heart of it, I think the most you can do if you “must” have a public persona is to just try not to be an asshole, like @Ridley said up there.

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  80. Evelyn Lafont
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 15:19:40

    @Kerry Allen: I disagree. If you don’t like Christian YA, then you don’t buy it because you don’t enjoy it. They wouldn’t get your support no matter what.

    If you love an author’s work but hate his or her politics, attitude, stance on kittens, whatever, and you don’t buy their books (which you enjoy) as a result of who they are, then you are punishing them for being who they are. This isn’t the same as not buying books because you don’t enjoy them.

    I’m not saying you don’t have a right to do that, I’m just saying that I disagree with the concept of doing that and I’m interested in exploring the ramifications of that action.

    To me this issue is almost like the buying of elections. Let’s say the moral majority all get behind this idea of only buying the work of authors who they approve of personally. How much will our society suffer as passionate, talented, and forward-thinking artists are squashed because money is pulled away from their projects?

    Would you say that it is right or wrong to buy a book based on an author’s race? How about their sexuality? Their religion? Where do we draw the line, when judging an author as a person rather than an artist?

    And don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of authors who I don’t agree with on, oh, I dunno–a million different levels. But I see this as a really slippery slope that could have serious social ramifications in the future.

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  81. Ridley
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 15:35:41

    @Evelyn Lafont:

    I guess it’s a slippery slope, if you assume that the average reader is an oversensitive, dogmatic git.

    In practice, most readers allow for reasonable differences in opinion, but shy away from bombastic assholes.

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  82. Evelyn Lafont
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 15:46:39

    @Ridley: But what you consider reasonable, someone else might not. I don’t think that my concern over a slippery slope means that I think readers are, “oversensitive, dogmatic git[s].” Reading the comments above I see many people who have stopped reading authors for reasons that I find unreasonable. So who gets to be the gauge of what is reasonable and what is a unreasonable? You? Me? Anyone?

    Also, it works both ways. I can understand why people are now avoiding Card–but what if people start avoiding homosexual writers who write “straight” romances? And if they produce great work, but no longer make the sales to continue doing so, where will their voice go?

    It IS a slippery slope and I don’t think you have to have contempt for readers to see that.

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  83. Isobel Carr
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 16:33:11

    @Evelyn Lafont: The argument you're making is very similar to one that I frequently see used in the political arena (i.e. It's not very tolerant of you to not be tolerant of our intolerance). There's a logical fallacy at its core. Refusing to buy a book because the author is Jewish is different than refusing to buy a book because the author is an anti-Semite (raging homophobe, convicted animal abuser, or just a general fuckwit who I don't think deserves my money).

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  84. Evelyn Lafont
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 16:59:57

    @Isobel Carr: No, I’m not telling anyone to tolerate an attitude they disagree with, I’m simply questioning the ramifications and logic of buying books based on whether or not you ‘like’ an author or their attitude. I think you can avoid buying a political treatise based on that, but not a fictional book.

    Let’s just use this thread as an example. Most people commenting seem to be of like mind. I’m coming from a decidedly less popular POV. Some of you will now decide that you don’t ‘like’ me because of that. No matter how respectful I’ve been, how often I have said I can understand your POV or how many emoticons I’ve used to try and make sure my comments don’t look like they’re attacking anyone. Let’s say our positions were reversed and YOU were facing that kind of reaction. You know that you have taken an unpopular stance, and you have attempted to be fair and considerate but–well–too many people saw you as a fuckwit because they disagreed with your POV and you lose them as readers.

    Now let’s say that this attitude is widespread because this discussion is taking place on a broader scale. You write great books–people used to love them–but now everyone refuses to buy them because they see you as a fuckwit , which some would say doesn’t happen unless you are a ‘bombastic’ asshole but I think in reality it doesn’t take much to be written off in the internet age.

    Does that seem right to you? And hell, I’m not writing anything that’s going to change the world–but what if the person you were now putting on your Do Not Buy list was Shakespeare? Austen? Dickens? Whoever–someone who you think contributed something that changed society because it was widely read.
    You don’t think that's a potential problem in the making?

    I don't know, I don't want to beat a dead horse so I guess I won't comment again (I'll probably need to sit on my hands to avoid it, lol). I just wanted to give my opinion on what I think is an extremely important issue that is being handled a little casually. I may be wrong or chicken little, but there you have it.

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  85. Tasha
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 17:16:14

    @Evelyn Lafont: I’m not sure I understand your argument. Being a best-seller in one’s lifetime does not guarantee one a place among the classic authors, and not being widely read during one’s lifetime doesn’t mean an author will be forgotten.

    Jane Austin was not a best-selling author in her time. Shakespeare, as well, became much more popular after his death. Generally speaking history, not contemporary sales, will determine whether an author “contributed something that changed society because it was widely read.”

    I absolutely stand by my statement that I can avoid buying a work of fiction by someone who is an active participant in a political cause I profoundly disagree with, just as I can avoid buying products from any producer whose policies I disagree with (corporate contributions, endorsements, employment and benefits policies, etc.). And I can avoid the drugstore on the corner if the sales clerk is a jerk who stares at my boobs and makes me feel uncomfortable. This is an individual decision–just as the choice to both write and be a political activist is an individual decision.

    As long as it’s the reader making the choice and not the publisher (for example, via a morals clause), I just don’t think it’s a problem.

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  86. jody
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 17:26:42

    @Jane:
    The South Park creators turned Charlie Sheen’s name into a verb last night on David Letterman. When asked if writing the show was fun, they said, “No. It’s work. Ya think we’re just Sheening all day?”

    When an author’s or performer’s behavior becomes so outrageous it slaps me everytime I turn on the television or surf the internet, then yeah it’s going to influence my buying/watching decisions. I haven’t bought a ticket to see a Tom Cruise movie, rented on of his DVDs or even watched one on network TV since he went nuts on the Today Show. I just deleted all my Netflix choices with Charlie Sheen in them. I don’t go out of my way to find out about authors’ politics/morality, but once information shoots off any of my screens, I have no choice. When the medium becomes the message to the extent that it’s all I can think about when I’m reading/watching, I’m done.

    I’m looking at you; Tom Cruise, Alice Hoffman, Dorothea Benton Frank and Charlie Sheen, among others.

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  87. FiaQ
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 17:45:24

    To be honest, I don’t give a crap. It’ll take truly a lot for an author to cross the line. You know it’s truly that bad when I kick an author off my reader radar for good. So far, this happened seven times in ten years.

    They were taken off because of this one thing that can easily make my eyeballs explode:

    Authors use their (usually non-existent) disabilities or health issues to guilt-trip readers into buying their books. Or when they use it as an excuse to justify their bad behaviour.

    No matter who they are, authors are off my reader radar the moment they do it.

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  88. Isobel Carr
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 21:14:55

    @Evelyn Lafont: I really hope you know I wasn’t trying to “mean girl” up on you. I was simply trying to point out that there are different reasons for not patronizing an author or business and some of them are entirely justifiable (at least to me). Regardless, no one is “owed” my patronage. Being published is not a right, being turned down by a publisher does not equate to censorship, and readers choosing not to spend their precious time and money with you is not a crime against humanity (or art).

    And as far as I can tell, the people at the center of some of the most horrific acts of self immolation I’ve personally witnessed are still publishing, still hitting lists, and still “Sheening” all the way to the bank. But I feel better knowing that none of the money in that account once belonged to me.

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  89. Jane
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 21:33:18

    @Evelyn Lafont The point I am trying to make is that it is more and more difficult to suspend the disbelief of a fictional work if the author as a person is intruding. You begin to wander outside the four corners of the book at that point (at least I do). It’s far less about punishing anyone and more that the authorial intrusion is ruining the reading experience.

    But I will say that there are just authors I do not want to support with my dollars just like there are actors I don’t want to support or musicians I don’t want to support. I don’t think that is middle ages, but rather voting with my pocket book.

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  90. Teresa
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 21:44:50

    1) Not knowing the artist means that a reader/observer can judge purely from the piece of art.

    2) Knowing the artist means that the reader/observer brings a new set of criteria to judge or assess a piece of art.

    An artist needs to accept that who they are will affect potential supporters. They don’t need to cater to them and it won’t affect all of them but it is a reality in the world.

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  91. John
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 22:46:08

    The original post and the ensuing comments prove that today’s authors, like their predecessors, have fallen victim to the many outdated, stereotypical labels and unrealistic expectations placed on them by readers who feel, incorrectly, that because they own a book, they own the author.

    Contrary to the popular belief shared by readers the world over, an author is not an eccentric old man or lady sitting behind a typewriter in a smoke-filled ivory tower. Authors are people, too. Real people. Just like you.

    Since when is an author “not allowed” to share his or her views through writing? Prose is the author’s creation (notice the possessive plural), and the author’s intellectual property. Authors speak through their writing. It’s called free speech. Don’t like the author’s views? Then don’t read their books. But don’t accuse them of committing some horrible, atrocious act simply because they exercised their right to free speech.

    Are authors not entitled to form and share their opinions and feelings, like everyone else does? Authors are people, too.

    And surprisingly, authors, like other people, have Twitter and Facebook accounts. GASP! Yes, AUTHORS! And yes, they post their thoughts and interact with their friends and fans. Other people in the public eye interact with their friends and fans. Why can’t authors do the the same? Authors are people, too, ya know.

    People who interact with their favorite authors online do so because they WANT to. THEY clicked the “like” or the “follow” button; the author neither signed them up automatically nor forced them to join at gunpoint. And if you don’t like what your favorite author posts, no problemo–just de-friend him or her, and follow someone else. I don’t understand why so many people think it’s taboo for authors to interact with their fans, especially in this day and age. I, for one, think it’s great. It also helps to disprove the stereotypical misconception that authors are fragile, eccentric people, locked in a smoke-filled room and cranking out prose 24×7.

    That’s what many readers have grown to expect, unfortunately. The author should be read, but neither seen nor heard, ever. He or she is nothing but paper and ink, like the books he or she writes, and isn’t entitled to a life, thoughts, emotions, or rights. To many, the author’s job is to sit down, shut the heck up, and crank out prose. In reality, however, authors are people, too. They have lives, families, thoughts, emotions, and–GASP—- the same rights everyone else has!

    Authors sometimes comment back when they receive bad reviews, and few of those comments are professional. Whining about a legitimate review that’s less than perfect is unprofessional and mean-spirited. However, if the review is not legitimate (written by a rival author or publisher; written by someone who obviously read nothing but the back cover; or written by another author wishing to push his or her competing work by downing the work of others), the victim author has every right to defend his or her work if need be. In every other field, it’s acceptable for the creator of something to defend it against frivolous reviews, complaints, etc. Why is it taboo for authors to exercise the same right? I mean, come on, authors are people, too.

    “Author behavior?” LOL Since when does purchasing a book give you the right to dictate, approve, or disapprove the “behavior” of the person who wrote it? I just forked over $42K on a new vehicle last month. Does that mean I have the right to publicly approve or disapprove of the behavior exhibited by the person who tightened the lug nuts as it rolled off the assembly line? Of course not. And the same holds true about those who write books.

    Merely reading a book doesn’t give one the right to tell authors what’s professional and what’s not, when they can and can’t speak, what they can and can’t think, what they can and can’t say, how they should and shouldn’t “behave,” or whether they should or shouldn’t interact with their fans.

    Sit down, shut up, and just TYPE. Sorry, folks, but that outdated, stereotypical mentality about authors misses the mark entirely.

    Finally, assuming that you’ll “click” personally with an author just because you like their books is, well, kind of stupid. The person who wrote the original post obviously felt that way at some point, and then was shocked to learn that authors are people, too. Readers shouldn’t allow the written word to set their personal expectations of the author. Words attest to an author’s thought processes, to a degree, but merely syncing up with someone’s thought processes doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll click with them personally. Judging an author by his or her words (unless you’re reading an autobiography or memoir) is equivalent to judging a book on the merits its cover. In the end, you buy the story, not the author.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some books to sell and some fans to interact with. I’m an author, and I do have a life (that only I control)! *surprise*

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  92. Kerry Allen
    Mar 02, 2011 @ 03:43:37

    Dear John:

    Of course you are entitled to free speech, just like everybody else. No one, however, is entitled to free speech with no consequences. Every time you make a public statement, you invite those consequences, positive or negative.

    I think, usually, people are aware when they’re inviting negative consequences, such as when they refer to anyone as “stupid,” have an “I have better things to do” flounce, and sign their declarations of autonomy with a generic “John” for which they can’t be held accountable.

    “Author” is a job title. If you choose not to separate your personal internet presence from your business internet presence, you are inviting judgment of you as a person to overflow into judgment of your work. If you can’t keep them separate, you can’t demand that anyone else do so.

    P.S. You might want to loosen your corset. All that gasping doesn’t sound healthy.

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  93. Jane
    Mar 02, 2011 @ 09:01:35

    @Teresa Or readers need to stay away from those author pages, etc. That’s what I do. I try to limit the excursions I make into the author world so as to still maintain that mystery when I read the book. I think, although I am not certain, that is the point John is making in the post. Not that authors need to shut up but rather readers need to think about whether they want to expose themselves to a certain level of authorial engagement in a social space.

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  94. Jane
    Mar 02, 2011 @ 09:06:09

    @John I don’t see that as the point of the commenters or the original poster. I see it more as whether the internet has made the barriers between artist and consumer too thin and should readers erect thicker barriers (as in not participating socially with an author online) in order to maintain that creative wall between the artist and the consumer.

    But sometimes, no matter how hard you try to maintain that distance, it can creep in. There’s danger on the internet on both sides. If an author is using social platform to reach out and build an audience, what they do on that social platform can have negative and positive components. The same goes for a reader. He or she can enjoy a seemingly closer relationship with an author given the mobility of relationships on the internet, but it can also affect the reader’s reading enjoyment.

    Finally, I don’t think that there is any moral superiority in deciding not to read/purchase an author based on views that are antithetical to the readers. Why should a reader foster intolerance (as in the case of Orson Scott Card) that creates a harmful and bigoted environment for the reader just because someone is an “artist”.

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  95. MrsJoseph
    Mar 02, 2011 @ 09:41:55

    I think it is silly for authors to maintain a public presence (twitter, blogs, etc) in which they detail their public life and political/social opinions and then get surprised that – GASP – the readers are people, too. We are not just open wallets waiting for your latest work. Get in public and act a fool? You just ruined your brand.

    No one is saying that you need to be a robot – but you have to have the same respect for your clients that I have to have for mine. Since when did talking about politics, sex, and religion become acceptable topics for work? Most working adults don't speak about controversial subjects in front of bosses/co-workers for a reason. Just because a lot of authors work from home doesn't make them exempt from public expectations. If you feel the need to rant, go ahead and rant. Just understand that someone will feel the need to not purchase your work because of that.

    Newton’s Law still exists, even for authors. “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

    That being said, I make it a point NOT to go digging through the internet to find out about my favorite author's personal life. I don't know a darn thing about her other than the fact that she's married to the guy who does her cover art and what's been regulated to the back of her books/author's notes. She's a PROFESSIONAL and she has never been seen in public behaving badly.

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  96. Moriah Jovan
    Mar 02, 2011 @ 09:47:09

    @Jane:

    If an author is using social platform to reach out and build an audience, what they do on that social platform can have negative and positive components.

    IMO, it’s the publishers’ fault. Ask most any writer and they’ll tell you they hate being out there, would rather actually go back into their garret and write. The publishers have as much to do with tearing that wall down as social media does. It’s just that social media is the least expensive way to build that audience your publisher wants.

    There are a few writers who’d be out there shooting their mouths off anyway *koffmekoff*, but attention whore writers are relatively few and far between. I think some of the weird/crazy is just a product of being a WRITER and having a WRITER’s personality, when said writer is forced out into the world to do the exact thing they most loathe to do.

    And the attention whore writers of yesteryear just went to Spain and watched bullfights and partied themselves to death.

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  97. becca
    Mar 02, 2011 @ 10:26:48

    @John

    Since when is an author “not allowed” to share his or her views through writing?

    of course an author is allowed to share their views through their writing. But, as others have said, I also have a right to decide whether I want my money to support those views. That sentiment is behind the proposed boycott of the Koch brothers’ paper products. It’s behind the “buy American” campaign. It’s behind every “buy Christian” booklet.

    I don’t buy CSC. I don’t read Ann Perry. I don’t read authors convicted of plagiarism. And I don’t support tea partiers. I don’t go looking for information about authors, but if even in my particular ivory tower their politics intrudes, I have a right to not support those works.

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  98. Lizabeth S. Tucker
    Mar 02, 2011 @ 10:31:20

    I truly prefer to not know a lot about the authors I read. Many authors are nuttier than a fruitcake, some have radical beliefs or ideas that I just can’t ignore. I follow just a few authors on Twitter to avoid having that “a-ha moment”.

    Everyone is entitled to a personal opinion, to their own beliefs. It doesn’t mean that you should use your status as popular or beloved author to share those beliefs with your fanbase.

    Allow me to enjoy your talents without the encroachment of your real self. I don’t want to know that you’re paranoid, that you’re homophobic, that Hitler is your hero, that you wear tinfoil to keep the aliens out of your brain. When you’re appearing on a television show or internet event to promote your book, keep your talk about the book. Please.

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  99. Evelyn Lafont
    Mar 02, 2011 @ 10:45:37

    @Isobel Carr: Lol–no, not at all. I think we all feel whatever we feel really strongly and are each doing our best to explain our POV.

    I agree that no one is owed your patronage–totally. I just really don’t think an author’s talent should be judged, rewarded or punished based on whether or not they are likable.

    Not much more I can say about it–I think it’s just a fundamental difference neither of us will be able to move on. Either way, i appreciate the give and take of the discussion, it definitely gave me something to think about :)

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  100. Evelyn Lafont
    Mar 02, 2011 @ 10:52:17

    @Jane: I can definitely see your POV, but I feel like all the responsibility is being placed on authors to either put out a fake persona or just be quiet so readers can enjoy their books. I don’t know that anyone in this discussion is definitively right or wrong, I just don’t think it’s fair or reasonable to expect authors to basically be read and not heard.

    So again, I’m forced to wonder what my responsibility as a reader is to learn how to ignore or compartmentalize experiences.

    One great example that came up a couple of times in this thread is of an author (or authors) who act superior to others and as though they should be treated differently than other authors. I completely agree that this kind of attitude sucks and will not make me like you as a person. But truthfully, what do I really know about *why* you are acting that way? Are you overcompensating for your own insecurity? Are you trying to put up a front so you can’t get hurt if someone is critical of your work? Are you just a douche with an unreasonable love of yourself?

    I can’t know, so I’m not going to judge you as a person. Instead, I’m going to judge whether or not reading your books gives me a few extra happiness in my day.

    But I will say when it comes to situations like the Card issue, it WOULD be harder for me to ignore–and honestly, I may decide that I don’t want to give that author money on principal. I’m not sure, I still have to think through that one.

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  101. MrsJoseph
    Mar 02, 2011 @ 11:10:33

    @Evelyn Lafont: Truthfully, I don’t think that authors need to “put out a fake persona or just be quiet so readers can enjoy their books.” I think authors need to be just as circumspect everybody else. NO ONE has the ability to say and do whatever they want without consequences. Just surfing the web will show lots of people who have been fired (etc.) because of the stupid crap they say online. What makes writers different? Be honest but professional – just like every other business person in the world.

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  102. H
    Mar 02, 2011 @ 12:50:38

    I have always thought that knowing more about an author is potentially a double-edged sword for me – as a reader, wanting to find out about other titles or upcoming releases are natural extensions of enjoying a book, but it hasn’t always been a positive experience.

    The decision to stop buying (or not buy in the first place), is so subjective – I have never bought or read anything by Anne Perry (deliberately), no longer read OSC, stopped reading Janet Dailey way back when the plagiarism thing first hit, but I’m capable of ignoring “known bad stuff” if it suits me (of course it depends a lot on the Bad Stuff and the time-frame – author’s from previous generations may have held acceptable, by their day, opinions that don’t intrude or that I can accept as being not out of place for the time .. although sometimes even that reason/excuse isn’t enough for me to read/enjoy the tale.

    It doesn’t even need to be the result of a rant/article/whatever from the writer – sometimes authorial views soak the writing to such an extent that, if they jar with one’s one thoughts/beliefs/opinion, the story becomes a rant itself. I am cynical enough to become irritated by chapters of less than a page, expanding a novella into a 400 page tome (can be used as an effective “voice” for a book to help set the story/character, but when it is used in book after book, it just feels like padding.
    I don’t imagine for a moment that any lack of sales because I decide not to buy (or even borrow from the library) will affect the author, but the decision would alter my view of myself – and after all, it is my reading experience, so I can spend my money as I see fit. Access to author opinion is so much easier these days and there have been times I’ve been surprised on-line with comments from authors – things that make me wonder about other people (being told I should read a certain genre, because otherwise I’m being close-minded (never mind the many years I spent reading just that genre), or told why I choose to read another one – despite my statement to the contrary), it makes me cross, but every time I buy a book, decisions are made, conscious or not.

    Eek – better will be late for work!
    Thank you :)

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  103. Nahno McLein
    Mar 02, 2011 @ 17:28:57

    Like you, I would not read a book by someone that offends me. I thought before that the writer’s views would come out somehow in their books and that by itself would make me stop reading it. I guess I was wrong and writers are well able to conceal their personality.

    So how much to reveal. I think it’s worse than a tutor or a teacher. They shouldn’t be too personal, especially in younger ages. This keeps their status high. As a writer you should have your voice, but giving it too much reality makes the exploration less interesting.

    On blogger there are many happy Mom’s with husband and their successful writer’s life. I don’t know, but somehow this might be already too much, for it feels like I know enough about the person to read their work. if you know what I mean.
    Nahno ∗ McLein

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  104. Jody W.
    Mar 02, 2011 @ 17:41:58

    It’s interesting that this topic is cropping up in a number of places at the same time we’re being inundated with repeated assurances that the digital age is going to require a “new” kind of writer for that writer to succeed. No longer CAN writers just hide out and write, which it seems a number of readers would prefer. Writers like that aren’t going to get published. Supposedly. The new writers who are going to get published, supposedly, are the ones who are good at this networky thingamabob, who come with a platform or the ability to create one. That platform/author brand often consists of the writer and some representation of her personality–her opinions and thoughts and all that mess. It’s a tough transition for readers and writers alike, I guess.

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  105. P, Kirby
    Mar 02, 2011 @ 17:57:03

    @Jody W. Heh. I guess it’s a authors are damned if they do; damned if they don’t, scenario.

    It’s a matter of degrees for me. I’m very political and opinionated. But, I’d probably still buy a book penned by an author on the other side of the political divide.

    OTOH, if the author’s views are over-the-top racist or bigoted (Card, I’m looking at you), they’re going straight to the no buy, no way, Jose, list.

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  106. MrsJoseph
    Mar 02, 2011 @ 19:15:09

    @Jody W.: As a reader I am annoyed if the publisher is requiring authors to do their own PR work. Blogging, tweeting, etc isn’t for everyone and it’s pretty crappy for the pub to require you [as an author] to do that.

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  107. Roxie
    Mar 02, 2011 @ 20:40:56

    @Evelyn Lafont: Personally I think it’s a shared responsibility. Authors have the right to their opinions and the right to express them; they also have a responsibility to remember that their readers have opinions and beliefs – and respect a reader’s right to differ. Likewise readers have a responsibility to remember that authors are people with opinions, with the right to express them.

    I disagree with a number of my favorite authors’ political & religious beliefs. I don’t punish them or myself by refusing to read their books. If an author can avoid being a complete and total asshat, then I can be openminded enough to enjoy their books.

    I do have limits – if an author (or any other type of artist) manages to alienate me enough, then I don’t know if I’d be able to get past hurt feelings or disgust long enough to enjoy their work. If the author is good enough, I’d try.

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  108. Estara
    Mar 03, 2011 @ 15:17:28

    I think you’ve all said all the various aspects of pros and cons of being able to know more about an author than just his books – I have stopped buying certain author’s books, too.

    But I’ve also developed much stronger auto-buy and hyping tendencies for authors who have impressed me online, especially the ones who are naturally graceful in dialogue and whom I have exchanged quite a few comments with (in two cases they even felt comfortable enough sharing their read postal address with me).

    I have been able to be a pinch-hitter for a copy-edit read through on one of my favourite series, I have been used as a specialist on German behaviour (with some misgivings from my side because I’m half-Arabian ^^ in heritage and temper), and more than once to check on how to translate certain phrases – all this would never have been possible without the internet.

    These author blogs are now part of my daily reading and interacting and I certainly would count them as acquaintances at least (though that may just be wishful thinking).

    In conclusion, I think there is a lot of grey area around this subject.

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  109. Author On Vacation
    Mar 04, 2011 @ 06:51:46

    I wouldn’t stop buying an author’s books based on an author’s comments anymore than I would cease patronizing a company employing a bogus book reviewer.

    Tolerance is a wonderful thing, especially when it’s mutual.

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  110. Links of interest: March 4, 2011 « A Modern Hypatia
    Mar 04, 2011 @ 15:42:10

    [...] Author, one of the major romance genre blogs, takes on the question of “When does a reader know too much?” – in other words, how is the reading experience affected by having seen an author [...]

  111. Stumbling Over Chaos :: Linkity, now with knitting finished object!
    Mar 04, 2011 @ 15:44:03

    [...] Dear Author asks whether knowing too much about an author can ruin your enjoyment of that author&#82…. [...]

  112. Ell
    Mar 04, 2011 @ 18:24:34

    What I know about an author personally absolutely affects whether I read their stuff (not the only factor, but it’s a factor).

    I like it that way.

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  113. Author On Vacation
    Mar 04, 2011 @ 19:15:25

    I agree with Ell. Personal knowledge about an author probably should affect a reader’s choice to read the author’s work.

    Key words: “personal” and “knowledge.”

    I am not going to pretend for one moment my reading a few comments, interviews, or blogs provides me with personal knowledge regarding another human being. In fact, electronic communications are more likely to suffer poor “channel richness” than more direct types of communication.

    Words on a screen are exactly that. Words on a screen. Not personal knowledge.

    There IS one author I refuse to read. I am personally acquainted with the author. Although the author is multi-published and is well-established in the gay romance genre, I have frequently seen and heard the author ridicule the GBLT community, make fun of celebrities she suspects are “in the closet,” and criticize gay characters in other books for being “effeminate.”

    These is behavior/conversation I’ve witnessed over the dinner table, not on somebody’s blog.

    I do read the author’s hetero romances, but I just don’t see how a person expressing such tendencies could have anything unique or interesting to offer the gay romance genre. Her books are pretty well-received, so readers must be happy with them. Nor would I expect her readers to be less than satisfied since she is a competent author and the readers don’t know her personally.

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  114. Sirius
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 13:04:27

    Interesting, as many said I do not go out of my way to read authors’ blogs, interviews, I do not follow anybody on Twitter (heck I am not on Twitter), however from time to time I do read interviews and blogs of the authors I like. And as many have said it may influence my reading choices only if author does or say something I consider extreme. Like many brought Orson Scott Card’s example. However there are some authors whose views I consider pretty well, not something I support, shall we say and I am still reading them. The reason I am reading them is because while I extremely dislike some stuff they did or said, I fell in love with their writing before I read their other “jems”. I guess I can’t deny myself the pleasure of their writing, even if I would not want to shake hands with them in real life?

    But it all depends I suppose, see RE” Orson Scott Card again, there is a certain threshold after which I refuse to support anybody no matter how much I love their writing.

    Yoy hate gays, jews, anybody really? Bye bye see you, let others support you.

    Author on vacation, I find the distinction you are making confusing. I mean, I understand that if what you are reading online is sonebody else saying: Oh Author so and so said such and such thing.

    I would never refuse to read the author based on hearsay, be it online or in rl. But what if the author herself online in the interview says “I hate gays”? Sorry for running with this example, but I am primarily m/m reader, so this is actually the easiest one and you brought the similar example too.

    So, my question is why would it matter to you? Especially since you seem to acknowledhe that if you will personally know about person’s views, it is possible for you to not read the author based on that.

    I mean, I understand if you doubt the authenticity of the interview, but if you know for sure that is her words how is it not personal knowledge, and does it matter whether it is online or real life?

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  115. Author On Vacation
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 21:57:36

    @Sirius:

    Hi, Sirius.

    My issue with much of the e-communication used to promote authors is somewhat fractured and imperfect.

    Connotation and other subtlety related to language is compromised in e-communication. It is also an extremely casual communication, so people are often inclined to reply without great thought.

    I’m not saying people are dishonest in blogs and e-interviews, only that they may not always articulate themselves clearly and their actual meaning can be lost. A comment intended as “light” might come across to the audience as something entirely different.

    I’d rather give people benefit of the doubt than misjudge their character when I’ve never even met them.

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  116. Sirius
    Mar 06, 2011 @ 13:57:56

    @Author On Vacation: I think we are just disagreeing over the degrees. I certainly agree that there is a potential for misinterpretation of what had been said online and exaggerations, and lies, etc, etc.

    Only you seem to think that it is possible to misinterpret anything that had been said online and to me there are certain things that are not possible to misinterpret and over this I absolutely refuse to give author benefit of the doubt even if I never met her in my life. RE: author says I hate guys, how exactly it is possible to misinterpret it? Unless of course the whole thing had been a lie and author will come back and say that she never said. Then hey, I will consider giving her books another chance. Otherwise – no, never.

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  117. John
    Mar 06, 2011 @ 19:57:09

    Just got back from my Florida trip. Fun times. Glad to see everyone had a reaction to the article – and thanks for taking the time to consider and comment.

    It’s a hard position to take, and the scenarios are certainly personal and case-by-case. That being said, I’m all for saying an author should try to have a social network platform IF they can maintain it. Websites are a must for me (so if you haven’t updated it in two years, consider me turned off) but social platforms work if the author is on enough to actually *have* a presence in the first place. You only tweet two times a month? You probably shouldn’t even have a Twitter in the first place.

    As a modern, young reader – social networking is nice, but a regularly answered email and updated website/blog can be helpful. Sometimes it may cause you to have backlash, but that’s up to your actions (and you can never be liked by everyone anyway).

    The comments were great to read after such a long break. I’m glad people thought about the idea a lot.

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  118. Carradee
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 07:48:36

    In general, I tend to react to the author’s books more than the author behavior. When an author shares enough info to the point that my innate response is ambivalence, I stop exposing myself to it. Problem solved.

    If a book offends me, I’ll take a deep breath and consider if it could’ve been the character‘s perspective and not the author’s. If merely the character’s, I’ll give the author another try or two.

    And then there are the authors that use their books as soap boxes. I usually disagree with those authors, so the rant has to be something I can ignore. I have hot buttons. Fortunately, they rarely appear even in speculative fiction, but I have hot buttons. And I’m grateful that I generally don’t have to worry about how I react to those.

    P.S. I’m actually an Orson Scott Card fan. His books always provide an interesting read. But that doesn’t mean I agree with every word he says.

    …After reading that linked post, I don’t see where the claim that he hates homosexuals comes from. Yes, he believes that homosexuality is a sin. He believes the same of prostitution. He doesn’t hate either party.

    He’s protesting the people who claim to follow his faith but refuse to acknowledge that the tenants of his faith don’t allow for homosexual behavior. He’s also pointing out that homosexuals call for “tolerance”, while not tolerating those who politely believe that homosexuality is a sin.

    He does mention the homosexual-haters to condemn them, so maybe someone misread it and thought he was describing his own beliefs at that point?

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  119. Jane
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 09:20:38

    @Carradee I think those who are homosexual have a hard time parsing out the “hate the sin, not the sinner”. Equating homosexuality with prostitution is a big part of the problem.

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  120. Tasha
    Apr 20, 2011 @ 12:29:04

    OSC sits on the board of NOM, the National Organization for Marriage, which among other things played a huge role in getting California’s Prop 8 passed.

    Also, anyone who says something like, “Laws against homosexual behavior should remain on the books, not to be indiscriminately enforced against anyone who happens to be caught violating them, but to be used when necessary to send a clear message to those who flagrantly violate society’s regulation of sexual behavior cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society,” has no basis to stand on in terms of asking others for tolerance.

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