Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Love the author, love the book?
I don't know if it's because of what the Internet is doing to our brains, or just because I don't have much time, but these days I almost always have a few books in progress, and sometimes I set them aside quite a long time before going back. But it is rare I'll go back to a book more than a couple times if it still hasn't grabbed me.
Make Art). I loved the speech he gave at this year's London Book Fair (Be Like Dandelions). And I especially loved his 2013 New Year's wish, which goes like this:
May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art (write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can). And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.
This is the way I want to live, and this quote was a refuge for me during this year's Monty Python Event.
So about a week ago, I picked up NEVERWHERE again, and I've had a hard time putting it down (alas, revisions, they do interfere with the TBR). I am truly enjoying it. What changed? Is it about the book itself, or about the fact I like the author's personality? Whichever the case, if I hadn't started taking an interest in the author, I might not have picked up the book again, and I think that's worth something.
Here is another example -- Hugh Howey, author of WOOL. (Feel free to comment on WHY these are both male SF authors. I'm not sure if it is significant, but I suspect it has to do with the fact there are few female SF/F authors who are so public.)
I read the WOOL omnibus edition last year, and I was an instant fan. Gripping, character-driven post-apocalyptic sci-fi with strong female protagonists and even a touch of romance. Wahoo! As I tweeted to #fridayreads shortly after I started the book, dude can write. No wonder he's sold so many damn books.
A month or so back, Howey did something that pissed off a lot of people. I don't want to make this post about that, or jump into the controversy. But if you don't know what I'm talking about, a Google search will quickly catch you up. You can read a recent explanation/apology from Howey here.
When I read Howey's original post, I could see why it exploded in his face. While I'm not going to comment on what he did, I will say that I spent a LOT of time thinking about it, considering the various viewpoints of those defending and crucifying him (and everything in between). As authors/public figures I think we must pay close attention to events like these.
My question for the purposes of this post: Did it affect my enjoyment of his work, or my desire to read more? For me, the answer is no. This could be in part because I had already read his work and become a fan, and through that I feel I know something about him as a person. It also reminds me that he IS a person, in addition to being an author and public figure, and all persons do things they regret.
The question I will never be able to answer, though, is would I have picked up his book if I'd discovered the controversy beforehand. There are so many books, so little time, and it doesn't take much these days to nudge one off my list. And honestly I would have been the loser in that; it's a fabulous series. I'll be interested to hear what my co-bloggers have to say about this, since I don't believe they have read WOOL yet.
Okay, one more example and then I want to hear what you think! I have told the story many times about how Stephenie Meyer's personal success story -- writing from the heart, believing in her story and herself -- gave me a much-needed shove toward my first serious attempt at completing a novel. In fact, I ended up submitting to (and contracting with) her literary agency.
I read and enjoyed the TWILIGHT series. And I intend to read THE HOST eventually (see previous comment about the TBR). Because she was so open about her experience and encouraging to other writers, I will probably always be favorably disposed toward her work.
So do I have some kind of conclusion here? In reading back through the post, I think I've concluded that writer personalities do matter, but they are only one aspect of the whole marketing package. Not a deal breaker, not a deal maker. And individual circumstances have to be factored in. If you have a stack of NYT bestsellers, your personality may not be so important. Maybe not the case if you're a debut author with a knack for offending people.
And none of this takes into account the fact more books will be sold when there is controversy.
This is fairly new territory for all of us -- having so much access to authors, as well as channels for broadcasting both reader and writer opinions. It certainly presents both opportunities and pitfalls! I love the game creator character
in the YouTube series THE GUILD. He is paralyzed by negative gamer feedback (most of it downright nasty and personal). He keeps spreadsheets of comments, and they've made him so neurotic he can no longer create.
What do you think? Which authors do you love as people, and why? Do your feelings about the person affect the way you feel about their work?