Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Hating a Hater

There is a particular book that I've wanted to read for a very, very long time.  I have, however, refused to read it because the author of that book has beliefs that I find repugnant, and is outspoken about them.  Since I became an author, I began to wonder if I was being an idiot for sticking to this decision.  I mean, buying the book doesn't mean I condone or agree with that author's beliefs?  Right?

I don't know, and that's where I'm having an issue.  I'm not going to say who the author is or what the beliefs are...I don't actually think that's important (and I'd really kind of prefer if no one speculated on it either).  I'm fairly sure that I have political/social/religious views that, if people knew about, would cause them to think differently about my work.  But I suppose that's why I do my best to keep those aspects of my life private.

Social networking and the internet have changed the author-reader relationship.  It used to be that you could idolize your hero from afar.  Now you can idolize him/her on Twitter, Facebook, their blog, and YouTube.  You can chat directly with your favorite star.  And I think that creates problems.  Because what do you do when you find out that your hero is a lunatic?  When you read a book, the author is a ghost in the pages.  When they become real, solidify, they risk tainting their work with their personal beliefs.

Maybe I should be better at compartmentalizing my feelings about authors and my feelings about their work, but I'm only human.  So I suppose this blog post is a kind of a plea to new authors or anyone who's trying to break into writing.  I'm not saying you shouldn't have opinions or that you shouldn't let your opinions be known.  I'm just saying that you should be aware that your opinions could keep you from reaching readers, so maybe you should pick your battles wisely.  That's all.


  1. As an aspiring writer there are three things I will never do online: write about politics, write about religion, and say something negative about another writer's work (unless it is part of a CONSTRUCTIVE critique that the writer himself requested).

    Great post. Thanks Shaun!

  2. Shaun, I think this is valuable advice. It's too easy to just let loose on the internet, without thinking about the impact of your words on future agent, editor, or reader relationships.

    It's one reason I use the pen name, to be honest. I can keep my authorial presentation authorial.

  3. I agree with you, and yet I disagree with you. It's definitely a no-brainer that we all need to be careful what we say and do on the Interwebs. It's all out there and will continue to be out there for all time (or until all computers implode). Anyone who ignores this golden rule is fooling themselves.

    On the other hand however, I think you're possibly depriving yourself of some good books (assuming the author in question is a good writer). There are a ton of actors/writers/singers that I may disagree with when talking about their personal beliefs, but I can't say I don't enjoy the product they put out. The thing for me is, I don't care what they're personal beliefs are as long as I can view the product (and enjoy it) for what it is - despite the creator, in some cases.

  4. Eric - I agree with your disagreement. The author in question is highly praised and most people are shocked that I refuse to read this particular book, or any of the author's books.

    Yet, I can't bring myself to do it. This author's particular view is so despicable to me that I can't overcome my distaste of the person. I think that if I could find some kind of scholarly merit (like reading Mein Kampf despite Hitler's horrific views) in the book, I could justify doing it. But the truth is that I'd be reading the book for pure pleasure and it's more important for me to stand up and refuse to support this writer's career than to satisfy my own entertainment needs.

    And I'd never take a stance against an artist who, for example, liked a political candidate that I didn't or was of a religious bent that I didn't care for.

    For example, my mother refuses to watch any movie written or directed by Victor Salva, who was convicted of molesting a 12 y/o. For her, she can't separate the movie from the man. I happen to agree with her on that count. Anyone who engages in hate speech, or extreme criminal behavior, makes it difficult for me to see their art without seeing the things they've said/done.

    And to a smaller extent, I think all artists need to be aware that their views make them targets. If I said I was a hard-core republican (which I'm not saying) some people might write me off because of that, which is why I keep my political views to myself.

    So I see what you're saying, and I agree, but I still can't get past it.

  5. I have a tough time separating an artist and their work, especially if the artist repulses me in some way. I don't like thinking that the money I spend on his or her book may go to support a cause or organization I don't personally support.

    I did realize recently that while I may not buy a book just because I like an author's personality, I will definitely avoid a book if an author acts like a jerk.

  6. I can completely relate, Shaun. This has happened to me more than once.

    Most recently, I read a book in a popular series a few months ago, mildly enjoyed it, and considered reading more of the series. But when I looked at this author's website, at some of his/her posts regarding other writers, I was just too pissed to read anymore.

    It's not that I think buying the books condones his/her behavior, it's more that I don't want him/her having my money.

    It has been VERY hard for me to not rant about it on my own blog, but that would be hypocritical and self-righteous, so I just vote with my dollar.

    He/she hasn't noticed my objection yet, much to my chagrin...


  7. I'm dying of curiosity, but I'm going to guess with a riddle. The author you won't read shares a first name with the mastermind behind the most famous caricature of Will R. H. ever. The middle name is shared with the leader of a famous team of particularly evolved humans. The last name is shared with a bunch of characters who particularly menaced Alice in Wonderland at the end of a strange game. There, now I'm being just as cryptic as you!

    If so, I understand what you are saying about this person. Repulsive views. Great books though. Great book if I have it right.

  8. I read this post right after you put it up and thought: I bet I know who he's talking about and what book, but he asked us not to speculate, so I won't bother commenting.

    I started reading Beautiful Creatures today, and the epigraph brought this blog post to mind. It is:

    Darkness cannot drive out the darkness;
    only light can do that.
    Hate cannot drive out hate;
    only love can do that.

    --Martin Luther King, Jr.

    If it's not too presumptuous of me, let me suggest another strategy. Read the book. It's not like you have to support the author financially to do so, after all. If it's the author/book I suspect, you'll probably love it. Drop the author a note. Let him know how much you loved his work. And how difficult you found it to read, given his position. If you're a member of the group he hates and willing to tell him so, do that too.

    I'm going to take my own advice and drop the author I'm thinking of a note of my own. It probably won't help, but it's better than silently enjoying his books, which is all I've done until now.

  9. Mike - You make a good point and I'm going to have to consider it. :)

  10. Interesting topic! I'm not sure what I'd do in this situation. You've given me something to think about.


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