Authors may write outside the lines, but what happens when they act outside the lines? Can you separate the work from the author? Or is it possible for authors to forever tarnish their books by their behaviors?
Does how authors act matter? Should it?
One extremely successful mystery author I know of once complained on her cell phone - while she was still signing books - about how many people remained in her line. A bookseller told me that story. I haven’t read anything by her since.
But then again, truth be told, I had never been a huge fan.
What about you? Would you keep reading books by someone who was rumored to be a jerk (which could just be tiredness or a lack of social graces)? Standoffish (which could be just shy)? Boastful (which could just be the very human impulse to share good news)?
I was a fan of Anne Perry’s historical mysteries for a long, long time. I read each one of her books nearly as soon as it came out. In the early 1990s, I went to see her at a local mystery book store. Many women in the audience dressed up in period costume, as if they were characters in her historical mysteries.
Only a few weeks after that, the movie Heavenly Creatures came out. It was based on a true story - two 15-year-old girls in New Zealand who planned and carried out the murder of one girl’s mother. Their motive was to stop the woman from moving out of the country with her daughter and separating the two girls.
Journalists tracked down what had happened to the teens. One grew up, changed her name, and became Anne Perry. She seldom speaks of the crime, but clearly accepts her guilt.
I haven’t read her books since I learned about her past. But I feel torn about it. I believe that people can be forgiven, can be redeemed. I don’t begrudge her her success. I’m not sure why I can’t move on and read her books as I used to.
Would you be able to?
This one is the easiest for me - and the awfullest. A local man, KP Bath, had written two middle-grade books published by Little Brown: The Secret of Castle Cant and Escape from Castle Cant. The books were generally well-reviewed. The writing community in Portland is close-knit, but I never crossed paths with him (thankfully).
Last year, Bath was sentenced to six years in prison for possessing child pornography. On his computer, the FBI found images of children, some of whom were bound and appeared to be being violently attacked. They also found a book manuscript on his computer, possibly Flip Side, which had been due out from Little Brown. The publisher dropped the book after the allegations were made public.
Could you separate this man’s awful actions from what were, by all accounts, pretty good books? Or would you join the many commenters on Amazon who suggest that the books should be burned?
Authors behaving badly
With the Internet, there no secrets. Get drunk at a conference and your antics will be Tweeted and blogged by morning. Tweet something stupid yourself, or put it on your own blog, and even if you go back and delete it, it will still live on in cyberspace.
How do you feel when you hear about a writer behaving badly? Have you ever stopped reading books you loved just because you had been turned off by the author as a person?