Friday, May 15, 2009

Author, author

Five authors in one car and the talk is bound to turn to famous authors. The newbie was really distressed to hear one of her favorite children’s authors was not a very pleasant person. She felt her enjoyment of this author’s work was forever tainted by knowing that this woman was not kind and generous but prickly and abrasive.

At the time, I thought she was na├»ve. People are people and not all of them are warm and fuzzy. I’m okay with that.

Then tickets for a James Taylor concert went on sale. And for the first time in a long time, my visceral reaction was no. I didn’t want to see him play. And I know why. I’d found out he’d been like in his younger days.

I’d read the book Girls Like Us by Sheila Weller, which is about Carole King, Joni Mitchell and Carly Simon. A wonderful read, full of insights about the sixties and fun facts about the singer/songwriters’ lives. And loves. And, I have to tell you James Taylor doesn’t come off very well.

I know he was young, and an addict to boot, but he was a jerk. He’s not that person today, but the songs that l loved were all written in the time period. Now instead of insightful and meaningful, I read the lyrics as indulgent and misogynous.

It shouldn’t matter, I know. The author/songwriter should be judged on her work. Nothing else. But people react. They don’t like what that author stood for, who she voted for in the last election.

The internet has made it much easier to get to “know” your favorite authors. I’m thrilled when Dana Stabenow comments on my Facebook page or when Joshilyn Jackson writes about the difficulty of sitting down to write every day. On the other hand, language used by another author on a blog turned me off.

So my question is this: in this era of Facebook/Twitter/blogging, when is too much information too much?

What about you? Has meeting an author turned you on or off her work? Has something someone tweeted or posted offended you enough to swear off buying their books? Do you worry about the image you’re projecting as an author?


Alan Orloff said...

A very thought-provoking post.

I'm sure meeting a scroogy writer has turned me off to his or her work, but lately I've had many of the "opposite" reactions.

During the past year, I've met a lot of terrific writers, and because of my pleasant interactions with them, I've been motivated to buy their books and read them.

And yes, I try to be as nice as possible when I'm in public (in person or in cyberspace).

If I want to be curmudgeonly, I wait until I'm alone. Then I can grumble and curse all I want.

Terri Thayer said...

It's true. Mystery authors are a great bunch. The conventions are filled with lovely, generous people. Think it has something to do with the fact that we kill people in our imaginations all day long.

Keith Raffel said...

Yes, I am the only man in America who read Girls Like Us. The letdown for me was reading that three avatars of 1970's feminine power -- Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and Carly Simon -- seemed so dependent on men for validation. I was never that high on James Taylor or Jackson Browne so the way they acted didn't surprise me. BTW, met James's brother Livingston a couple of years ago. He did seem like a good guy. Back to the subject at hand. I remember meeting a writer-hero of mine (not crime fiction) and what an asshole! I think that's the way it goes. I have discovered some of the greats, some authors who seem to be talking directly to me on the page, are not nice people. I can live with that. But of course we crime fiction authors are all (okay 95%) great people.

Jessica Lourey said...

There are three a*holes in the mystery world. Everyone can come up with the first one, but the other two take longer.

The rest of us are way nice. :)

Terri Thayer said...

Way nice, Jess. Waaayy nice.

That book, Keith, reminded me that the sixties were more like the fifties. Carole gets married because she's pregnant, Joni gives up a child born out of wedlock. Very fifties behavior.

Carly would have been messed up no matter what decade she was born in.

Deborah Sharp said...

I agree with Alan ... VERY thought-provoking. And the nosy ex-reporter in me must know: who was the author whose blog post turned you off (Please, God, hope it wasn't me!)
I do worry about my ''public'' image, even to the point i'm reconsidering the bumper sticker on my truck ... to me, it's ironic, a nod to my books' downhome setting and my own one-generation-out-of-the-trailer-park roots ... but offensive to some, I'm sure.

Sarah Grimm said...

I stopped reading a NYT bestselling author after attending a conference years ago and seeing how she treated her fellow authors. I won't go into details, but she was extremely selfish and didn't care who she hurt.

On the other hand, like Alan, I've met a lot of wonderful people at conferences and online and bought their books as a result.

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