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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

There Is No Such Thing...

EDITORIAL NOTE: what follows is MY OPINION about trends in behavior amongst authors and their various audiences including reviewers and other authors. It is in no way meant to be taken as a treatise on what you should read or enjoy. Please do not take it that way. 

I've been following a few recent internecine public spats in the author world.

It's not a new thing, this concept of authors behaving badly, especially towards each other.

 I was recently dismayed to find out that one of my favorite authors (although I surely don't agree with all his politics) Jonathan Franzen has his very own hater group in the form of none other than successful  authors Jody Picoult and some other one I have never heard of but who is a NYT Best seller apparently. They got themselves in a snit over the fact that Franzen's most recent (amazing yet difficult) novel "Freedom" got such great press and he got the cover of time Magazine (this was a couple of years ago but people are still "belly aching" about it apparently). Wonder how Ms. Picoult feels about all the covers her best selling compatriot E.L. James has gotten since?

I can surmise from this that making a zillion dollars telling stories about teenagers dying and selling them to Hollywood is not enough for some authors to just...enjoy? Comparing "My Sister's Keeper" with books like "Freedom" is to my English Lit Degree Holding Mind sort of like comparing "East of Eden" with "War and Peace." Two good and famous authors writing two very different books for two very different reading audiences. Both well executed in their own right, and, given the opportunity, books that are worth reading. But comparing them is an exercise in total futility.

But my point is more along the lines of ... how much harm do you do yourself as an author when you react to such attacks? Having been the victim of a pretty nasty twitter flaming campaign last year, when a few bloggers/reviewers/readers felt that my book Paradise Hops was, um, let's say, "unsatisfactory to their needs as readers" and felt a need to attack pretty much everything I have written and claim that I was "an author worth avoiding at all costs." And having been talked down off the ledge after engaging with them in direct messages asking that they are welcome to talk with me about what they didn't like about any of my 20 or so books--because one of them said "this is my 7th book by this author and I can tell you she sucks"I come at this sort of thing with a bit of knowledge at least on my own, small, scale.

There are all sorts of examples of authors coming to the defense of their work in inadvisable ways. From sending your husband out to engage with a bad reviewer, reporting bad reviews to the FBI, to having a public snit on your blog about being witch hunted (when your book is being optioned by Warner Brothers), to big-timers dissing dead famous authors, and video Best Selling Author author-on-Best Selling author rants all the way up to our new favorite "OMG did you see what E.L. James did at RT?" (I didn't attend, nor do I ever plan to but this "recap" of the craziness is just a perfect example of why we should all ... grow the hell up and find something worthwhile to care about).

Authors love to hear themselves talk, or read their own words repeated. But as tempting as it may be, when my Stewart Realty series REALLY hits it big and I am in the HBO Green Room watching it be filmed with a cast of my choosing, I won't take the time to slam anyone else, no matter how much I think my hero is hotter, my plots stronger or my cable deal better. Promise. It's what grown ups do, the non-back stabbing thing. It's easy to diss those who are way up on top of the mountain  where we wish we could get a toehold. Just google "Fifty Shades of Crap" and see what you get. But honestly, no matter how much you cringe when you hear the phrase "holy crap," or read the word "Laters" (that one gets me every time) you gotta get your head around the fact that the dang book touched some kind of nerve that we are all coat tailing on to some extent.  And there will always be "that book" that is loved, hated, blessed as life changing and excoriated as the reason why our youth are culturally illiterate. It's "erotic romance" this year, next year it will be something else.
...this is funny...

I don't care for 95% of what's being touted as "best selling" and I really don't like all the copy catting that's going on which, in typical pop culture fashion, is being snapped up by publishing houses and movie studios alike.  But it will run its course, just like everything else, including gut wrenching stories about kids with cancer (Hey! Jodi Picoult, you did that first. Maybe you should pick a fight with John Greene instead?). But reading about all this nonsense behavior between authors who should know better or at least be too busy enough counting their money and thanking their fans to care? I really, really don't like that.

 I'll give you a real estate comparison: we all once thought the "all white kitchen" was the bomb. Then, everybody got a white kitchen. Now, we hate them and they are a reason to bid a house down because the kitchen "needs work." I think we will get to the point in the next year or two when the thought of a sexual Dom and his innocent new girlfriend makes us all want to stick our fingers down our collective throats. But for now, it's what's hot. I've written a version or two of myself, sans the "innocent" part. And my advice to authors tempted to behave badly in public when their version of it falls flat while others are flying high? Don't. Because you lose credibility. Because there IS such a thing as bad publicity.

I'm not saying don't have an opinion about books you read.  Just resist the urge to turn your green eyed monster into a personal rant, on line. It's bad form.

But, just so you know, this sort of thing has gone on for a long time. I give you, the top ten harshest "author on author" insults (there are more):

10. Henry James on Edgar Allan Poe (1876)
“An enthusiasm for Poe is the mark of a decidedly primitive stage of reflection.”
9. Truman Capote on Jack Kerouac
“That’s not writing, that’s typing.”
8. Elizabeth Bishop on J.D. Salinger
“I HATED [Catcher in the Rye]. It took me days to go through it, gingerly, a page at a time, and blushing with embarrassment for him every ridiculous sentence of the way. How can they let him do it?”
7. D.H. Lawrence on Herman Melville (1923)
“Nobody can be more clownish, more clumsy and sententiously in bad taste, than Herman Melville, even in a great book like ‘Moby Dick’….One wearies of the grand serieux. There’s something false about it. And that’s Melville. Oh dear, when the solemn ass brays! brays! brays!”
6. W. H. Auden on Robert Browning
“I don’t think Robert Browning was very good in bed. His wife probably didn’t care for him very much. He snored and had fantasies about twelve-year-old girls.”
5. Evelyn Waugh on Marcel Proust (1948)
“I am reading Proust for the first time. Very poor stuff. I think he was mentally defective.”
4. Mark Twain on Jane Austen (1898)
“I haven’t any right to criticize books, and I don’t do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticize Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can’t conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Every time I read ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin-bone.” THIS ONE IS MY FAVORITE.
3. Virginia Woolf on James Joyce
“[Ulysses is] the work of a queasy undergraduate scratching his pimples.”
2. William Faulkner on Mark Twain (1922)
“A hack writer who would not have been considered fourth rate in Europe, who tricked out a few of the old proven sure fire literary skeletons with sufficient local color to intrigue the superficial and the lazy.”
1. D.H. Lawrence on James Joyce (1928)
“My God, what a clumsy olla putrida James Joyce is! Nothing but old fags and cabbage stumps of quotations from the Bible and the rest stewed in the juice of deliberate, journalistic dirty-mindedness.”
Yeah, those guys knew how to toss an INSULT.

*egregious promotional moment because I don't have a Jamie Mcguire/E.L. James/Sylvia Day karma fairy on my shoulder*
Three of my personal favorite Liz Crowe books:

Essence of Time

Paradise Hops

Vegas Miracle

are all on sale right now! Just $1.99 for each of these three novels. I've made the titles live to link to Amazon but they are on sale at B&N and ARe as well. Click here for excerpts and blurbs.

Behave yourselves. It's a jungle out here...

I can be found:
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Melissa Keir said...

I think that Essence of Time is my favorite.. Then Vegas Miracle, but I love all your books. It's like choosing your favorite child.

Why do you think that we (even actors do it to each other- I'm sure presidents do it too) as people feel the need to belittle others? Karma has a way of stabbing you. I love how supportive other authors have been toward me, esp. Liz. That's something I'll take with me to my grave! And when you are on HBO, I'll say I knew you!

Amber Skyze said...

As someone who has also gone through this I can relate. Someone attacked my books and NAME. I decided to take the high road (after I commented once) and ignore this reviewer/reader.
What I find funny about the person who said she "read 7 books" and they all suck. Why did you read 7? She found something appealing to come back for more, because most don't continue buying from an author they don't like.
I don't understand author bashing from fellow authors. We're all here for the same reasons. I prefer to support and lift up authors, personally.

Jamie Salisbury said...

Bravo! I couldn't have said it better! If you don't like something, just move on, don't make a public spectical of yourself. It may come back to bite you in the arse! Unfortunately this is the era we live in (social media), and I totally agree, if you're a huge bestselling author, don't you have more important things to do than cut down other authors, one of which may outsell and outshine you one day?
Love your books Liz! Keep on!

Tina Donahue said...

If we could all just write and get along. *sigh*

At times, writing reminds me of being in high school with the mean girls (yep, I went to an all girl high school). I learned early on that the best offense is to ignore people who are critical or say mean things. You are not going to change their minds by trying to reason with them. They have a right to their opinion, and by god, they will drag you through the mud, if necessary, to protect that right.

Nothing is as disturbing to people like that than your indifference. There is power in it. It proves you don't give a crap what they say. You don't have to defend yourself. You know you have talent.

Go with that. Keeps the blood pressure down. Takes the wind out of their sails. :)

Molly Daniels said...

I'm with Amber. Your attacker read SEVEN books before deciding 'you suck'? There must have been SOMETHING which drew her to you. Jeez!

I'm looking forward to Paradise Hops as well as the others:)

Take the high road every time. Don't sink to their level.

Harlie Reader said...

*sigh* This kind of behavior makes me sad. As a blogger/reviewer, I've had my share of "you liked that book, it was crap" attack and have lost followers because of it.

I've bled for certain authors to get their books promo'd and reviewed and I've had the actual author bad mouth me. Its not just authors that behave badly.

I almost shut down the blog over a review that I did awhile back because the rating wasn't high enough. Yes, high enough.

As a published author, I didn't get the love and support that I thought I would get when my debut came out. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Its an uphill battle for me...damned if I do, and damned if I don't.

Chin up Liz. I love your books and will continue to read them and support you in everything that you do.

Oh...Rob/Blake/Lila AWESOMENESS!


Mattie O'Brien said...

Hear, hear! I'm glad you included your Top 10. While there is a very long tradition of taking fellow authors down occasionally, at least they did it cleverly and within the craft itself.


Good stuff, Liz! I got a bad review because Batman wasn't in my books. Really?

I don't want every story to be the same. They would bore me.

Seems I have to work hard for my readers-one at a time.

You are great!

Rose Anderson said...

To claim to have read 7 and each one sucked...hmm, what would a psychiatrist have to say about that odd behavior? There's a saying - the right to shake your fist ends at the other person's nose. I think when it crosses the line from "hated this book" to defamation, it's time to find a lawyer.

To me this bad behavior is like other carbuncles on the butt of society. Our media only tells us of bad things until you start to believe there are only bad things to hear about. FOX news has done really well for itself that way. TV shows are just plain mean-spirited. Talent shows rip the contestant's hearts out (ya gotta be cruel to be kind)Bullying is thought to be so hilarious, the people who do it post it on youtube.

When someone goes out of their way to be mean to you, it's a clear reflection of how they hate themselves. They can't be "big" in their eyes, until someone is made small. I say hats off to any author's success. This isn't the easiest business to make a name in, however brief the shooting star.

Great post Liz. Loved the old insults. Makes my own thorny "if you can borrow this book, then read it. Don't buy it." sound like a caress. lol Best luck.

Naomi Bellina said...

I couldn't agree more. Really, why some people feel the need to tear others down is beyond me. It feels sooooo much better to pass along words of praise and encouragement. Great post, Liz.

Nina Pierce said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nina Pierce said...

I've been catching snippets of authors mentioning the bad behavior on FB and had wondered what was going on. But it always hurts my heart to find out the exact details.

Publishing is a haaaard business. Writers pour their hearts into the words on the page. A well written bad review is hard enough to take, but when a colleague trashes not only the work but an author it tears at our very soul.

But you know, there's something comforting knowing that even the big names have been dragged through the proverbial mud by the peers.

Great post, Liz!

Denysé Bridger said...

Bravo to you, Liz! I've been harping on this very topic for some time myself, and it gets to the point where you really do just want to scream. Professionalism? Oh hell, what a concept - if you have to explain it to some of these "authors" you've already lost the battle. I find myself in the midst of a mess such as this right now because of an interview I conducted at the request of CTR. Honestly... as Tina said, why can't we all just write and get along. You don't have to support 1000% every other author out there, but you do owe yourself and them the courtesy of behaving like a civilized human being.

Good luck with all your books, and may you one day be in the cover of Time magazine, and any other you seek!!

Paris said...

I'm still laughing over Mark Twain's comment about Jane Austen. I think that one was my favorite also.

I don't understand author bashing. I don't understand reviewers/bloggers attacking an author personally. I agree that they have a right to their opinion but when they start getting snarky, I ignore them--and I don't trust their opinions.

Katalina Leon said...

We all get attacked. It's awful. There's nothing in this world that will please everyone.
Authors are particularly prone to loathing other authors! The closer the writing style the stronger the hate, which I find interesting. The "Little Book Of Poison" has some of the harshest quotes. The most riviled author of all time? William Shakespeare.

Liz said...

thanks for all your great comments guys. Yes, this is a crazy business, one where if you fail you are sympathized with but if you succeed you set yourself up as a target for jealous hatred which because of our easy-access info-based world will nearly always manifest itself as public vitriol. I found this article today, in keeping with our theme:

Cara Marsi said...

Love this, Liz. Thanks for posting. I feel the same way as you about authors behaving badly. I've read the trashy things Picoult has said about indie books. My feeling is as yours--if I were making millions on my books and had my books made into movies, I'd be a happy clam and wouldn't begrudge anyone else success. And why would I care what others are writing so long as I was happy with what I was doing? I don't understand Picoult at all. Love the author quotes.

JL Walters said...

Negative comments, I've received my share of those but in my almost 77 years I've learned to ignore them. Always amazes me when I read remarks from other writers bashing other writers. Do they not have their own stories to tell. I read a lot but if I don't enjoy the book, I say "OH well, at least I bought it on my gift card" and move on. Guess these things have always happened. I always wonder if they did among writers in those days before the printing press and the internet

M. S. Spencer said...

The Virginia Woolf comment is my favorite, mainly because I totally agree with her about Joyce. Snits don't bother me--there will always be immature, rude people in the world; of course it's worse when they have outsized egos. But in truth, what silly pathetic little people they are! And what a waste of precious life time. Even if they do write good books :). M. S.

Liz said...

I was not aware that Ms. Picoult had a go at me, that is to say, an "indie writer." what a b*tch. excuse my french. she needs to step off, and go write another book and make more money or something.

jean hart stewart said...

Wonderful column. So much I could comment on but I'll just say I've learned to ignore the bad stuff (as much as I'm able) and keep on writing. Not always easy.

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Fiona McGier said...

I read an essay recently that said the problem is that we authors assume there is only a finite amount of readers who will read a finite amount of books, and if someone else's book is being read, it means ours isn't. The writer said that was nonsense, and that the average voracious reader always has time for one more book.

While that's true, the only thing I'm really envious of is the publicity that some books seem to engender. So to that respect, I guess that some authors really believe the old adage about "No such thing as bad publicity", and figure that if you've heard of them, even for crappy reactions to other people's books, at least you've heard of them.

Sometimes being anonymous and producing books that only get read by a handful of people in the world is demoralizing. But my view is life always shoves lemons your can laugh or cry, and laughing leaves nicer lines on your face.

Judy Burr said...

Great interview ! Love your books ! If I
HAD to choose a favorite I would pick
"A Secret Affair ". Constantine is my favorite of your heroes.

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