Yesterday’s small trip off to North Wales randomly ended up turning into a massive road trip upon which I was inspired to write my post today after brewing over the subject matter for a while. When we set out we were only meant to go to Ruthin, The Beard was having a meeting and I wanted to visit the spooky gaol and go to the bookshop, yet somehow after we did all this we ended up driving onto Conwy for fish and chips and a castle and then on to Anglesey via Snowdonia. I will report on this ‘windy whim’ day (as The Beard and I are now calling them) soon. Being in the car so much meant a lot of air play time, my iPod used to go on random but we’ve started listening to podcasts now as The Beard found my music taste questionable. Current firm favourites are old archived Desert Island Discs and the odd rogue short book podcast and as we listened to some a couple of authors came across really badly and I found myself saying ‘oh well I am not reading one of their books again’ to which The Beard asked ‘but you don’t have to like an author do you?’ Well weirdly I think I do, don’t you?
As I thought about this question more and more I started noticing a pattern to how I have switched off from authors in the past. Some have been favourites up to that point and some I have just fancied reading a random book of then heard and vowed I won’t turn a page again. Get me! Ha, but you know what I mean?
I think I see authors as friends even though I have never met them because through their books I feel I have gotten to know them better whilst getting to know myself better. Plus I am a strong believer that a book is a collaboration of their writing and your reading which feels like a kind of relationship as well as an experience. Like friendships though you can fall out, go off someone or see them in a different light and the magic vanishes. This more commonly happen when they write a dud book (to your mind) or four and you decide to go your separate ways, or they can act like a… well let’s just say ‘bit of a wally’ and you go off them as a person.
Now I thought I would try and make what could be taken as, or accidentally turn into, a possibly negative blog post a bit fun, so note while these are based around true things that have put me off authors in the past I have made them a little more extreme and my comments a little more wry and tongue in cheek. Bearing that in mind let me give you some scenario’s firstly on radio, on television and in the flesh…
Arrogance on air… This was the offence noted yesterday, which inspired this post, when an author on Desert Island Discs and a separate author on one of The Guardian’s Edinburgh Book Podcasts came across as utterly pompous and arrogant. The first tried to make the interviewer sound really stupid and was utterly patronising, the second just came across as ‘look how clever I am everyone, my work is amazing, as good as the greats’. No matter how good an author is, it’s always lovely if they are humble about it and generous to their readers, other authors and their interviewers rather than spouting that they are the next classic author of their generation. Time will tell on that, not the author themselves.
Public Displays of Affectation… Having done many events with authors and been to a few these are some of the most interesting, and yet most awkward, things I have witnessed. An author might be up on stage with you, in front of you or recording with you and being absolutely wonderful, delightful and charming the audience/you yet as soon as they come off they moan about the amount of people who did come (and now they have loads of books to sign and really they wanted to go to the hotel) or didn’t come (so it wasn’t worth the trip frankly) or the venue/wine/questions/colour of your trousers were all wrong and not up to scratch.
Slagging off other authors… This causes great controversy and therefore (oddly) sales but isn’t it just a bit mean and therefore makes the instigator look mean spirited?
Being a friend isn’t being a fan… One of the joys of doing this blog and other bookish bits and bobs has been making friends with readers from all over the world (be they fellow bloggers or not) and also some authors. However there is a fine line between fandom and friendship, initially I might be a fan boy and a bit nervous but it passes and a friendship is there. Or is it? Over time they want you to interview them for a project you are working on, they keep asking if you have read their latest book or say ‘you really ought to do an event with me shouldn’t you?’ but not in a genuine way – hence why I haven’t done events with them, reviewed them, interviewed them or worked with them… there are lots of lovely authors I have though. I will always support my friends, we all like to don’t we, that doesn’t make you a fan though.
Now on another tangent one of the things I have loved about social media is that with blogs and tweets and all things in-between on the internet you can get to know authors a whole lot better. Rather like the ‘friend not a fan’ issue above though sometimes following your favourite author can show you a side of them you aren’t so keen on…
Social media moaning… I am all for a good moan. I like to do it myself on the odd occasion, like when I didn’t get that job because I hadn’t read any Dickens (I still haven’t posted a small essay on what that made me think in a positive/reflective light, maybe I should), but the highlight there is the odd occasion and generally I hope that they have a positive outcome. I get so disappointed when I see an author just ranting negatively on and on and on either in 140 characters or several hundred words in a post. Worst is when they do both. I feel the same about bloggers who only write negative reviews, misery might love company but my company doesn’t like misery.
#AmWriting… Why does any author need to tweet or facebook this fact? Are they unintentionally/intentionally implying we are stupid and don’t know how a book is written or do they just need to tell the world something is coming soon? You don’t see someone tweeting #ampoppingtotheloo every few hours do you? (Actually maybe some people do!) Do brain surgeons tweet #amchisellinganotheroneopennow? Erm, no they don’t… mainly because they wouldn’t have their eye on the ball or brain they were working on and it would be dangerous. Here authors can’t win though as I do quite like idle chatter from them like ‘oh I didn’t think that cake was that bad just now on The Great British Bake Off’, ‘a squirrel has just attacked my cat’ or pictures of their friends coming round for tea. Fickle, I am.
You like me, you follow me, so you must love me, so you must buy me… This sort of falls into the twitter hall of shame really more than anything else, though it can also come in the form of a regular ‘newsletter’ you never asked for. If you happen to have had a nice chat with an author it’s great to get to know them a bit better, however nothing puts me off more than after that lovely chat being barraged with emails or direct messages about their new book coming out. Or the worst of the worst when an author retweets every nice comment they get. It feels like because you follow them, you must love them just as much as the fan/stalker follower who has said something amazing about them or you simply have to know how much everyone loved them. I get that authors like nice quotes from reviews on their books, but on their twitter and blogs it seems a bit much, even more when its someone saying what a nice person they are… pushing a point maybe? We all like a compliment but I wouldn’t tell everyone on earth, well however many followers I have, my blog made a reader or two buy a book (maybe I should?) or that someone admired my shoes on the bus today and aren’t I amazing for buying them. Mind you, I do retweet when The Readers goes live but that is once a week. Hmmm, does that make me guilty of the same thing? Oh no!
So there you have my random and rambling thoughts which turned into a much longer post than I thought it would. I should say here that a) again that was done slightly tongue in cheek b) I do unfollow any authors/blogs who do these things, just as I would expect people to unfollow/stop reading me if I said/did something on twitter or the blog that riled them, annoyed them or got a bit up myself c) I know authors have to do a lot more work promoting books themselves and get as many readers as they can but being stuck on tweet repeat does my nut in. I am more likely to read a book by a new to me author because they make me laugh or have similar random thoughts to me, wouldn’t you? I was also pondering that authors pre-social media had it so much easier, they just wrote books really, there wasn’t all the self publicity needed and authors are authors it seems a bit unfair they have to be their own publicists too, so there’s two sides to it all. Plus lots of authors do it all superbly, Margaret Atwood being my favourite example.
Anyway back to my question of the day… Do you need to ‘like’ an author to like their books? Can, or has, seeing or hearing an author put you off them? Or like with myself and several authors I have followed, does getting to know them a little better make you want to read them, or if you are reading them already, like them all the more? Or do you think liking them is irrelevant and feel it is the words in the book that matter, nothing else?