Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Do You Have to Like an Author to Like His Work?

A long time ago a walking partner and I decided we would never be able to write a bestselling book because neither of us had a shocking story to tell. We had not been abused, sunk into the abyss of alcohol or drugs, had abnormal childhoods, or managed to overcome anything. We had not designed or invented anything; we had no startling insight for the human race. We would have to settle on reading the works of others.

I read a lot of non-fiction so I live vicariously in the lives of others I guess. I take a memoir with a grain of salt because after all the memory is the author’s alone, from her viewpoint only. Maybe she doesn’t “remember” all the details. When I read fiction, it has to have a story that is at least plausible. Too many fantasy or sci-fi facts leave me cold.

Today DH and I had another doctor visit in Springfield, a new one this time for an old problem. No new info, only an optional surgery which will take some thinking about for a while. However, a super bright sunny day and news that could have been so much worse made us both relish the rest of the day. Lunch at our favorite Zio’s, a smidge of mall shopping, and then we went over to the Barnes and Nobles where we had not visited for months.

Barnes and Noble bustled with Christmas shoppers! I was disappointed in most of the titles I saw. The Christmas books were all shallow or fluffy or preachy. The new titles were not from favorite authors, and the titles did nothing to entice me to try new ones. So I went to the poetry aisle, pulled up an employee stool and kicked off my shoes to stay and read. Again, I found nothing tantalizing enough to make me spend money. I was a cheap date.

So later when we were on the road home again I picked up my biography of Zane Grey to read while DH drove us home. Hum, this book had the effect of rankling me a bit. I had no idea Zane Grey was born Pearl Zane Gray…changing his name later in life.  I did not know what an avid fisherman he was nor did his fishing interest me much. I was disappointed to learn he was a flagrant womanizer when his wife supported him in every way possible during their marriage. The more I read about him, the more I disliked this man. I would like to admire the writers of books I enjoy. I will have to reread some Zane Grey westerns and see if I can erase today’s images of the author’s “real” life.

When I got home, I found a new rejection of my own work. However, it was an uplifting one. My little 101 word piece of flash fiction called “War Pony” garnered a lot of respect from the editor. She told me it was wonderfully written, and she advised me to consider extending the piece into a short story. She said it was too powerful a line for flash fiction. A rejection but words of encouragement are as good as acceptance when an editor takes time to write you personally.

So day ends and I have lots of thoughts scudding around in my head like a rack of freshly broken billiard balls.  I must get back to the keyboard and hammer out some stories that I like, for writing must please ourselves first even if it doesn’t please other readers.

So, do you have to like an author before you like his work? Do find it easy to maybe like the writer but not his work? Hum……


Susan said...

Yup, I have to like the author in order to like his or her work, Claudia. If I dislike the person writing, I would find it hard to separate the author from the work.

So I stick to authors I like and then I'm almost sure to like what I read!

Congratulations on getting out of Barnes and Noble without spending any money! A rare feat! Susan

Lynn said...

It is disappointing to find out an author you like has characteristics that aren't up to your standards. That's an interesting question, one I need to give some thought on.

BECKY said...

I'll have to think about that one, too. It's like finding out an actor you like is a real jerk in his "real" life. And hey..you have the beginnings of a Christmas Book Tree there....:)

Donna Volkenannt said...

Interesting tidbit about Zane Gray. I think it's hard to separate the author from the work. When I pick up a book, after reading the front jacket flap I flip to the back to read the author's bio and picture. Not sure if it's because I'm a writer, but I like to know more about the person who wrote the book.

Even though you got a rejection on your flash piece, the words of encouragement from the editor are uplifting. It's always welcome when an editor takes the time to do that.