When an Author Kills a Reader

I had to consider this one for a while, but thought it might be worth posting about. I think the reader section of my peeps will probably find it more interesting because I know so many writers don’t think of themselves as “readers” any more (what’s up with that?)

I grew up reading fantasy and mystery. I didn’t start reading romances until not long before I actually started writing them!

Fantasy was my jam.

My first manuscript was a YA fantasy way back when agents were like, “Dude, hold up! No one’s going to want to buy a YA Fantasy unless it’s Harry Potter.”

Recently, a friend asked me what the last fantasy I’d read was. Not RF – straight up fantasy. I had to think long and hard to come up with it.

But, once I did I had a bunch of epiphanies shooting my reading self out of they sky. It was all pew! pew! pew! And wow, did it really give me an eye-opening moment as a reader AND a writer.

A few years ago, I read an article by a debut fantasy author who talked at length about how he’d grown up. I saw a lot of myself in his article. The imagination, the gaming, the D&D group, the fantasy obsession, how it shaped his life choices growing up and as an adult.

Let’s call him Rollo…betraying betrayer.

I was really impressed, so I went to check out Rollo’s website.

And, I don’t want to know how  much he spent on that site, but it was gorgeous! And, really fun and informative. Plus, the premise for his book sounded so cool.

So, I being a girl who likes to share the wealth, I pointed my fantasy loving romance peeps his way. Rollo on twitter was pretty active and (in retrospect I suspect) he may not have understood that other authors talking to him about his book and site and premise and shared editors wasn’t girls hitting on him. It was authors networking and chatting.

But, you know. Girls.

Anyway, his book came out and I bought it, excited about the premise.

It was… good. Big time sagging middle issues (which seemed even funnier later when he talked about his editor cutting almost 20k from the middle). But, good. The premise was interesting. I was looking forward to the next book because of clarity issues I thought would get cleared up. My Fantasy reading self is far more patient than my Romance reading on based on my shifting reader expectations.

So far, so good.

Then I saw that Rollo was going to be speaking about his book and the process at a local shop.

I go to a lot of these. Most times I shyly sit in the back and don’t say anything, but this time we’d tweeted enough that I said, Hey! I’ll be there!

An SFF writing friend brought her kids who went and roamed while we listened to his chat.

Rollo’s book had just come out and so he was doing his talk more as an interactive discussion than a straight forward talk. It was fun….except…. yeah.

So, he was really well read in Fantasy, which was one of the things I’d loved from the interview that had initially got me checking out his site and then his book. But, every time he referenced a book he’d say, “Who has read that?’

SFF friend and I were raising our hands pretty frequently. Most of his reference were early canon. Of course we’d read them. Like, yyyyyyears ago. As kids. Way back. Dude, come on.

But, that wasn’t the weird part.

Every time I raised my hand, he’d say, “Bria, you’ve read that?”

Every

Freaking

Time.

I thought we were over this crap. I see girls at readings and events all the time where usually it would be me and one other years ago. But, this was insane.

It got to the point where one really quiet guy down front finally said, “Dude, she reads fantasy. Okay?”

I almost rushed over to hug him but… not a hugger. I silently fist-bumped him in my head. Because most guys are pretty darn butt kicking.

But, on it went. Every time.

Even for Lord of the Rings.

Then, he was asking a question and said something about what are people going to read next and when he got to me I said, “I’m not really much of a reader.” Because this had been that absurd.

The entire audience laughed because they’d just spent an hour watching me raise my hand for most of the books he listed as having read them.

But, not Rollo.

Rollo said, “You’re not a reader? That’s such a shame. I could recommend a couple good places for you to get started.”

As I was getting out, “I’m kidding,” across the room I heard the other girl say, “Oh, come on” at the absurdity.

It was an hour of being pointed out as “must be different because she’s a girl” that I wasn’t used to any more. Especially from someone I’d chatted with…chatted books with.

I went home and unfollowed him.

And realized this past week that my run in with Rollo was the last time I picked up a Fantasy book that didn’t fall under the Romance category.

It wasn’t a conscious move. I didn’t say, well, guys are rude when it comes to SFF so I quit! (because, generalizations suck, and I hate when people group me as only a girl…*points back up to the most guys kick butt comment*)

I’d been putting up with subtle (and in this case and others, not so subtle) remarks for years. Make that decades. (Haven’t we all in some arena?)

But, when an author knew they were talking to another author, that you had talked books with them, when it wasn’t some random guy making a boobs comment at a small con…it felt more personal.

It felt more stupid.

It felt more exhausting.

As readers we have a special connection to authors. As authors we have a special connection to one another and our readers.

Now that social media is in play, those relationships have become in a lot of ways more personal.

And so, this weekend, I’m going to go read a fantasy by someone I don’t know. A guy. Definitely not Rollo, but I’m not going to let a personal annoyance steal a lifetime joy any longer.

kk,
Bria

Comments

  1. (big hugs)
    This is why I’m now very careful when recommending writers to reading buddies. A writer behaving badly hurts the reader, hurts the reader’s perception of me, and hurts the reader’s perception of the entire genre.

    • Bria Quinlan says:

      Cynthia, the crazy thing is that he was just being him. If he read this, I’m 99% sure he wouldn’t recognize himself.

      The store owner said as I was leaving, “You don’t look the part.” Screw the look the part! *shakes fist* 😉

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