Hey, writers, did you know J.K. Rowling is the reason you’re a big-ass failure?
That’s according to author Lynn Shepherd, who writes literary mysteries. She wrote an opinion piece on Huffington Post’s U.K. site. In a nutshell, she accuses J.K. Rowling of taking away HER chance of being a best-selling author because she’s stealing all her shelf space by writing adult books in her genre.
She also admits to not having ever read the Harry Potter books, then proceeds to insult every adult reader of the Harry Potter books, wishing we would all spend our time more wisely (the implication– by buying and reading HER books). She begs Rowling to stop writing–at least in her genre. She condescends that she can continue writing “for fun” and for children, but she needs to get out of Shepherd’s way, because she’s already had her success and needs to give other writers “room to breathe.”
Not surprisingly, she triggered a you-know-what storm from Rowling’s fans and some not-fans who thought Shepherd’s piece came across as sour grapes. Many went on the Amazon page for her book and left 1 star reviews in retaliation.
For the record: I am TOTALLY against bullying anyone online for expressing an opinion. This is NEVER right. (And Amazon really needs to retool their policy about what kind of review you can leave on their site. Maybe make it like their Audible site–you can’t review unless you’ve bought the product through them? That would certainly cut down on big waves of retaliation reviews.)
However, much of the criticism against Shepherd’s piece–the REASONED and THOUGHTFUL criticism, not the insults and nastiness–is unfortunately deserved. Here’s a thought: any time someone decides to start off an opinion piece about an artist with “I’ve never read the book(s), seen the movie(s), watched the TV show(s) of (fill in the blank)…” they should probably stop right there, and then go read the books, see the movies, watch the TV shows, etc. If you’re determined to give an unpopular opinion, at least make it an INFORMED unpopular opinion.
Also, attacking an author for something the publishing world does–putting most of its eggs in the baskets of big-name authors–doesn’t make much sense. This is the fault of the publishing world, not the writers who benefit from their policy. It’s easy to forget they started out as unknowns, too, and at one time were fighting for shelf space like everyone else.
There’s the famous story about then-unknown writer John Grisham putting hundreds of copies of A Time To Kill in the trunk of his car and travelling all over the South, stopping at bookstores, introducing himself and selling a few books at a time. That’s part of the reason he became a success. The other part is pure luck. A copy of The Firm surfaced in Hollywood and ended up becoming a hit movie, which helped catapult his books to enormous sales.
Is it fair, that he got that chance and others haven’t? Maybe not. But seems to me once you reach a certain point in adulthood (yes, even when you’re an adult who occasionally reads children’s books) you should know that life isn’t always fair. In fact, life can sometimes be a totally random bitch.
The other thing that seems to escape Shepherd–and many others who insult or demonize fandoms: just because you like the Harry Potter books, it doesn’t mean that’s the limit of your reading interest. The same goes for adult readers of young adult fiction, or women who read romance novels, or whatever is on anyone’s bash list this particular week. There’s lots of cross-over among fandoms and genres. Many people like both commercial and literary fiction. I personally read a whole gamut of genres, and am continually baffled whenever someone tries to elevate their work by putting down other writers and their readers.
Let me put it another way:
My mom loves mysteries. She consumes them at an amazing rate.
She also loves the Harry Potter books.
You think she’s ever going to buy one of Shepherd’s books now?
An Open Letter To J.K. Rowling: Please Don’t Stop Writing – (huffingtonpost.com/books)
Why It’s Bad Form To Tell a Writer to Stop Writing – (stevensalvatoreshaw.wordpress.com)
Writer’s Envy Gone Mad – (jobryantnz.wordpress.com)