Does the person matter?

I know that no matter how much you like someone as a person, if their writing is truly terrible, you’re not going to buy their second book. But is the opposite also true? If you really like an author’s work can you continue to buy it (and therefore support them financially) if as a person that author is making what you consider to be reprehensible and even repulsive statements in public?

A fairly well-known indie-published author who has subsequently signed a traditional publishing deal for paperback wrote a blog post which he has subsequently deleted, in which he relayed a quite reasonable story of his own negative reaction to someone he met, but ended it with a misogynist/ somewhat sexually threatening remark. He has retracted and apologised, so I’m not going to name him here, but I had read the blog post – it was in fact the first thing I’d ever read by him. I had heard about him and thought about buying his book. This weekend I was standing in WH Smith’s, looking at this paperback and thinking about buying it. But I couldn’t bear to – the author had intruded too much into my image of the novel.

Similarly a fairly famous American sci-fi author whose novels I have read and loved in the past has made some fairly inflammatory remarks against gay marriage recently. This puts me in more of a quandary – in the first case I’m never going to know what I’m missing, but in this case I do and it hurts, partly because I’m the kind of person who finds an author they like and then reads EVERYTHING that person has ever written. But I don’t agree with him on this, and it’s not just a case of not agreeing, it’s a case of finding the way he has expressed himself in public – using his status as a well known author – to be extremely offensive and narrow-minded.

So, should the way an author behaves or believes affect my book-buying, if that author doesn’t put those behaviours or beliefs into their book-writing? I am afraid that for me, I cannot separate the author from their work. I am not bothered by differing politics, or differing beliefs, just extreme and offensive ones. I know that I am making a commercial decision when I buy a book, and my money is going more or less directly to the writer, or some portion of it is. I was interested to find that I feel this way. But these two authors have lost me as a reader.


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