Separating an Author from Their Work

So I wanted to talk about this topic after some recent events with a certain famous author and allegations against her. When I first read about it, I was in shock. I had never heard of any past allegations or anything before, and so I had written my initial reaction in a post similar to this one, but decided to wait and sit on the topic before I actually talked about it.

I wholly believe in separating an author from their work when possible. Sometimes, yes, it’s hard not to because of personal experiences or just your overall emotions about the work the author has put out and it affecting the way you think about that author, but by separating the work from the author you’re able to either enjoy or hate a piece of work without thinking of the bias behind them.

But once you know that bias then maybe it becomes more difficult to be able to read their work. I found that, once I read about what was going on with that author and prior allegations, I was stuck in a limbo: do I continue to read her books, or do I stop all together? For me, it’s a be all, end all kind of decision. But I didn’t want to overreact, so here I am now.

When you separate a piece of work from its creator you are judging that work rather than the person behind it. That’s what I try to do: I focus on plot, setting, characters, progression, if the writing was simplistic or not, etc. I rarely, if ever, think about the author and their past works (if any) or how they were the one to write it.

I’m pretty sure I can count on one hand times in which I thought, “This is written by this author – I must read it!” Or, “This is written by this author – I just can’t.” I find that when I do this then I am already forming a bias for myself in my mind and then I don’t branch out to discover new and exciting works from other authors as a result.

I know that there have been other authors with a bad rep because of their own life decisions, or because of other reasons, and then that in turn affects who reads their work and everything, and of course I think you should be in the know about it and not be blind to it (kind of like I am, hnnng), but I also think that keeping an open mind and judging the work before the writer is an important part of this whole thing.

I do acknowledge, though, that sometimes this is a very difficult concept and that for some people it is near impossible to do, that whatever the author may have done affects how you read – or don’t read – their work. And I’m not saying you have to abide by this yourself and do what I do; I’m just putting this out there as a method that I try to utilize when I read.

When I first wrote about this topic I had a few major questions on my mind:

  • Can I continue reading the series knowing what I know?
  • Will I still enjoy it for what it is or will I subconsciously look for other things in it?
  • Will I receive backlash for liking or not liking a certain story or series?
  • Do I want to continue reading and support the author – or buy the next books the author may or may not put out?

And I think these are all very valid questions, and ones that only I can answer since I am the one asking them. And you may be asking yourself similar questions and really, only you can answer them.

Just remember that all of this is totally up to you and is your decision. If an author affects you because of something they did, previously or currently, and you decide to stop reading their work – or continue – then don’t feel ashamed for it. If you’re able to separate the author from their work, though, then I hope your reading experience isn’t too affected by it.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Are you able to separate an author from their work or are any rumors/facts/allegations about them ones in which you just can’t bring yourself to read work from them? Do you feel stuck in a bind? Do you have similar questions you have to answer for yourself? Let me know!

9 thoughts on “Separating an Author from Their Work

  1. Given that I’m an H.P. Lovecraft (racist) fan, liked Orson Scott Card’s (homophobe) early stuff, enjoy reading L. Ron Hubbard’s (conman on a massive scale) pulp fiction, etc., I run into this problem a lot. I will let an author’s actual life inform my reading of their work, but try to judge their writing on its own merits. Mind, there are authors I won’t give my money to because I don’t want to support their outside activities.


  2. Pingback: February 2016 Wrap-Up | Reader Rayna

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