I have many faults, but the one I’m feeling baddest about at the moment is my tendency to dismiss a writer on the basis of very little. For example:
- If I meet a writer and I think they’re obnoxious I won’t read them. This is very very bad of me. Because I am a writer and I can be totally obnoxious (especially if my blood sugar is low), so if other people are as intolerant as I am, and they meet me when I haven’t eaten, odds are they will never read me. To make this even more circular I am most especially likely to decide a writer is obnoxious and I will not read them when my blood sugar is low and I am being obnoxious.
- I will read one short story, or worse one or two pages of a short story or novel, and if it doesn’t immediately grab me, I will decide the writer is vastly overrated and never read them. This despite the fact that my own short stories in no way reflect the quality of my novels. Or vice versa. And many writers improve. So an early sucky story says nothing about their later quality. Not to mention that my mood (blood sugar levels) greatly affects whether I will keep reading a story.
- If I hear a writer read, and they’re not any good at it, I will never read them, no matter how much praise I’ve heard. A bad reading kills the writing for me stone cold dead. This is particularly unfair as I’m an erratic reader and suckiness is sadly part of my repertoire (especially if my blood sugar is low).
- If a friend whose taste I trust tells me a book sucks I won’t read it unless it is the only book available. This is why it took me so long to discover the joys of the Bartimaeus trilogy—a friend I love and trust told me it sucked. They were so wrong! But why are my friends going to be any more consistent than I am? They have their blood sugar issues too.
- I also won’t read book by people who have dissed writers I adore. I don’t care how much they’ve been raved about, or by whom, or how many people insist that I will love love love them, if they’ve dumped on Angela Carter, or Georgette Heyer, or Dorothy Dunnett, or Patricia Highsmith, or Ruth Park, or any number of other writers, I won’t touch their books with a barge pole.
Writing is a tenuous profession and too many of us passionate readers are certifiably insane. It’s shockingly easy to turn off potential readers. You can do it with a word (use “jasmine” and you’ve lost Margo Lanagan), a bad clothing choice on the part of a character (I put a book down once because the supposedly hip protag was wearing hot pink lycra), a factual error (I have stopped reading otherwise fine books because they had Canberra being a short bus ride from Sydney).
You can also lose readers through no fault of your own: because they don’t like your cover, because they don’t like your author photo, or the way you spell your name, or won’t read paperbacks, or books by Australians.
So you’ll never catch me insulting fellow writers on my blog—too risky! I don’t want to piss them off (we writers have such long memories), or their fans (ditto), nor do I want to rack up any more bad karma (I’m bowed under the weight of what I’ve already got!). And I resolve to make sure my blood sugar levels are where they should be before reading a new book or attending a reading.