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When Your Favorite Author Turns Out To Be A Jerk

Don’t you just hate that?

If you want, you can replace “author” with “celebrity” or “athlete” or “actor.” It’s all so disappointing when that person appears one way in public, then turns out to be a complete you-know-what when you have an opportunity to interact with them personally, or even on social media.

I won’t name names, because that’s not what this is about. But I’ve had an experience with particular nonfiction author in the past year that changed my view of him and his writing. It’s sad.

It’s sad when you’ve read several books from one writer—and you mistakenly perceive him to be one way—but in a few interactions with him, he turns out to be a total butt munch.

This is particularly true for nonfiction authors. Let’s be honest—the bar is really low for novelists, right? I mean, it takes a little crazy to write good fiction, doesn’t it?  Just read a few bios about famous authors. A lot of them are a bit crazy and neurotic and would have no problem cussing you out–that just comes with the territory. 

But for nonfiction writers, especially those in certain genres, it’s different. If you’re writing a self-help book about parenting, then you better not be a whack job of a parent. If you’re a Christian writer who preaches grace and forgiveness, then you darn well better not be a jerk or an a-hole on Twitter. If you’re dispensing medical advice in some type of wellness book, then you better have the knowledge and the degrees to back up your opinions. You can’t just make stuff up like novelists.

All that said, these people aren’t perfect. They all have bad days, just like the rest of us.

It’s unrealistic to think an author is going to be a perfect gentleman or lady to every person they meet every day. But when it’s a reoccurring thing, and when it’s someone you or someone you know has interacted with several times, and the jerkishness continues to be an ongoing theme? Well, in that case they are probably just a jerk.

You have two options.

1)    Take their advice at surface level. They very well might have great advice for you in their writing. Even when people don’t “practice what they preach,” sometimes their preaching still makes good sense. You just have to somehow separate the teaching from the teacher, and that’s hard to do.

Or 2) Just stop reading the author. Stop responding to their tweets. Stop having anything to do with them. Let the natural consequences of their jerkiness take over.

Bottom line, though, is to probably just do your Frozen imitation and let it go, no matter whether you continue to read their work or not.

We all can be jerks some times. I’m sure Mother Theresa even had a moment or two in her life. But if you’ve found your favorite author’s jerkiness to just be too much, then let it go and find a new favorite author.

Sometimes, jerks just gonna be jerks.

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30 Comments Post a comment
  1. I agree! Sometimes they’re so caught up with being famous they forget that they’re actually people. It also doesn’t help when the media or whoever boosts their ego. It’s not really completely one person’s fault though, you know?

    I’d be careful about labelling anyone as “rude” however.There could be a lot of factors as to why they’re not being nice. Maybe it’s anxiety, or something of that nature. Maybe they’re just not used to fans. In any case, we need to remember that they are people too with lives of their own and personalities of their own. There is a polite way to let someone down easily though, and a rude way.

    Like

    June 13, 2014
    • Meant I’d be careful about labelling someone as “a jerk”

      Like

      June 13, 2014
      • I agree. That’s why I tried to emphasize that it’s a recurring thing. Once or twice I can understand.

        Like

        June 13, 2014
  2. Luckily, I haven’t had this experience yet. I’ve had wonderful interactions with Michael J. Sullivan, Alastair Reynolds, and J. Thorn, just for example. I like it when authors are easily accessible. I’m hoping not to encounter a jerk.

    Like

    June 13, 2014
  3. I know what you mean. I once met a football player of whom I was a fan. I was excited to meet this public hero of mine and rushed to get an autograph-all smiles. The footballer looked at me with some disdain, said he was too busy and walked off. I thought: what a jerk.

    However, in retrospect, I could see his point. To me, he was so familiar (with being on T.V. a lot) it was as though I knew him but to him I was some crazed total stranger of a fan he had never met. He didn’t know me and I thought I knew him. Weird.

    When people get ‘famous’ by doing something they love, I reckon they don’t always know what to make of it and how to handle the pressure and can often come across as being a jerk but we just don’t know what’s going on in their mind.

    In saying that, it’s easy to be nice, most of the time.

    Like

    June 13, 2014
    • Athletes can be the worst. I actually met Tim Tebow a few weeks ago, and he was really nice. Took the time to shake everyone’s hand. I’m sure that can get annoying after a while, but handled it well.

      Like

      June 13, 2014
  4. I’ve had a few bad interactions working with some directors and I can’t bring myself to watch their movies anymore. Sometimes a few bad interactions over the course of a few hours can destroy hours and hours of previous fandom. Sorry you had a bad experience!

    Like

    June 13, 2014
  5. Hmmm . . . Mixed about some of this. I also read the previous comments. Do famous people have an obligation to be what we want or expect them to be? It’s kind of like in high school when everybody hated the prom queen. Was it because she was a bitch or because she literally did not have the time and ability to be friends with 4 hundred other kids who looked up to her. Just playing devil’s advocate here. It is disappointing when someone turns out to be something other than we expect but I think it’s our choice to continue forking out dollars for their books, movies, games, etc. in a perfect world pleasant celebs would be great, but just like real life, not everyone is a great person.

    Like

    June 13, 2014
  6. mrscomputerhead@aol.com #

    You should name names.

    Like

    June 13, 2014
  7. I completely agree (though don’t really use the word jerk). Although I love the poems of famous Chilean poet Pablo Neruda my guess is that he was a hideous man to be around (and must have led his wife and girlfriends a miserable dance). I can just about cope with his habit of writing in green ink though. A friend has warned me off his biographies and (?)autobiographies for this reason.

    Like

    June 13, 2014
  8. I have to disagree with one point. Whether or not I read a given book has very seldom had anything to do with the author “being a jerk” or not. That would be true for both fiction and non-fiction. People are all human, at least they’re supposed to be, and some happen to write.

    I would hope readers would enjoy my book because it’s they like the book. It’s written so that they can do that without really knowing anything about me.

    Like

    June 13, 2014
  9. Larry #

    Be nice, but tell the person in an email or letter to the publisher. Maybe the person will be a shamed and change. It’s worth a try.

    Like

    June 13, 2014
  10. Sometimes you just have to seperate the person from their work. I would think non-fiction authors would be just as wacky as fiction authors. The amount of research and pages of foot notes would drive anyone a little over board.

    Like

    June 13, 2014
  11. Lisa #

    I’d stop reading his tweets, stop any social media interaction at all and give it time to heal. If you still like his writing, keep reading his books. I know it’s hard separating an author from his work but they’re everyday humans who sometimes think their gods. You just have to walk away.

    Like

    June 13, 2014
  12. Lisa #

    “They’re” not “their” gods…

    Like

    June 13, 2014
  13. I believe Margaret Atwood identifies the source of this issue in her book about writers and writing, called “Negotiating with the Dead.” The second chapter is called “Duplicity: The Jekyll hand, the hyde hand, and the slippery double—why there are always two.”

    She talks about how the person who wrote the book is not the person who’s signing your copy. You will never see the person who did the writing. They are two different people.

    It’s quite a complex discussion, so I won’t go any further into it. But here is how she sums up the chapter: “The act of writing takes place at the moment when Alice (in Wonderland) passes through the mirror. At this one instant, the glass barrier between the doubles dissolves, and Alice is neither here nor there, neither art nor life, neither the one thing nor the other, though at the same time she is all of these at once. At that moment time itself stops, and also stretches out, and both writer and reader have all the time not in the world.”

    I think readers should just read the books or not, and leave it at that. Authors (and other famous people) should not be under some special obligation to be ambassadors unless they want to take on that role. They are doubles. And we shouldn’t try to make them fit our expectations.

    Like

    June 13, 2014
  14. This reminds me of a story. Years ago, Jimmy Stewart was making a movie on location. His co-star was a well-known actress. One day she saw Jimmy Stewart patiently signing autographs for a line of fans. When he was finished, she approached him and asked, “Why do you do it? Why do you put up with it?” His answer: “Those people pay my salary.”

    One of the writers I heard who was always nice to everyone was Mister Rogers.

    Writing is such a solitary work. Sometimes a well-known writer is truly a very shy person. I once saw a seminar where Michael Ondaatje was interviewed. He seemed very uncomfortable, like he would prefer to be back in his studio, writing.

    The thing we forget is that writers are people too. I say love the writing and don’t worry about the writer. Unless it is like you say. They are writing books about being a nice guy/woman.

    Like

    June 13, 2014
  15. alysinunderland #

    But isn’t it lovely when they turn out to be just as wonderful as you’d thought them to be?

    Like

    June 13, 2014
  16. I have studied art and been creative all my life. Many, many artists are well known to be dysfunctional in many areas of their lives. I choose to ignore it. I don’t even want to know most of their personal stories, but just enjoy their art work. I’ve been less than the person I would like to be many times in my life, but I would hope it doesn’t outshine the good that I have contributed. I do like the term ‘butt munch’, though.

    Like

    June 13, 2014
  17. I want to know who it was!

    Like

    June 13, 2014
  18. I’m a jerk way more than I want to be.

    Like

    June 13, 2014
  19. geenieknows #

    First of all, I love the picture for this post, it’s genius, if this is on a t shirt then please let me know. Second of all I am very annoyed that someone made you feel this way. I tweeted my favourite author and not only did she respond, she gave me her email address and gave me advise. There is always that fear that someone is going to reject you but this is not on! Douche Bag. And third of all, love the frozen reference. Nice

    Like

    June 14, 2014
  20. HaHa! I’m lucky enough never to have experienced this phenomenon, but it sounds like you have been stung! Did it put you off his or her work forever though?

    Like

    June 14, 2014
    • Pretty much, yes. I wouldn’t say they were my “favorite” author, but I definitely liked his work and related with him. But there’s a lot more to it than just one or two small interactions.

      Like

      June 16, 2014
  21. I agree completely! But I think the same thing can happen with fiction authors as well. It’s less their personality but more the high-and-mighty attitude some of them end up with. It’s terribly rude, frankly, and I think naming names is how they should be called out on it.

    That being said, there are some authors who are lovelier than you’d think they’d be; which makes up for everything really! 🙂

    Like

    June 15, 2014
  22. They could’ve had a really bad day…maybe lol

    Like

    June 16, 2014
  23. Whitebeard #

    A certain author was a guest at a convention some friends and I were running in 1979. He/she was such an ass that I have refused to buy any of the authors’ books retail. I still buy the books used because the author is such a good writer. This way the author does not get any of my money.

    Like

    July 12, 2014
  24. MC #

    I left praise for every chapter I read on an online story from my favorite writer (most writers love this from what I understood), but this author messaged me back twice telling me to “stop clogging up my inbox”. RUDE!!

    Like

    October 5, 2016

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