Tuesday, February 25, 2014

J.K. Rowling Shouldn't Take Advice From Lynn Shepherd

Lynn Shepherd recently wrote a piece the essentially told J.K. Rowling to stop writing because...I dunno. Her logic didn't make any sense to be perfectly honest. She seems to think that the publishing industry has a finite amount of money (it doesn't since it's a supply side industry), has no room to grow (it does), and that J.K. Rowling is taking it all (she isn't--otherwise I wouldn't be selling books). This is, based on basic economics, patently absurd. She apparently even had a warning from her friend not to publish the article. For one thing, Harry Potter doesn't have a ton of detractors. Most book series or movie series you can think of will have a few haters to side with you if you go after them (hate on Star Wars and you'll get some Trekkies who'll join you), but that's not really true with Harry Potter. You go after the boy wizard, and you're most likely going it alone.

I'm not going to deal with anything of Lynn Shepherd's but the blog post. I know her books have taken a hit from this, but I haven't read her books. And, unlike Lynn Shepherd, I don't think it's appropriate for an author to comment on the entire series of books and their corresponding movies from another author if I haven't 'read a word or watched a minute' as she said, although I can appreciate the irony of throwing that back in her face. Unlike Ms. Shepherd, I have read every word of the Harry Potter series and watched every minute of every movie. So I'm in a position to correct some of the errors she had in her blog. Like her assertion that Harry Potter is just a children's series that shouldn't be bothered with by adults since it supposedly wouldn't stimulate an adult mind. Let me assure you, Ms. Shepherd, you're completely mistaken in this. The story is entertaining regardless of age, but more than that, the writing is so deep that someone at age 10 will find different gems than someone at age 23 or 30 or 40 or whatever. Harry Potter has such broad based appeal BECAUSE there are so many things scattered through the book for people of all ages and life experiences. Additionally, I've always believed the series became fairly adult at the end of the fourth book. And this always made sense to me that a fan base of children growing up reading Harry Potter would continue to grow up at around the same pace as the boy wizard, so the series would need to grow up as well to something closer to YA or almost New Adult by the end. Of course, Lynn Shepherd would know this if she'd read the books.

She also mentioned J.K. Rowling's dalliance in writing mystery novels under a pen name, but she got some of the details on this wrong as well. Yes, Rowling wrote a mystery novel under a male nom de plume, and no, it didn't do particularly well at first. But Shepherd made it sound as if the internet uncovered her subterfuge, when, in fact, Rowling admitted the novel was hers, most likely at the behest of her publisher, so the sales would improve. I'm not going to fault a writer for wanting to branch out (the publishing industry will try to pigeonhole an author into one genre, making a pen name her only option) and I certainly wouldn't condemn someone for being honest for the sake of good relations with their publisher. It wasn't a nefarious plot or untoward behavior, Ms. Shepherd, it was simply business as usual in the publishing world.

Finally, I wholeheartedly disagree with Shepherd's belief that J.K. Rowling should stop writing. J.K. Rowling wrote a series that is iconic, beautiful, beloved, and timeless, which Shepherd would know if she'd actually read it. Rowling's personal story in how she struggled before being published and her difficult path to success is compelling and inspiring. And J.K. Rowling gave so much of her fortune back to help people in need because she was once in need that she bumped herself off the billionaire list. Quite frankly, anyone who could and would do these three things needs to write as much and as often as they want. Moreover, as an author, I'm appreciative to J.K. Rowling for expanding the map and creating readers out of a generation of children. She's not a wildfire sucking up all the oxygen until the rest of us suffocate. She's a pioneer who pushed out borders so we'd all have more room. She added readers to the market and encouraged existing readers to read more, and I, for one, hope she keeps doing that. It's ridiculous to assume a person would only buy J.K. Rowling books and never read anything else ever again, which would be the only scenario in which Shepherd's blog post would make sense. Reading expands to more reading. When one author does well, it benefits all authors since none of us can write at the same pace our readers can read.

If J.K. Rowling cares about writing, she shouldn't listen to people like Lynn Shepherd.


Daniel Swensen said...

What boggled my mind was the seemingly willful misunderstanding of readers. No reader I know would ever say "Well, I want to give other authors a chance, but JKR just keeps writing." Most avid readers have shelves groaning with books they want to read. It's not a zero-sum game, and one author's success certainly doesn't preclude another's. That's absurd.

Aurelia Blue said...

All I can say is haters gonna hate. There is no other excuse for a writer to tear another writer down. And honestly, it's like one entrepreneur telling Donald Trump to stop doing what he does because he has enough already. (Yes, that was a vulgar comparison, but no less true.)

I adore Harry Potter. I think he is marvelously written. I think JKR is a stunningly creative and smart individual and it shows through in her pages. As you pointed out, there is something there for all ages of readers on many different levels. This is a rare gift in literature.

I will also tell the entire world why adults are reading these books. Many of us have children. A good parent knows what their child is reading. Better yet, a good parent is reading to and with their child. This not only fosters a love of reading, but provides a bond, gives parent and child something to discuss, opens a conjoined world to the two. This is one of the most precious parts of parenting. Bridging that gap that ever widens as a child too becomes an adult, is paramount in developing a world where all adults of all ages will be able to collaborate for the growth of beauty and understanding, and indeed, the every day magic that is our pathetic little world.

Anonymous said...

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