Sometimes my blog posts make people disappointed, sad, and angry. Every time this happens, I'm never expecting the fierce response. I think if I always knew how people would take what I say, I would self-censor, and I wonder about that. Because I do think the conversations started are valuable to me, and others tell me valuable to them too. But the fear of offending and hurting might discourage me or others from engaging in touchy subjects. I'm not afraid of disagreeing with people, but I hate hurting people in the process.

Longtime squeetusers may recall some of the fiercest instances on squeetus--for example, when I defended Breaking Dawn in 2008. That was one of the rare instances that we actually had to delete comments and by the dozens. I can take a few hits, but I draw the line at profanity, threats, and bullying other commenters, especially young commenters. In a way I'm glad people are so passionate about books and ideas, but I don't get the hate. Sometimes anger can be productive, but hate just sucks.

(squeetusers, have you noticed how kind commenters are on this blog in general? It makes me happy. When commenters are harsher and less respectful in their disagreement, I've found that they're not regulars but people who have clicked over from someone else reporting about the post. I really want this blog to be a safe place where people can share ideas without fear of being flamed, so thank you.)

I guess when I write a blog entry, I think about it as a rough draft. It's exploration time. It's not a final, polished article. It's me in conversation, saying things I'm thinking about. The danger is that thinking aloud can offend. Which is why, I think, most politicians have practiced answers. I don't want to hurt anyone, and yet I don't want to be bland and opinion-less, scared of risk. Writers are idea people. I think we should wrestle with questions. We should allow ourselves that luxury. We're not politicians, trying to please as many people as we can. We should engage in risky ideas, question things, wrestle with ideas we don't know all the answers to. But should that be confined to a novel, where I have time to edit and polish before anyone sees it, or is a blog still useful? Even if I risk hurting people, is it still positive to have this public thinking-aloud-place? (I ask, as I think aloud in this place.)

When I've written a post that is fairly opinion-y and people disagree with me, or if I tweet something of that ilk, I almost always get replies that say something like, "You've lost this reader for good," or "I used to love your books but I'll never buy another one now." Obviously I don't want to run off readers. I think in most of these cases, something I've said has personally hurt that person, and they are trying to hurt me back in some way. That's a natural response, I think, and I can empathize. And they do succeed. But in general, I wonder, do we/should we only read and like books by people who share all or most of our same opinions?

Personal opinion of the author does affect me sometimes. I read a couple of books by an author (who I will never publicly name, but get a milkshake in me sometime and my jaw loosens), then I met him, and he was so sexist and unkind that I've never recommended his books to anyone since and doubt I'd pick him up again. For several minutes into our conversation I thought he was trying to be funny by being a parody of the chauvinist male writer, because nobody is truly that awful. I was wrong. His personality didn't change the words on the page, but I can't see past it.

But there's another author who is quite mouthy publicly and has said things I vehemently disagree with. But since reading his disagreeable opinions I've continued to read his books and would recommend them. So in some cases the personal affects me and sometimes it doesn't. Maybe it's a scale system? With the first author, his books weren't engaging enough to me to overshadow his unfortunate personality (his editor said to me, "Sorry, I can edit him on paper but not in person!"). But with the second, I liked and clicked enough with his books that I didn't have to think about him as a person as I read. I was able to merge with the story and forget the author.

What are your thoughts? Do you wish authors remained anonymous and you only knew them through the words on the page? (if you're reading an author's blog, then probably not?) Does an author's public persona enhance/diminish your reading? Those of us who are older grew up with books alone, and now social media allows us to feel we know the people behind the books. How has this changed your reading experiences?

And you can register now for my Oct 1 webcast. I'll be doing a live school assembly followed by questions I'll be taking from both the live audience and the virtual audience. Sign up your class to participate for free. I'm really looking forward to this.

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Published on September 24, 2012 08:28 • 569 views
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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

I think... it all depends. For me, sometimes seeing that the author is a real person seems to take away the magic. But then, by seeing that they are real, it also enhances the experience, causing me to think about fantastical things, knowing "Wow, that was written by somebody like me. Why don't I think like that." It almost makes the book seem like it's more likely to happen!

message 2: by KaDee (last edited Sep 24, 2012 06:00PM) (new)

KaDee I agree with Sarah, but I think that readers (fangirls and haters, mostly =) can sometimes get to worked up about things. Like, one of my friends despises one of my most favorite books and we love to debte about it. I think that you can learn a lot about just from disagreeing with someone. We just all need to be nice, respect everyone's opinion, and express our's in a positive way.

P.S. I adore your books!!! They're amazing!! =)

message 3: by Katarina (last edited Sep 24, 2012 06:03PM) (new)

Katarina I think it is important that writers challenge our viewpoints-- isn't that the point of all the efforts to get people to read banned books? I don't think there is anything wrong with expressing your opinion, as long as 1) you realize that not everyone shares it, 2) you respect others' rights to their opinions, including backlash. To the best of my knowledge, you meet those criteria, which is why you question. I have a lot of respect for your doubts. You really aren't throwing out your opinion because you feel it is the best, but becasue you see it as contributing to discussions that SHOULD happen. I agree, and I think that is wonderful. You go beyond those abbove-mentioned criteria to something that I personally feel is important: you try to state your opinion in a way that is respectful. Unfortunately, some people cannot do that, and cannot see that.
I haven't ever had a negative experience finding out what a writer is like-- thus far I've enjoyed following the blogs of my favorite writers. They raise issues that I don't necessarily think about, and offer insights that I may not have access to otherwise.

message 4: by Kami (new)

Kami Tilby Getting to know authors mostly enhances my appreciation for their work. I have found that it's more disconcerting to learn about an actor because the person you appreciate and like is their character not them personally. Learning about an author and their views and opinions often lends dimension and greater understanding to their written word. I like the conversational tone of blogs, that's what keeps me reading them. If I want carefully chosen words I'll read an edited, polished book. If I want my thinking challenged or prompted in some way, I'll read a blog. Sad to hear that anyone gets vehement and extreme reactions to the opinions of others.

message 5: by Rachael (new)

Rachael I think it depends. Some writers, I think, are like actors. They put on the skins of their characters, and then take them off and become themselves again. Some writers take another approach: they are, to one degree or another, every character they put on paper. What you read is who you see. There are writers I've read for a long time whose motives I agree with in real time. And there are those whose personal lives or opinions make reading their fiction seem unseemly to me. Part of this may be immaturity on my part, 29 but 17 in many ways. But I do think that to support certain writers, by recommending their work or buying it, is saying we support them as people. I own almost all of yours, and I look at your blog as you showing some of who you are so readers can see some of where you're writing from. I don't always agree with you, but I can respect where you're coming from and why you think the way you do, which you tend to support well in your blog posts.

message 6: by Erin (new)

Erin Most of the time--nay, 99.7% of the time, authors have a perfect right, as do we all, to say what they want and to not be bammed for it. Tweets, blog posts, facebook pictures of your cat eating a taco--all within the sphere of a human being, and thus, authors are no different.

HOWEVER, authors do differ in that .3% because they are taken as representatives/spokespeople/advertisements of those things which they promote, accidentally or intentionally. Whether in their book or on their blog, there are some things that writers should "shut the crap up" about, or at the very least curb their tongue. The most obvious example is politics--I read some tweets the other day from an author that I enjoy very much about the recent Embassy attacks that, while not so bad that I would stop reading their excellent books, did dampen my respect for them a little.

The most obvious example (to me) is the author of Beautiful Disaster. Writing a book with abusive themes is going to trigger something for someone, and they are going to have the right to express their views. The author, in this case, had that same right but abused it by getting personal, catty, and downright dishonest. That is a case where it would have been better for everyone involved (especially for the author, who lost a lot of potential readers due to her remarks) had the author "just shut the crap up".

Tl;dr, writers are people, and people have opinions. But writers are also Persons of Interest, and thus should make sure that those opinions are expressed wisely--not censored, not boring, but wisely.

message 7: by Kaylynn (new)

Kaylynn Dear Miss Hale,
Having seen you twice in person I have to say that I enjoy reading about what's going on in your head and I've enjoyed the discussions that have followed from your writings in your blog. Please don't stop now.

message 8: by Eden (new)

Eden I love reading your blog and meeting/reading about other authors-I think it's fun to get to know The Person Who Came Up With The Idea.
However, I think that just like all people in general, you're not going to like all authors, either (duh.) You might click with them, you might not. It a way, if you like their books but don't like them as a person, it shows that they're a good author, because they can write, and not just as them or from a similar viewpoint to their own.

I guess what I'm saying is, people are people. You're not going to agree with anyone about everything, and there are a lot of people that you won't agree about anything with. But it is worthwhile to make your opinions heard, and people who agree can agree, while people who don't can politely state that.

Please keep blogging! And not just you; I think everyone deserves a chance to say what they want to and hear others' opinions.

message 9: by R.G. (new)

R.G. i think everyone is entitled to their opinion and we shouldn't have to worry about offending people... not that anyone should go around and try to be offensive but you shouldn't have to agree with the public census just to be able to talk... we have freedom of speech for a reason... and besides no one should get that offended from your blogs... they're not directly pointed at anyone... you're not out there saying Raygun is the worst person on earth no one should talk to her... you're stating your opinion and if i don't agree so be it but it's not personal and so though you have written blogs that i've been very passionate in responding too i don't see any reason why you should stop letting people see you for who you really are... i found that one of the things i love about goodreads.. you're no longer just a name on a book... your a person with family and kids and i think that makes it all the more wonderful when i read your writings to know there's a flesh and blood person behind it... and you could come out saying all kinds of vile things and the worst that would do is maybe make me unsubscribe from your blog but your books are amazing and i doubt you being a good honest person about your view on the world would give me any reason to ever stop reading them... so keep on writing... it's our God given right...

message 10: by Chris (new)

Chris Sorensen Shannon,

I think Raygun above said it best that the goal is not to offend. You have a blog to share yourself with your readers and anybody who comes to visit should know that they are going to get you the author AND you the person. And that's a good thing and helps keep the relationship going. As long as an author's true purpose for blogging/interacting is to build a community with their readers and not solely to peddle books...I'm all in!

If someone happens to not like what you say, then they can either stop reading or join the civil discussion with their own thoughts and opinions. Unfortunately some people don't know how to be civil; hence the problem you discuss. But I think - in my experience - that those who are willing to be uncivil are very much the vast minority (but since they are so loud and persistent sometimes, it doesn't seem like it).

Thank you for sharing yourself!

message 11: by Xyra (new)

Xyra Thank you for sharing yourself. You always do so in a very respectful way.
I, too, find the instant hate comments disturbing. However, I have recently become aware of a growing movement of people who purposefully enter Internet discussions to post inflammatory statements to see how badly they can disrupt the readers. The more people who know about this the better so that we can keep our cool. Keep sharing (and thank you for defending Breaking Dawn...I feel it is fabulous the way the game of wits was played.)

message 12: by Mandy (last edited Oct 01, 2012 03:18PM) (new)

Mandy Shannon, I think this was a very thoughtful post. I understand your struggle to a lesser degree, just with my own opinions on my facebook profile, for example. I like to bounce my ideas and thoughts off of others, too. I like difficult conversations, and seeing both sides of an issue. In my opinion, that's how you grow. I really don't think a person can claim conviction in their beliefs if they haven't truly listened and attempted to understand the opposing view.

Anyway, I don't feel anyone should have to hide who they are. I think it depends on the way it's said. There are diplomatic, tactful ways to address hard or controversial issues. I have not read your blog or any of your postings previous to this one (not b/c I don't want to, just haven't had the chance yet), but judging by it, I would venture to guess that your words are not charged or insulting. I think you should have the freedom to express your opinion, and I suppose the downside to being well-known is that inevitably, there will be ALWAYS someone who will take it the wrong way.

I would not judge an author based on their personal an extent. Just like your examples, whatever it was about the sexist man crossed your line, and the other guy didn't. That's okay. We all have our own lines and we know what is acceptable to us and what isn't. Some of us apparently have more rigid "lines" than others. Those who will never read your books again b/c of something you said, well, they will be missing out. Their loss.

It's really sad, I think we should all have the freedom to express ourselves respectfully (as Xyra described) without hateful comments.

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