Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Never "Meet" your Heroes

[You'll notice from this post that I've just learned how to do links on Blogger and, like a child, I'm playing with my new toy at every opportunity.]

My favourite radio show (Simon Mayo on Radio 2) has a book club. Every two weeks they interview an author and invite listeners to read the first chapter on their website. Other listeners, from a pre-selected panel, have already read the book, and give their reviews. It's fascinating to find out how the writers go about researching and structuring their books (yesterday's featured author was Conn Igguldon who had been to Mongolia in order to get a feel for the location of his historical epic about Kubla Khan, and found it "very like Wales") and naturally you get to know quite a bit about the authors themselves.

I may be shallow, but it actually matters to me what those authors are like. I want them to be nice people. I was delighted to learn that JK Rowling had donated a vast amount of money to the campaign to find Madeleine McCann because, like the rest of the world, I love Harry Potter, and for some strange reason it mattered to me that the creator of Hogwarts was a nice person. I have already blogged about Enid Blyton and how finding out that she was an adulterer and an uncaring mother has affected my enjoyment of her books, and my likelihood of reading them to my children.

I particularly enjoyed, then, the interview with Sir Terry Pratchett who proved to be just as delightfully eccentric and personable as I could have hoped. And I liked Anthony Horowitz so much when I listened to his interview that I am suggesting one of his books to my book club. Barbara Taylor Bradford came across as rather aloof and unfriendly, so I won't be going out of my way to buy her books.

The biggest shock, however, was Terry Deary, author of the Horrible Histories books which my middle daughter loves so much she has developed a fascination with history generally. Admittedly he wasn't on Simon Mayo's show (and I hope Simon never invites him) but his interview in Radio Times was little short of offensive. He was arrogant, objectionable and at one stage dismissed a keen 11-year-old fan saying, "How dare people come to me?" He was scathing about other highly respected historians and writers, and even such venerable and admired institutions as Radio 4 and the nation's schools. Interviewer Rosie Millard, herself a venerable and admired institution, does her best to redeem him by mentioning his charity work, but by that time I loathed the man so she might just as well not have bothered.

So there are nice authors, and not-so-nice authors, and you really can't tell much about the personality of the writer by reading their book. But I really hope I can be a nice author. It's so distressing and disappointing for fans to discover that someone who had created so much reading pleasure is not deserving of their adulation.


Cheri J. Crane said...

I've found the same to be true, Anna. It's like anything else, there is always a mixture of good and bad. I'm delighted to learn that Terry Pratchett is as wonderful as his books. I've enjoyed several of his novels.

Stephanie Black said...

Excellent point, Anna! Brandon Sanderson is one writer I admire tremendously because not only is he a great writer, but he is so kind and so gracious to his fans, taking time to make everyone who comes to see him feel appreciated.