Other authors should stop telling JK Rowling to stop writing

Lynn Shepherd may be wrong, but I still need her to succeed as an author.

Lynn Shepherd may be wrong, but I still need her to succeed as an author.

Let’s get the confessions out of the way.  I read 100 pages of the first Harry Potter book, put it down, and never picked it up again.  It wasn’t bad writing.  It just wasn’t for me. I prefer stories with a little more grit. Unlike other bestsellers in recent years, I do understand why the HP series was a tremendous success.  Author JK Rowling is a masterful teller of fantasy tales, and she writes characters with which you can connect.  I applaud her for getting not just one generation interested in books, but several generations from the UK to America to Zimbabwe and beyond.  She carried the entire publishing industry on her back for a few years, and for that alone she has my respect.

Confession number two, I don’t know who Lynn Shepherd is, and I’ve never read a single word of her books.  But, her recent comments concerning JK Rowling have put her on my radar.  She’s a novelist in the UK who wrote a piece for the Huffington Post urging JK Rowling to stop writing.  Shepherd’s main objection is that by publishing books that don’t really deserve the attention they’re getting, Rowling is making it impossible for other authors to get any attention for they’re much more deserving books.

In Shepherd’s own words:

I didn’t much mind Rowling when she was Pottering about. I’ve never read a word (or seen a minute) so I can’t comment on whether the books were good, bad or indifferent. I did think it a shame that adults were reading them (rather than just reading them to their children, which is another thing altogether), mainly because there’s so many other books out there that are surely more stimulating for grown-up minds. But, then again, any reading is better than no reading, right? But The Casual Vacancy changed all that.

It wasn’t just that the hype was drearily excessive, or that (by all accounts) the novel was no masterpiece and yet sold by the hundredweight, it was the way it crowded out everything else, however good, however worthwhile. That book sucked the oxygen from the entire publishing and reading atmosphere. And I chose that analogy quite deliberately, because I think that sort of monopoly can make it next to impossible for anything else to survive, let alone thrive. Publishing a book is hard enough at the best of times, especially in an industry already far too fixated with Big Names and Sure Things, but what can an ordinary author do, up against such a Golgomath?

Shepherd’s logic is flawed.  She assumes that a book is wholly fulfilling, that readers will devour its contents and satisfy their need to escape into the world of fiction for the entirety of their lives.  In fact, the opposite is true.  When a reader falls in love with a book, it ignites a passion for reading that benefits every author.  A reader develops a need for fiction that becomes as addictive as alcohol or crack only without the occasional blackouts and poorly made coitus-centered decisions.

Rowling doesn’t suck up all the oxygen in the publishing industry.  If anything, she makes it an oxygen-rich environment.  We authors of lesser note need JK Rowling to publish more.  We need her to expand her appeal across every demographic.

A note to Lynn Shepherd:  Literary taste can’t be explained, and shouldn’t be attacked.  I love the works of Erskine Caldwell.  To me, he is flawless as a writer.  Yet, I’ve read scathing reviews of his books.  Suggesting that JK Rowling is a second-rate writer is an untenable position.  Just because you don’t like her books doesn’t make her writing less than deserving.   Are there books that have reached an iconic status that I find unreadable and abhorrent?  Absolutely.  Does their popularity ruin it for the rest of us?  Not in the least.  Readers of those books will hunger for more to read, and their tastes will grow.  Great writing and storytelling will always win out in the end.  You and I may disagree on the nature of publishing and the public’s consumption of books, but that doesn’t mean I want you to fail.  On the contrary, I need you to succeed.  You have my sincerest hope that you reach bestseller status and bring millions more readers into the fold.

UPDATE: Ouch! I just read a few of the “readers'” reviews on Amazon of Shepherd’s latest book, and she is taking some big hits for her piece in HuffPo.  I put “readers'” in quotes because most of those giving the book such poor reviews admit to not having read the book.

Shame on those reviewers.  They object to her judging another author’s work she hasn’t read and then they turn around and do the same thing to her.  JK Rowling will survive Shepherd’s comments unscathed.  They needn’t compromise their own integrity to defend her.

Earn a degree in Wizardry!

A Different Kind of Cap & Gown!

A Different Kind of Cap & Gown!

The Harry Potter craze has officially gone too far.  Flamel College, “the largest Hermetic education portal on the Internet,” is offering a certificate in wizardry.  Yes, you read right.  Your dream of becoming a wizard is just an online course away from becoming reality, and I use that word “reality” in the broadest possible terms.  This is from their website:

To be awarded the Certificate of Wizardry from Flamel College and membership in the Wizard’s Guild, the student should first complete all 22 lessons in the first part of the textbook. This will give the student the knowledge and expertise to successfully complete the interactive Wizard’s Adventure in the second part of the textbook. This part of the textbook is the exam for the course. Crack the code at the end of the “Wizard’s Adventure” and email or mail to your instructor. If your code is correct, you will be mailed your engraved certificate and more information on how to practice wizardry.

Thank you J.K. Rowling.  I’m sure, thanks to Stephanie Meyer, that degrees in Vampireology are just around the corner.  I’m actually working on a course in Hyper Mental Imaging.  Shame on you if you don’t know what that is. 

BTW – Hermetic means occult science. 

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Pardon Me While I Scream!

I just read a story in the New York Post about Catherine Banner. She is a 19-year-old Cambridge student that signed a multi-book deal with Random House. Her book, The Eyes of a King, is currently ranked 3,474 on Amazon (Very respectable ranking). She’s being called the next J.K. Rowling.

Are you kidding me? First of all, that is monumentally unfair for Banner. Rowling has sold over 400 million copies worldwide. That’s some awful big shoes to fill. She should be allowed to find her own audience without those kinds of expectations.

Second, I’m the next J.K. Rowling! Just kidding. My books are nothing like the Harry Potter series. I think Banner is getting the comparison because she’s British and her story involves magic, and a parentless boy.

Here’s a particularly annoying part from the NY Post story:

Banner was 14 at the time. She wrote the 435-page story in a year, scribbling with pen and paper up to 30 hours a week – between homework assignments.

A year later, Banner approached an agent at a local literary festival. “I’m 16, do you think that’s too young to start writing?” she asked him.

“He asked if I had written a book. I said I had, and he said, ‘Why don’t you send it to me?’

“I sent it off, and he got back to me . . . We decided to release it after school, so it was released this year.”

Yes, I’m jealous. Yes, I’m bitter. No, I don’t have access to any sharp objects. Please note, I don’t have a problem with a 19-year-old girl getting a publishing contract. I have a problem with one particular 42-year-old man not getting a publishing contract. I’m happy for her. No, seriously… I am.

Ever Wonder What A Royalty Report Looks Like?

Wonder no more. I found an old report, and it made me realize how really extraordinary the Harry Potter series really is in terms of sales (400 million copies and counting). This is how the other half lives. Click here for the Nov. – Dec. report: royalty-report

BTW – I obscured sensitive information in the report.

400 Million Copies Sold

My hat’s off to J.K. Rowling.  Her Harry Potter series just topped the 400 million copies sold mark.  I’m not that far behind her.  By my calculations I have about 399,996,500 to go – give or take a few hundred books.  Actually, I may be able to catch up by the weekend. 

Bookseller.com has the full story: Potter tops 400 million sales

 

Burning Books

I’ve been obsessing a bit about the subject of banning books ever since the mother on Amazon said she wanted to burn my book because she was so offended by the “Gross, Gore, Evil, Blood, Guts…” We all see the world differently, and I can’t fault her for her opinion. As I said, she can raise her children as she sees fit, but I am a bit mystified. The Oz Chronicles is about the cost of intolerance and the power of forgiveness. It is about a 13-year-old boy who brought about the end of the world because of the horrible way he treated a classmate with Down syndrome. The series reflects his journey as he tries to redeem himself and bring back the world. Yes, there is “Gross, Gore, Evil, Blood, Guts…,” but I’m pretty sure you could say the same of the Bible. Don’t get me wrong, The Oz Chronicles is not a religious or Christian series. It’s a just a story where good battles evil. The good guys don’t always do the right thing, and the bad guys sometimes do good things.

I realize my books aren’t the first to be misunderstood. And I’m not too terribly upset about this woman’s opinion. As I said before, I hope she spreads the word. I could use the publicity, but I do wonder how she reached the conclusion that she did. Oz is just a poor kid who’s fighting to get back home to see his parents.

I’m not sure when teaching kids the cost of intolerance and the power of forgiveness became a bad thing.