Sunday, May 19, 2013

Angry Readers


Back in 2005 when my first book had just come out, I met Charlaine Harris. She was one of a small group of Sisters in Crime who were having dinner together after a book sellers convention and I, new to the mystery world, asked her what she wrote. "Well, I have a new series about vampires," she told me, as I gave her a ride back to her hotel.

I hadn't a clue that this soft-spoken, pleasant lady from Duck Pond, Arkansas was just on the verge of becoming a major bestseller with her Sookie Stackhouse novels -- novels which became the very popular TV series 'True Blood.'

But as time went on, Charlaine's fame and popularity grew and grew -- and still, by all accounts, she remained just as sweet and just as hardworking -- turning out book after book with clockwork regularity.

This month, DEAD EVER AFTER, the 13th and the last in the series hit the shelves and the you-know what hit the fan.  Many  long time readers were outraged -- not so much that the series was ending but at which of three romantic interests Sookie, the telepathic waitress, ended up with.

 There's an article HERE detailing some of the really awful things readers have said and supposedly Ms. Harris has decided not to go on tour with this book because of the violent reaction there has been to the novel.

Folks, I find myself wanting to say, get a life! This is FICTION! These are not real people.

Of course it speaks well for an author's skill that she can create characters her readers feel so passionately about -- but it turns out to be something of a double-edged sword, in this case.

It's happened before -- Conan Doyle tired of writing about Sherlock Holmes and tried to kill him off in what was meant to be a final book but reader clamor forced him to resurrect his detective. 

As a reader, I'm still a little annoyed about some of the characters Patrick O'Brian killed off though, as a writer, I think I understand his reasons. 

Have any of you had characters you cared for so much that you were angry when things didn't go as you wished? 
 
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27 comments:

Ms. A said...

Can't say I am, as far as book characters, but have been with characters in some of the TV series I watch.

Gorgeous blooms, Vicki!

Merisi said...

I wished Ian McEwan's "Atonement" had ended differently. I won't say more, not wanting to spoil it for new readers. However, it was a brilliant touch, the way he unraveled the story.

I should wrote of sending an angry missile off to Mr. McEwan! No, just kidding! ;-)

I would write, though, to Mr. Shakespeare, were he still around. The character killing he went to with Richard III was more than a touch too much! That notwithstanding, it's still my favorite play. ;-)

Merisi said...

Oh well, I should not hit the publish button before reading my scribbles. It should read "I should have thought of sending .... Mr. McEwan ..." - sorry!

Vicki Lane said...

I have to admit I still haven't read the last Harry Potter book because of some of what (I hear) happens...

Novice Naturalist said...

Yes, I have been disappointed--once or twice angry--with character disposal in novels. Larry McMurtry killed off a bunch of characters from Lonesome pretty summarily in follow up writings continuing some character stories--I felt at the time that Mr. McMurtry did that to shock his readers with his own perception of their responses to characters and, at other times, that he was just reflecting the true vulnerable nature of life and relationships. So, I guess I'd say I have had mixed feelings, sometimes of frustration and sometimes of understanding. If I feel a writer is trying to manipulate or shock me, then I am less tolerant than when I feel that character deaths are organically supported by circumstances in the fictional world.

It is, though, certainly a credit to an author when readers care about characters so much that they are 'real' to us.

Star said...

Not characters no, but I was devastated last April 2012 when Miss Read, alias Dora Marie Saint, died herself. That means that there will be no more Thrush Green or Fairacre books. Miss Read was 98 when she died and no-one lives for ever but not only was I so sad that she had died but that her characters have died with her. Of course I still have the books and the stories but there will be no new ones.

Kath Marsh said...

I can't be angry with an author for how a series ends. Just regret if a series I enjoy doesn't continue. But only the author knows when and what needs to happen.

I am more disappointed in a series I loved that has become so bad that I stopped buying and only check new additions from the library. It's as if the author ran out of steam, but not out of greed for $$$. Not that most authors make $$$. But this famous one does. For me continuing a series just to rake in $$$ is the true betrayal.

Brian Miller said...

we get emotionally attached to the characters...and when it does not go the way we want some of those obsessed readers can def be dangerous....yikes...

Jean Baardsen said...

When John D. MacDonald died, I literally grieved for Travis McGee.

KarenB said...

I do grieve more for authors when they die certainly! Outrage, or rather disappointment, with an author comes when the writer either continues to write the same thing over and over or uses gratuitous death or horror. But then again, it is the author's choice to write what he or she wants to write and the reader's choice to either read or not.

I was horrified at some of what was written about Charlaine Harris. She is a lovely woman and, having finished her book yesterday, gave readers enough intimations of what Sookie really wanted and where the series was going that it should have been obvious to an observant reader.

KarenB said...

Oh, and do read the last Harry Potter. Some of it is quite unnecessarily long, but it does all make sense. There is sadness, certainly, but I think J.K. Rowling didn't want to diminish the impact of evil and war; there is also happiness and joy.

B. Rogers, Living in Black Mountain said...

Yes to all comments about characters...many times. But especially about the losses of our favortite authors. Their characters (usually) live on. Agree, the last Harry Potter may be long, but good as end of series, (perhaps).

Harbingerdc said...

Having so loved Anne Rice's earlier vampire and witch books, I actually committed the blasphemy of throwing one across the room.

Frances said...

I still remember a certain page from The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

What power fine writers wield. xo

Anonymous said...

It's a different situation, but Robert Tannenbaum made me most unhappy when he stopped his unacknowledged partnership/ghost writing relationship with Grueber. The books he wrote from then on, on his own, are awful and poorly edited as well with many printing and grammatical errors, to the point of embarrassment. So though there have been many more books, I don't feel like I'll ever know what 'really' happened to the characters I enjoyed in the earlier books of the series. Not be mention that it felt like a betrayal when it came out the he wasn't the sole author. Not a complete surprise though because I had noticed the effusive dedications to Grueber in the earlier book and thought there was something rather strange about them.

Lynne in GA

Anonymous said...

Not to mention...sorry.

Lynne in Ga

Inger said...

First of all that is such a pity and I agree with you, these people need to get a life.

I was seriously disturbed when Henning Mankell, the Swedish writer, ended his detective Wallander series, with Wallander losing his memory to Alzheimers. I, as many others around the world, had become very fond of Wallander and it felt like losing someone you knew. It does take a good writer to accomplish that, but I wish he hadn't done it.

NCmountainwoman said...

On the contrary. I tend to admire authors who have the confidence to leave some readers unhappy by a death or relationship. Not every book needs to have tidy endings all wrapped up like pretty packages. The author owns the characters and I am happy to go along for the ride, no matter the curves and ending.

That is not to say I don't grieve some characters. Rabbit Angstrom immediately comes to mind. John Updike made me grieve over a character who really wasn't all that likable. Now that's a talented artist.

But please Vicki, don't ever kill off Elizabeth.

Darla said...

Sure, I can feel an initial anger or sadness or annoyance, but that passes pretty quickly. I mean, it's fiction. Probably what is harder for me is to have a bunch of loose ends; I like it when the author ties up those loose ends how she/he wishes them to be, especially if there have been open-ended mysteries throughout a series. But again, it's fiction and I can imagine my own endings. Right?

Merisi said...

Almost off topic:
This morning, I met a nice couple from North Carolina. We got into talking books and our attachment to certain authors and their characters. Small world!

Some of your readers mentioned the sadness we feel when a beloved author dies. Reminded me of the moment I heard about W.G. Sebald's untimely death in a traffic accident. I felt such sadness, and do to this day. I really love his writings.


katy gilmore said...

I never understand when readers become angry (even violent?) in reaction to an author's work turning in direction they don't fancy. Feels like a total misunderstanding of creative work. Get a life indeed.

Victoria said...

I was saddened by the deaths of some of the characters in the Harry Potter books, devastated by the death of Gus in the book 'Lonesome Dove,' ... well, I could go on and on, but never did it occur to me to be so ungrateful or angry that I would say rude, hateful things to the author!

I agree, Vicki, these folks need to get a life. And, they need to remember to be grateful to Ms. Harris for giving them so many pleasurable hours of reading. Honestly, some people...

Vicki Lane said...

Elizabeth George is another author who got a lot of flack when she killed off one of her four main characters. I suspect that in a long-running series, sometimes it's necessary in order to bring shake things up and bring in new characters and alliances.

I would never kill my Elizabeth -- or a dog.

And I really enjoyed reading all your thoughts. I will read the last Harry Potter - I think I've also postponed it because I didn't want the series to be over.

Vagabonde said...

We are back – went to Tennessee where my daughter had a baby girl on May 10th (my last post was pre-scheduled.) As usual I am way behind reading blogs and since I don’t want to miss anything I read all the past posts – I enjoyed your photos of flowers, of your trip to Europe, your kittens, etc.
I can’t think of a character that I missed in a book. I have not been reading much fiction lately. I usually go into “binge” reading – that is reading on one subject. Because of our trip to the Little White House I have been reading on FDR, books from the library.

Anonymous said...

I will be sad when the Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon ends. Don't believe she can end it with everyone living happily ever after.... But angry about it, no, that's life. Like you said they are only fictional people after all.

Tammy said...

As someone mentioned above, I've more often been disappointed in how a series ends when the characters and plot become weaker. Some of my all time favorite authors I won't re-read their last books in a series as they attempt to 'tie up loose ends' as it often leaves the strong characters suddenly weak and subdued.

The worst one for me was a t.v. show (NCIS) where they unexpectedly shot the one of the main women characters. The manner it was done was devastating and I refused to watch it for years.

BUT. It is only a book or t.v. show and I'd certainly not turn on the author. Maybe walk away from the series but that is all. Geez.

Tammy

Tammy said...

As someone mentioned above, I've more often been disappointed in how a series ends when the characters and plot become weaker. Some of my all time favorite authors I won't re-read their last books in a series as they attempt to 'tie up loose ends' as it often leaves the strong characters suddenly weak and subdued.

The worst one for me was a t.v. show (NCIS) where they unexpectedly shot the one of the main women characters. The manner it was done was devastating and I refused to watch it for years.

BUT. It is only a book or t.v. show and I'd certainly not turn on the author. Maybe walk away from the series but that is all. Geez.

Tammy