Bookish Musings: Separating the Author from the Book (Part 2)


A few months ago I had a discussion about whether or not it’s possible to still enjoy a book even if you don’t like the author as a person. Some of you mentioned the reverse—whether or not the content in a book indicates who an author is as a person. I actually did want to talk about that as well, but it seemed like too much for one post, so here is the second half of the discussion!

What Exactly Are We Talking About?

We know that authors are not their characters. Authors often write characters who are completely different from them, who do and say things the author themselves would never say or do. Right?

Except I feel like sometimes readers forget this.

Sometimes people slut shame. Or they use ableist language. Or they act in sexist ways. Or they bully other people. Or they get jealous in relationships. Or they do any number of crappy things. Sometimes they don’t actively do anything, per se, but they have problematic beliefs, like that women need to have children to feel fulfilled, or that sexual orientation is a choice. So it makes sense that some characters would do or say or think or feel or believe these things too. Even protagonists and main characters and good guys, because nobody is perfect, and we’re all constantly learning and growing. Can anyone reading this honestly say that you’ve never in your entire life said or done anything that was prejudiced or hurtful in some way? Not even something that you didn’t realize was prejudiced or hurtful at the time? I’m guessing not. I know I can’t. And maybe some characters are meant to be flawed. So it’s realistic when characters act in these ways, is it not?

As readers, we seem to have a total handle on the idea that when characters cheat and murder and steal, it’s ok for that to be included in the book, even if it’s the protagonist doing it, and is not a reflection of the author. Hell, a lot of our favorite characters are murderers and thieves. But as soon as something I mentioned above comes up, we tend to get upset. Even when it’s one of the side characters or an antagonist who’s supposed to be a jerk, I often see readers getting angry that it was included in the book.


Why Do We Have Such a Hard Time Separating the Author from the Content in Certain Situations?

I think it’s because this kind of thing is a gray area in books. Sometimes you find a whole book that’s just a giant, problematic mess, but sometimes the issues are smaller and it can be hard to tell if it’s just the character or if it really is the author’s thoughts. I’ll use one specific book I’ve read as an example. In this book, the protagonist thought to herself at one point that no one would find her attractive because she had some scars and “men want their women smooth under their touch”; that sounds problematic at first, but she did end up with a man, and he clearly had no issue with it, therefore that was just the character’s thoughts, not the author’s message. But there were also other little problematic, sexist things scattered throughout the book about all women wanting children, men being “at their weakest when desire took over,” things like that. So was that also just the character’s flawed thinking, or was it the author’s? See what I mean? Gray area.

I think we also have a hard time separating the author and the content in these situation because including these kinds of things in a book without any consequence or lesson, showing the good guys behaving like this, etc. could potentially send a message to readers that this kind of behavior or thinking is ok. We like to think people reading will know right from wrong, acceptable from not acceptable, but sometimes we don’t know until it’s pointed out to us. A lot of things are already so completely ingrained in us from the day we’re born by our friends, our family, and our society, so much so that we don’t even question them or realize things shouldn’t be that way.


Is There a Solution?

Should authors just not write this stuff? Or should they always make sure it’s called out in the book by other characters? Well, part of me feels like, is it really the author’s job to teach people lessons and right from wrong in their books? Or is it just their job to tell a good, realistic (depending on the genre/book) story? I kind of feel like it’s the latter, that it’s not the author’s responsibility to teach anyone anything. But the reality is that people are influenced by the media they consume, so it’s a really hard question to answer.

But it’s important to remember that authors are not their characters. Just as we don’t accuse authors of being murderers when one of their characters murders someone, we shouldn’t accuse them of being prejudiced just because one of their characters is, or of slut shaming just because some of the side characters slut-shamed the MC, etc. Maybe the author intended those problematic things as part of the characters/story, maybe they didn’t; we may never know.

Maybe the best solution is just for reviewers to point out the problems, as we already often do. As to whether we should rate books lower, I guess that’s up to each individual person to decide.


Talk to me!

Do you think the content of a book or the actions of a character are a reflection of the author?
Does a problematic character always equate to a problematic book?
What do you think the best solution is for characters who act in problematic ways?


Your Thoughts


67 thoughts on “Bookish Musings: Separating the Author from the Book (Part 2)

I'd love if you'd share your thoughts, too!


Reading your comments makes me a very happy blogger!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Danielle

    I think that in terms of stuff like this, it would be separating the art from the artist. In some cases, I can do that. I can put my personal feelings aside if the content is good. But in other extreme cases, like sexism, homophobia, colorism, racism, etc. Like if the author has said some problematic stuff on Twitter or something, then I’d reconsider. Because then, they’re letting themselves be shown outside of the content they create.

    1. Kristen Burns

      That’s a good point. If the author is also saying these kinds of things on social media or elsewhere, that’s def a sign that it’s just their thoughts, not a certain character’s, and therefore it’s problematic. And I do think this kind of thing is often on a case-by-case basis.

  2. JJ @ This Dark Material

    I don’t think you can ever fully separate the artist from the art, although I’m always in favor of full freedom of expression. A couple of examples: Gillian Flynn explores some very dark consequences of misogyny and sexism in her novels, but I’ve never seen an indication from her personally that she shares those views. They’re just the themes she wants to work with. On the other side is Alfred Hitchcock, who grappled with some of the same sexual issues he put on film. Knowing he was using his movies to work through (or, god forbid, condone) those urges makes me approach them differently as a viewer because it changes the question from “Should these kinds of stories be put on film?” to “Did this man use and/or abuse any of the employees working for him?”. But I don’t know that anyone could definitively say whether Flynn puts any less of herself into her books than Hitchcock did his films, if that makes sense?

    As readers and reviewers, I think we have a responsibility to not only talk about what we read, but the authors who wrote it and even the context in which it was written/read. That way we collectively remember to keep fiction and real life separate, but also stay alert when the fiction we encounter is suggestive of problems beyond the page 🙂

    Great discussion question!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Honestly I don’t often read about authors or follow their social media, especially not before I read their books, so I wouldn’t even know most of the time if they were doing questionable things. But what you’re saying makes sense. I can see how you might look at the work differently, although I guess we can never know things for sure.

      But I don’t know, I kind of feel like reviews ought to stick to talking about just the book, not the author, unless maybe it’s an extreme case. I suppose that would possibly help to figure out if the book is actually problematic or not though!


  3. Adrian

    I’m not sure. I met a lot of authors I only knew from social media last year at a convention. Most are horror authors, some extreme horror authors. I spent the evening drinking and eating with them. We had a ball and they were incredibly nice folk. So, I think you can separate the art from the artist so to speak.

  4. Greg

    Great point about accepting murderers or other bad characters but getting upset about more minor things. Lots to think about here. I think different people look for different things, but for me books are escapism, entertainment. If something is really bad then yeah it may turn me off, but generally I just want a good story, and if they include characters who are jerks or whatever, I can live with that. I think the issue for me is more when an author does or says something problematic in real life, as opposed to what their characters in a book are doing.

    I think your solution is right. We all have different opinions- something that bothers me might not someone else- so as reviewers I think it’s great just to point it out, and let people decide.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yes, it really is rather interesting that we love the murderers and thieves but cannot stand the jealous partners or slut shamers or characters who commit more minor infractions. I agree with you though. If the whole book is problematic or something is really bad, then yeah, I’ll likely get annoyed, but especially if it’s a side character who does something problematic, I can usually let it slide.

      Yep, that way everyone can decide for themselves what they’re able to deal with!

  5. verushka

    I think that if an author expresses things in real life as opposed to a book, then my perception of their work would be affected. Like the current #MeToo happening — I can’t divorce myself entirely from viewing their work through the lens of their actions in real life. But content in a book isn’t reflective of an author — unless it’s a big thing they just don’t have their characters deal with or speak up against.

  6. Kei @ The Lovely Pages Reviews

    This is so interesting, as far as books and authors go I can totally separate them because like you mentioned, they’re not killers if they write a crime book. But, if an author behaves a certain way (good or bad) outside of their books (like twitter or interviews) then I will definitely take than into account.

    To give you an example, a few years ago I read an interview from a new then author on a blog, I don’t want to name the person but basically an answer made me not want to read any of that person’s books and I haven’t to this day and never will. And likewise another author I never heard of was very vocal and advocated on twitter for minorities and I went out of my way to search their books; social media can have a huge impact on what people read or watch for that matter.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yeah, if an author is problematic in real life, then I would assume anything like that in their books is problematic too. And social media can definitely have an impact just like you described!

  7. Stephanie Jane

    Great post! I love how you set out thoughtful discussions here.

    I think the book and the author are separate entities although, like JJ says in her comment, an author working out their thoughts on an issue can grey the area. Personally I wouldn’t want to read a book where every character’s problematic opinions were called out by someone else. Or a book where everyone was totally Right On. Of course those would be extremes, but reading a character’s opinion that, had I previously thought about it, I would declare myself disagreeing with has sometimes caused me to address my own ingrained prejudices and that can only be a good thing.

    1. Kristen Burns


      I do try to keep the two separate, but that is a good point about an author working out their thoughts. But I also wouldn’t want to read about every character being perfect, or every character getting called out. It would be too much. I agree that even if a character has prejudice or misguided beliefs, it can cause the reader to think about it and address our own thoughts about them, and that’s definitely a good thing!

  8. Tammy @ Books, Bones & Buffy

    I think it would be pretty boring to read about good, kind, upstanding, politically correct characters all the time, and authors know that. No one is going to buy THAT BOOK. I mean, if a reader can’t separate their feelings from the story the author is trying to tell, maybe they should find something else to read. I just read a book with all kinds of “problematic” elements, but they were obviously necessary in order to tell the story, and it turned out to be a 5 star book for me.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I agree. I actually just read a book in which every character was so completely perfect in regards to these kinds of tings, so understanding, etc. that it didn’t even feel believable to me, and the characters kind of lacked personality :-/ And yes, I do think sometimes the problematic things are necessary to a story!

  9. Angela

    I don’t think the content of a book is a reflection of the author. Writers use their imaginations to come up with scenarios and characters. Maybe sometimes they are drawing on things they’ve experienced or heard about, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a reflection of them or their opinions. Sometimes an author could be writing about something they have no direct experience with. Authors can’t write good characters who always say and do the right thing so that we believe the author is a good person. Sometimes they are going to have to write characters that say and do terrible things; it’s part of the story, it’s not personal.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Exactly, every single character in a story can’t be good and perfect because that would get really boring. That’s why it kind of baffles me a bit when I see people get angry about a side character who was prob meant to be a jerk doing something jerky.

  10. Danya @ Fine Print

    Love this topic, Kristen! Normally I think I’m pretty good at separating a character’s views from the author’s, but those gray areas…oh man. You hit the nail on the head when you said that sometimes it can be hard to tell if something problematic is just the character or if it really is the author’s thoughts, but usually I think that it’s for the sake of the story; for me the real issue is when an author responds to a call-out re: problematic content in a way that reveals the issue really does reflect the author’s thoughts. I saw this happen last year and it was so disappointing.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Exactly, it’s those gray areas that get me! Sometimes it’s really hard to know for sure. But you make a good point. How the authors responds to the call-out would be very telling!

  11. Let's Get Beyond Tolerance

    I always try and separate the author from the book when it comes to things like this because most of the time, the author is a good person who isn’t telling people it’s okay to slut shame or being prejudiced. I think a lot of times these things are just naturally counter-balanced in the book, where it’s shown in some way that these weren’t good things to think or do…even if it’s not done in a really specific manner. It’s definitely not the author’s job to teach readers anything, and some people even hate when books have an overt message in them…so definitely a gray area and it’s mostly going to be up to the reader. I think, unless the book is just awful characters saying and doing whatever they want with no consequence or change in behavior, I’m probably going to be okay with it.


    1. Kristen Burns

      I agree, oftentimes I don’t think the author is supporting those things, although sometimes I wonder if maybe the author isn’t even aware of them being problematic. But I don’t tend to like heavy-handed messages, and I don’t think it’s really the author’s job to teach us either. It’s still somewhat of a gray area though. But yeah, I’m usually ok with it too unless there’s just too much throughout the book.

  12. Amber Elise @ Du Livre

    Ooo this is a great conversation starter! I actually don’t really have that much of an issue with authors who write *suspect* characters. I think this is because I like to listen to a lot of author interviews, I like to hear their thought process and how they came to create such a piece. Of course, if it seems like the research was not done whatsoever, I will judge the author’s dedication.

    I do; however, have issue with separating authors from their social media presence. If they are shooting into the void about things I REALLY don’t agree with, or are just flat-out offensive (case and point: Tiffany Stewart), I’m less likely to seek them out.

    Great post Kristen!

    1. Kristen Burns

      That’s cool! I don’t actually read/listen to many interviews, so I just try to assume the author are not all terrible people lol. Hearing the thought process would be interesting though, especially for suspect characters.

      Oh, yeah, that’s totally different. If they’re problematic in real life, then I can understand not seeking out their books or being more concerned about the problematic things in their books!

      Thanks 🙂

  13. AngelErin

    I don’t find the content in a (fictional) novel to reflect on an author personally. Just because something is in an author’s book doesn’t mean that’s how they feel about it. Unfortunately there are people in the world who quite frankly, are ignorant and rude, and there should be books written about it. Controversy at least gets these important topics talked about! 🙂

    1. Kristen Burns

      I agree, just because an author has a character do/think/feel something, it doesn’t mean they support that! And that’s a great point, controversy does get people talking about these important topics!

  14. Karen Blue

    I usually don’t have issues with flawed characters that hold prejudice beliefs. I dont automatically think it is the authors POV for these things. For example: I just reread It amd it was full of racial slurs but I don’t think that is how King thinks. I believe he was just showong how people can be.
    People are almost too sensitive these days.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Same. I usually figure they purposely chose to make the characters that way for a reason, not that it’s the author’s views. Still, I have come across things in books that kind of made me wonder whether the character was purposely made that way or if the author maybe didn’t even realize that was problematic. I agree though, I think sometimes people go a bit overboard for certain things to the point that no matter what one does, it’s wrong.

  15. Aimee (Aimee, Always)

    This is absolutely lovely, Kristen, and absolutely thought-provoking. I’ve thought about this quite a lot, especially whenever I come across books with slut-shaming, fat-shaming, stereotypes, and everything else in between. I do end up reviewing these books poorly, and I’m beginning to think the reason behind why I do that is wrong. Right this second, what I’m thinking is this: Maybe it’s okay to rate/review these books badly if you PERSONALLY didn’t like those aspects, but not because you think the author SHOULDN’T be writing them. I’m not sure if I’m making any sense, but I hope I do. Awesome post, lovely! Will definitely share this in my monthly recap.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Thank you! I think what you said makes sense. Everyone is allowed to have their own taste in books, their own things that they like or don’t like to read about. But just because something is in a book, that doesn’t make the book inherently bad. Maybe that problematic thing was intended to be that way for a reason. I’m glad you liked the post!

  16. Laurie @ Bark's Book Nonsense

    I can separate the author from their work and deal with problematic characters. Heck, sometimes I enjoy reading the jerkiest of jerks (YOU by Kepnas, for example) but I have a much harder time reading the work of an author who is openly a jerk to readers or people in general. I’d rather not know that side of them which is probably why I tend not to delve into the private twitters or histories of writers. Sometimes the less known the better!

    1. Kristen Burns

      I like reading about jerks sometimes too, haha. But yeah, it’s different if the author is a jerk on social media and stuff. I just don’t tend to check out author’s social media often period because I don’t have time for that lol.

  17. Karen

    I had to think about this because my impulse answer was of course I don’t connect the author t the characters actions but I guess in some situations maybe??

    I mean, all characters (& real life people lol) have some flaws. THey have to start from somewhere. and hopefully grow over the course of the book. Or are a villain etc and are just bad. That doesn’t mean the author feels the same.

    But there’s a difference between misogynist/phobic (for example) characters and misogynist writing which yeah – I will connect to the author and probably wouldn’t read.

    I know a lot of people don’t want to read slurs, bullying, or any number of things and that’s fine. i personally don’t like reading about torture but that doesn’t mean the author is condoning those actions or that it isn’t of value to someone else to read about.

    For a main character, I at least like them to be called out on their BS at some point. I expect flaws and mistakes to be made but if they are the MC’s then I do want them redeemed,

    I feel like I lost my thread here so I’ll stop before this doesn’t make ANY sense. lol

    For What It’s Worth

    1. Kristen Burns

      Exactly, some characters are meant to grow, some are just jerks, it doesn’t mean the author agrees. But what about those times when someone says are does something questionable, but it’s never called out? Or they don’t learn from it? It becomes a gray area. Sometimes it’s obvious, but sometimes it’s hard sometimes to tell if it’s just a misogynistic character or if it’s misogynistic writing.

      I agree, it’s fine if someone doesn’t want to read about a certain thing. I don’t think you lost the thread lol, I get what you’re saying!

      1. Karen

        “But what about those times when someone says are does something questionable, but it’s never called out?”

        I probably still wouldn’t connect it to the author (unless I know something about them personally that leads me to believe they agree) which sadly, in this age of SM I see authors saying a lot of stuff that shocks me.

        1. Kristen Burns

          I agree, I try to still not connect it to the author. But if I’ve seen them saying things on SM that are similar or something, then yeah, that makes sense that I would feel differently.

  18. Tonyalee

    I think it’s always best to separate the work from the artist, in most cases. I agree with how they present themselves on social media can influence how we feel about something in their books, like the others here have said, but also if things in their books becomes a trend. If all their MCs love to run and the color pink, I’m gonna assume the author loves to run and the color pink. (Pretty generic examples, but you get it.) I think right now it’s getting harder and harder for some to separate it, though.

    Very good discussion!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Oh, that’s a great point I hadn’t thought of! If something keeps popping up in all the author’s books, then yeah, I would suspect that it’s likely the author’s thoughts, and then maybe it could be problematic if it were a problematic thing. But it is hard sometimes to tell or to separate.


  19. S. J. Pajonas

    An an author, I feel it’s my responsibility to tell a good story, and that’s about it. I make choices about my characters, the kinds of people they are, and the thoughts they have, and I try to represent THEM as much as possible, not my own politics. With that being said, I often model my characters after people I’m familiar with, and since I’m a pretty liberal person, and my world is pretty liberal, that’s where my characters end up. Science fiction is great for this though because I can create a complex world with lots of different values and then base the characters off of that. This is probably why I don’t write a lot of contemporary stuff! Lol.

    1. Kristen Burns

      That’s pretty much how I feel as a reader (about authors). Which is why I try not to assume they’re condoning all the things their characters do. It’s always interesting to hear the perspective of an author when I discuss these kinds of things!

  20. Lola

    Interesting post! I do think separating the book from the author can be really hard at times. And also what makes this even more difficult is that what an author thinks can influence the book, so it can be hard to know for sure if those little things are there only because the character thinks it or also because the author thinks it. And I am sure in most cases it is the first, but it can be hard to know for sure.
    And also the other way around like you addressed in your first post, if the author says things you don’t agree with or don’t sit well with you on social media for example, it’s not a given their characters will do/ think that as well. And I know some authors tend to write about certain themes more often, which usually does make me wonder if they have a personal connection with that topic. Anyway that was a bit off topic, but I do think it can be hard to separate the two at times and that as a reader it is good to try and be aware of that the book is not the same as the author.

    I do feel that mostly I just want the author to tell a good story. And while I think the author should just tell a good story, I also agree that people are influenced by what they read. But it also would be annoying/ boring if authors only write how they would want the world or character to be as that would make it very unrealistic. So in the end I just think we as readers should remember that it’s a book and that it’s not what the author thinks and that not all behavior written there is acceptable. And indeed things like that are also a good thing to mention in a review.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Thanks! Exactly, what an author thinks/feels CAN influence a book because they may not even realize that they think that way, or that it’s problematic, etc. I like to assume it’s just the character, but sometimes you just can’t really tell. That’s an interesting thought to, that if an author writes about a certain theme a lot, maybe they do have a connection to it or it’s important to them.

      I agree, reading would be pretty bland if everyone only wrote about perfect worlds and perfect characters aside from the villain.

  21. Rosie Amber

    I can see this has been a really good discussion topic, I’ve enjoyed the reader comments too.

    Only today I was discussing a book with a friend, she was reading a book by a Nobel prize winner, explaining how popular the book had been and that she felt she aught to read it for a number of personal reasons. BUT then she told me that she’d heard a rumour that the author wasn’t a very nice person. It then coloured her opinion of the book, she started to question her belief in what she was reading.

    I thought this was a huge shame because she allowed a rumour, that she didn’t even know was true, to cloud her reading experience.

    Do you think the dilemma of keeping an author separate from the book has got worse since the explosion of social media?

    1. Kristen Burns


      Yeah, it would definitely be a shame if the rumor wasn’t even true. But sometimes that’s hard. If someone is a crappy person, should you still support them? Or is it ok to still enjoy their art even if you don’t like them as a person? Social media probably has made that a lot more difficult.

  22. Krysta @ Pages Unbound

    I see readers criticizing authors a lot and it’s often because of poor reading skills, not because of something the author did. For instance, I see Eleanor & Park getting criticism for “racism” because Park feels like he isn’t handsome. The author is obviously critiquing how media tends to portray (or not portray) Asian Americans; Park feels this way because of the media he’s consuming. The author is NOT saying Park can’t be attractive. She is simply depicting how a teenager like Park might feel if he never gets to see himself as the hero in media. But the criticism readers are leveling suggests that we can’t have characters like this. We are only allowed to have characters who are already “enlightened” and feel positively about themselves. We’re not allowed to have characters who feel weak or who aren’t confident or who still might need to discover who they are or that they are valuable even if they look different from the ideal the media portrays.

    To me, this destroys the point of literature. It says we can only have one type of character who thinks one type of way and performs one type of action. It’s almost like we’re going back to the 1940s and the Hayes Code. Instead of “villains must always be punished and good characters must always win,” the new rule is “Characters must always represent and spout our new ‘enlightened’ way of thinking. We know that body positivity is good so only body positive characters should exist. We know that sexism is bad so no characters (not even the villains or any character the reader knows is ‘bad’) can say something that isn’t feminist.” And so forth. That is not only unrealistic, but also boring. And maybe even counterproductive.

    Readers should be able to see people like themselves, ones who struggle with feeling self-doubt. Ones who secretly wonder if they’re unattractive. They don’t need to be bombarded with the idea that everyone is self-confident and put-together except for them. And they need to be able to see reality represented in books because they’re going to see it in real life. Why not show them sexism in a book so they are able to see it for what it is–ugly and untrue and something to overcome? How are they supposed to be prepared to fight back if they never see a character who has to fight back?

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yes! You completely understood what I was trying to say. Like in the example I gave, the MC felt like men wouldn’t like her because men want their women smooth and without blemish, but that was just *her* thoughts, not something the author was saying. Or sometimes I see people criticize a book when the MC doesn’t have healthy coping mechanisms for their mental illness, or when they’re unhappy and feel like they can’t accomplish anything because of their disability, etc. It doesn’t mean the author is saying those things, it’s just a realistic look at the way some people feel or what they do.

      Yes yes and more yes. I actually talk about this in another post I haven’t posted yet because I’ve especially noticed that w/ physical disability, it’s like we’re only allowed to have this one type of inspirational character who has no negative feelings toward their disability, but that can absolutely be applied to all these other things too like body positivity and feminism. I think it is counterproductive, in many cases.

      This whole comment has made me so happy because I think we are completely on the same page. Not only is it great for the readers who struggle with self doubt and want to see someone like them, it would also be great to help everyone else who isn’t in those marginalized groups or who doesn’t have that struggle to better understand what it’s like.

  23. Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity

    This is a difficult one and I’m pretty sure you’ve covered it all. If it’s prevalent throughout a book it’s probably the authors own thoughts (which should be pointed out to them). If it’s a character with problematic opinions which is part of who they are then that’s a different matter. I think it’s difficult, you have to take it on a case by case basis really. It’s just one of them.

    1. Kristen Burns

      It’s def a case by case basis. Sometimes it’ still hard to tell though. I try to give the benefit of the doubt, but I suppose there are some things that bother me more than others, and I might end up calling those out.

  24. Olivia Roach

    I’ve been waiting on this part two of the discussion! I also think it is hard to separate authors from the books because of things authors say – which is true – that they include a bit of themselves in each book. I think it’s practically impossible to write a good book without that. But I think readers subconsciously sometimes forget that we have no idea which part of the book is the author or not – it could just even be them including a setting they know in real life. Writing seems personal, its hard to separate them.

    I try my best to. Because in the end, I never really know the author, so how can I even judge them? I only know the author through the authors note (which I love reading every time, btw) because it lets us sometimes know which elements of the book are real and relate to them and which don’t.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yes, I remember that you mentioned this when I had the first discussion! It is impossible to know which parts of a book are a piece of the author and which aren’t. But like you, I try to give the benefit of the doubt. And oh, yes! I do read author’s notes, and sometimes you learn that something in the book has a personal significance to them. That’s always interesting.

  25. Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews

    I have noticed this trend as well, Kristen. That if there are things like sexist language, slut-shaming, bullying and other rather upsetting things – but that are somehow still ‘smaller’ than murder – some readers are very upset. And they call out the author as if those kinds of thoughts are really the author’s and not the character’s. And that can definitely be problematic.
    I think reading is a way to both walk a few miles in someone else’s shoes. And it can also be a good conversation starter! If a character is biased, it can open conversation about how to talk to people in real life who are biased. Try to understand where the bias comes from, and help someone expand their horizons when it comes to problematic thoughts like that.
    Awesome post, Kristen!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yes, it’s odd how the smaller things are the ones people get most upset about. But in many cases, I don’t think it’s the author’s thoughts, it’s simply the character’s.

      Exactly! Reading is a way to explore thoughts about things, and even a prejudiced character can have a positive effect if it makes people examine their own thoughts or opens conversation.


  26. Fran

    What a great topic!

    For me, I believe it’s quite the opposite, as it’s nothing to do with the content of the book. If the author behaves like an a*hole, they will lose all my respect, and there is nothing in the entire world that will make me read their works again. Sadly, there are a few authors whose stories I’ve stopped enjoying because of the way they acted. And it is such a shame because their stories were really great.

  27. Wattle

    I think it depends on the content…I read a book once that was the second in a series where everything turned super messy (overt sexism that was absolutely mortifying and degrading to women, paedophilia and illegal things involving children that made me very, very, uncomfortable). I never did finish it, and will never read anything by that author again.

    My current read(s) are YA, and there’s slut shaming and petty jealousy that is kind of driving me nuts. Yes, they’re teens; but it’s getting irritating (to be fair, I’m on book 10 – it’s not like I’m going to stop reading now lol)

    My usual reads seem to involve some form of sexism and alpha male syndrome. I read them because I enjoy them, and can acknowledge the fact that behaviour would be unacceptable IRL; but in the world created it fits. I sometimes feel a bit crap about that, but shifters, you know? Animal behaviours. I let it slide.

    I don’t follow many authors on social media, but if they proved themselves to be awful I’d probably avoid their work.

    1. Kristen Burns

      It’s definitely a case-by-case basis. Some books are just a mess overall. I’ve read some like that, where I couldn’t even believe the way women were portrayed, etc.

      I just try to avoid alpha male books because I know it’s a purposeful thing usually and people like it, but it’s not for me. But I get you that are some things I’m ok with in books but wouldn’t be ok with IRL.

  28. Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    I agree that this can be really tough to parse out. In the end, I tend to go with my gut about what I feel the overall message of the book was. You pointed out a good example when you said that a character might have a negative feeling about how men view her with her scars, but the overall message of the book was that she was lovable and worthy of desire, flaws and all. I do think sometimes people tend to jump on a word or a phrase and attack an author because of it—but if all our characters were perfect, our books wouldn’t be very interesting.

    1. Kristen Burns

      That’s true, it usually is a gut feeling. But I have seen some cases where people just kind of jumped on something without even thinking it was *meant* to be that way, that those characters were supposed to be flawed like that, etc. I agree, all perfect characters wouldn’t be interesting!

  29. Daniela Ark

    great post Kristen! I don’t remember ever feeling compelled to accuse an author of ever being what I find problematic in their books. Nor I remember other book bloggers or readers doing it but I’m nut it has happened! Hopefully we readers as a collective will continue to get better at separating the two.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Thanks! I see it all the time though. People assume that just because characters do/think/feel/believe something, then it must be the message the author was sending with the book, that the author must think that’s ok. But yes, hopefully we will get better at separating!

  30. Cee Arr

    Woo for open-ended and undecided discussions!!!! XD Honesty is always the way to go – I feel like we’d all be better off if we drilled things down and were like: no BS, what do *I* think? Once you know that – once you know your own mind, even if your mind’s answer is ‘I’m not sure’ – it’s actually pretty f**king powerful! Because I think people lie to themselves more than they’d like to think.

    …ok, that got a little off-topic. My point was (I think) that truly open and honest discussion (with no malice,) is precious – and may even change the world. So much can be accomplished when people realise that no-one has all the answers! 🙂

    1. Kristen Burns

      I agree, just having open and honest discussion about things can make such a difference! Especially since many people do lie to themselves or simply don’t stop to process what they think about a certain topic or situation. No one has all the answers, but we can get closer by talking about things!

  31. Pingback: Wrapping up February 2018 {and making March a month of Marvel films!} – That Bookshelf Bitch