Authors Behaving Badly: the crux of celebrity in an age of social media

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See a comment. Get angry. Write a Tweet about the comment. Click send. Sit triumphant, knowing you are right.

Panic an hour later and delete the Tweet, hoping that it won’t backfire on you in some way.

Authors behaving badly in the public eye has happened all throughout history. As long as authors have written books – and earned that highly desired title of celebrity, even a minor one – authors have been put in positions where they can behave in a way that sets off the the general public. Charlotte Brontë made scathing comments about Jane Austen in letters that later became public, while Arthur Conan Doyle killed off Sherlock Holmes and made repeated scathing comments about Holmes’ fans.

Of course, Doyle brought him back, and Holmes became one of the most recognizable characters in the world. Brontë’s books sit several away from Austen’s on shelves full of other classic novels.

But YA authors may not find themselves so lucky.

In a world of social media, the momentary bad behavior of authors captures the attention of their thousands of fans and followers. What would have once been a rant to a friend becomes a poorly thought out Tweet that lives in the mind of readers forever

The latest instance of authors behaving badly comes from Alexandra Adornetto, author of Halo and the recently released Ghost House. The author Tweeted at a reviewer without prompting, mocking her for a negative review posted several weeks earlier. Adornetto proceeded to call an event she had recently attended a “joke.”

authors behaving badly alexandra adornetto screenshot 01 authors behaving badly alexandra adornetto screenshot 02

Both Tweets were later deleted*. Adornetto has refused to apologize for the comments and continued to engage dismissively with fans who took issue with her comments.

Kiera Cass teamed with her agent to push down the highest-ranked and negative review on The Selection‘s Goodreads page, publicly conspiring and calling blogger Wendy Darling a “bitch” for what she had written. Cass later apologized to Darling and all Tweets were deleted. Leigh Fallon, author of Carrier of the Mark, wrote a blistering email about a review and schemed on how to bump it down in the ranks. The email made its way to the initial reviewer, and Fallon apologized for the email, which had been “written in anger.”

There is no doubt that the concept of authors behaving badly is disproportionately associated with female authors. Part of this is because the young adult market is saturated with female authors. But part of this may be because women authors are held to higher standards than their male counterparts, who escape under a “boys will be boys” mentality.

That doesn’t mean that men don’t do silly things. It just doesn’t last as long in the public eye. Take Joe Gazzam, author of Uncaged. After receiving multiple negative reviews, Gazzam faked reviews of his book on Goodreads. When people called him out on it, he send out en-mass defending the imaginary girls who had written them. Then there’s John Green of The Fault in our Stars fame, who made comments in his YouTube videos that did not sit well with fans – though he has spoken and apologized for nearly every one of them.

There are other moments where the fury of authors don’t just pass.

The prime example of this is the atrocious website Stop the Goodreads Bullies. Founded by authors who choose to remain anonymous, the website finds reviewers who they deem as ‘bullies’ for their bad reviews and releases their private information, including home address and contact information, to the public for other irate authors and readers to do with as they wish. Huffington Post featured them in an opinion piece in June 2012, where the anonymous authors said:

In other words, if they are given any reason to target an author, they will attempt to destroy that author’s reputation and career for either their own personal amusement or for vengeance. We are not talking about honest book reviews giving their opinion on a book.

This, despite the Stop The Goodreads Bullies team doing far worse things with their power than the reviewers on Goodreads ever did.

Then there’s the now-infamous story of New York Times bestselling author Cassandra Clare. Over ten years ago, Clare began her authorial life as a fanfiction writer. Clare engaged with a fan who disliked her work. Tumblr user alli6 created a timeline of the events, where Clare harassed and tormented a fan who disagreed with her.

Clare now actively speaks against cyberbullying.

Of course, authors behaving badly is not just limited to their interactions with readers. Orson Scott Card, author of Ender’s Game, donates to anti-gay organizations and has a long history of homophobia.

Nor is authors behaving badly limited to young adult authors. Anne Rice is a prime example of authors engaging negatively with their readers, and who can forget the instances where authors comment and comment and comment and just won’t give in? And there’s author Jamie McGuire, who not-so-subtly celebrated the lawsuit between Ellora’s Cave and Dear Author.

But this is the crux of the modern author. Most examples of bad author behavior are just momentary blips of irritation or anger, a human burst of anger that slips through the social media sphere. Most apologize and move on, while some just delete and pretend it never happened. What would have once been venting to a friend or neighbor about a review in a local magazine, or writing a letter by hand that would never be sent, turns into instant gratification (and later mortification) of snapping at the people who angered you.

And most instances can be forgotten, as time goes on. They’re nothing more than a blip on the radar of social media. Apologize, move on, and nobody is worse for wear. Don’t apologize and hold ground, and maybe risk alienating some potential readers. Each reader gets to decide for themselves, just as they decided whether they liked an author’s book to begin with.

And lucky for fans, most authors never engage with bad behavior – momentary or otherwise – to begin with.

* Though the screencaptures were given by a reader who chose to go unnamed, our editor did witness the Tweets before they were deleted.
[EDIT] The post originally and incorrectly listed Jamie McGuire as an Ellora’s Cave author. This has been corrected.

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About Author

Nicole Brinkley

Nicole is the editor of YA Interrobang. She has short hair and loves dragons. The rest changes without notice. Follow her on Twitter at @nebrinkley or Tumblr at nebrinkley. Like her work? Leave her a tip.

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