Before I became proactive on Twitter I was ignorant of how authors could truly be. In these last few months, I had a rude awakening to that fact and it left me in a state of shock, disbelief, and anger. Mostly it opened my eyes to the author’s world in that it is truly not the safe and happy, peaceful place I grew up believing in. What kind of an author could be an asshole? What defines an asshole? Any author can be an asshole, but it’s their actions that I am referring to. What they do to other authors and to people who might review their books after reading them can make them an asshole.
Things like what happened to Jenny Trout and to the Goodreads Reviewer stalked by Kathleen Hale who got a publishing deal out of it, are two examples of an author being an asshole. Authors lying about other authors and readers, causing arguments and fights with them, spreading rumors about them, are some other examples. The writing community could do better without these types of authors, and if these authors spent more time doing positive things instead the writing world would be much happier and a better place to be in.
Sadly, it doesn’t work that way. There are authors who get heavily involved into someone’s personal life when it is not their business, or they take what they can from another author while leaving that author to fix the mess created. These actions can take a heavy toll upon the victim, jeopardizing their health, their careers, even their friendships with others. It is exhausting, humiliating, and frustrating. The cleanup can take months to years, but the damage has often already been established and there is often no undoing it.
You may wonder what kind of damage could occur to an author or reader by another author and the reality of it is all kinds. Mental health damage, psychological damage, a ruined reputation, fear for one’s safety are just a small number. Victims to asshole authors have been shunned by others, threatened, ignored, pushed aside, or their concerns made to be minor. But none of it is minor. What they go through should tantalize those with common sense and decency to speak out against such actions and to launch into a campaign to end such despicable behavior. Too few of these victims are defended, leaving the asshole author to get away with what they had done.
When the truth comes out, usually by the victim or someone brave enough to defend them, it opens a shockwave through the writing community. Many will flock to support the victim while a few will even defend the asshole responsible for the damage. Take in point of consideration, Grove Atlantic’s decision to go ahead with Kathleen Hale’s book deal is one such defense. Have we gone so far down that ethics have vanished entirely? For some whose behavior is questionable, the answer is yes. It doesn’t have to be though. We can stop these actions by speaking up and speaking out against such behavior, as many are now doing. We can make phone calls, write letters, and get the full story on what happened and why.
Above all else, we can make a commitment to not be an asshole to another author or to a reader and work on providing a safer environment for the writing community.