Five Qualities to Most Admire in Authors

IMG_47902 smallOne question writers – actually, all artists – get asked a lot is who their influences are.

After all, it’s interesting to hear about who a band listens to or who a writer reads. There’s a sense that an artist provides a different filter, perhaps a greater level of curation to their appreciation of another’s work. I suppose there’s truth to this. Certainly being a writer has changed how I read. Mostly I’m much more difficult to please as a reader now, which supports the curation theory. However, there’s also a phrase that gets lobbed about, somewhat carelessly, and some writers are called “a writer’s writer.”

Yes, it’s mostly in literary/academic circles. And no, I don’t think it’s necessarily a compliment.

Why? Because often a “writer’s writer” is not a reader’s writer. There’s an implied level of inaccessibility in that, as if only someone with a terribly refined and educated palate could possibly appreciate the nuances. Which is what literary snobbery is all about – and is part of what drove me to genre.

Also, I really admire genre authors.

(I’m drawing a fairly arbitrary line here between writers of “genre,” which I’m using to mean pretty much anything written with the intent to entertain. Really, what many consider to be “literary fiction” is simply another genre, with a slightly different, entirely arguable intent, but that might summed up as wanting to please other writers.)

It used to make me crazy, the way writers cite the authors they admire, their influences, what book is on their bedside table. Invariably they picked authors from the literary canon. All the books they want people to *think* they read. As if, by reading and publicly admiring the erudite, they’ll sound that much smarter, discerning and relevant.

I cry bullshit on all of them.

At the same time, I hesitate to list my own because, after about 45 years of reading – and I read in a lot of genres, including literary (don’t tell), but pretty much excluding only mystery or spy thrillers, just because they’ve never really done it for me – and the list is hugely long.

Instead, I’d like to tell you what kind of author I admire.

1) The author who puts story over ego

Nothing disappoints me more than an author who reaches a level of success that enables them to bully the publishing house into not editing them. I admire those authors who continue to put their work through the editorial wringer.

2) The author who continues to refine their craft

We’ve all read the authors whose books go downhill – or, worse in some ways – continue to be exactly the same. The success gurus claim that if you’re not growing, you’re dying. I don’t quite believe this, but I do think we should continue to improve throughout our lives.

3) The author who appreciates their readers

And I don’t mean the ones who count their fans and followers like they’re keeping score. I mean the author who sees the reader as the opposite pole of the energy cycle, the person with the resonance to respond to the story put out there. There’s something sacred about that relationship.

4) The author who adapts to change

Coyotes are well known – and sometimes cursed – for their ability to adapt to human encroachment on their habitat. But they’re surviving and even thriving as a species because of it. Authors who have the resilience, lack of ego and mental flexibility to survive industry ups and downs and, better, to reinvent themselves, are the real heroes of the literary world.

5) The author who helps others

The romance community in particular is well known for the big name authors who offer advice and support to beginners and the ones flailing around in the mid list. Sure, you can say it benefits them in the long run, but devoting that time isn’t cheap for them. They’re doing it out of a deep-seated generosity, which is truly admirable.

What other qualities of authors do you all find admirable?


Five Qualities to Most Admire in Authors — 15 Comments

  1. #5 is the one I love the most. Sadly, I know quite a few that don’t adhere to that and I love the ones that do have that generosity of spirit that remember what it was like to be the new kid on the block.

      • Well, I guess I’ve never met an editor who could be bullied , and I’ve never met a writer who thought she shouldn’t be edited. I’m sure they exist, but I guess I tend to think if a non-independently-published book is put out “not clean,” that’s the publisher’s lookout.

        I will also admit I could be completely wrong about this–it would not be the first time.

        • Ah I see. Well, it happens mostly when they get to be huge. Anne Rice very famously said, “Believe me, NOBODY edits me!” Pat Conroy insisted on not being edited on his later books. Laurell K Hamilton turns in her books – publicly finishes drafting them – only weeks before the release date, so she’s not getting edited. That sort of thing.

  2. What do I love in an author? Besides their ability to entertain me, how approachable they are. I am a reader only just to clarify. I am big on personal relationships and while I know authors can’t have personal relationships with all their annoying fans, those that are willing to interact on Twitter or Facebook are ones that I tend to want to read more of and promote. I think that is why I tend to gravitate towards the authors who don’t have as big a fan following as Nora Roberts for example. Nora isn’t going to have a Twitter conversation with me. I have said this before, but authors are rock stars to me. So, even a little Twitter conversation is a big deal for me. :)

  3. What a fantastic post, Jeffe! Many great reminders here. I believe it’s so important to continue learning, growing, and improving our craft.

    As to the generosity of romance writers, I am constantly amazed by it. I feel so lucky to be a part of this community.

  4. “Five Qualities to Most Admire in Authors – The Contemporary Romance Cafe” was indeed a good article
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