When you finish a book and want to share your thoughts about it with the world, you have two options: You can write a review, or you can email the author and ask them about it. The first choice is generally popular, but the second one can also be quite helpful. After all, the author knows a lot more about the book than you do.
While it’s not unusual for authors to be reluctant to engage with fans about their work, these days everyone seems to be jumping at the chance to talk about their books. Perhaps it’s because the stigma of being “too nice” or “salesy” has disappeared. Whatever the reason, here are ten famous authors who were more than happy to engage with fans about their work, but had one thing to say about reviews:
J. K. Rowling
J. K. Rowling is arguably the most famous author of all time, with over 450 million books sold worldwide. She’s also famously reluctant to engage with fans, except in very specific ways. For example, she’ll often tweet about a book she’s read, but she’ll rarely offer any kind of in-depth analysis about it. So while it’s great to hear from her, you’ll have to work really hard to get an actual answer out of her. (She does have a Reddit AMA coming up soon, so maybe she’ll respond differently there.)
Still, even for those who have achieved incredible success, writing is a job you do for yourself. It’s your lifeblood. You have to believe in it, and you have to protect it. The fact that you’re doing this for your own amusement and the satisfaction it brings you should never be discounted. I think that’s what Rowling is trying to tell us with her mantra: “Don’t be afraid to show your work.”
If you’ve never heard of Stephen King, you’re probably wondering what this article is about. If so, allow me to reintroduce you to one of the greatest authors of all time, with over 700 million books sold worldwide. King is responsible for some of the most iconic works in modern literature, such as the popular It series and the Dark Tower saga. (If you want to read some amazing King stories, try putting on your thinking cap and exploring his lesser-known works like Cujo or Nightmares and Dreamscapes.)
You might remember that King has been vocal about his dislike for reviewers, especially the ones who tear his books apart. In fact, one of his most famous quotes is: “I really don’t give a damn about critics. They can praise me all they want to, but they’ll never change my mind about what I do.” To this day, King still refuses to engage with fans in any way, shape, or form, with the exception of a few interviews here and there. (He did, however, establish the Stephen King Writers Workshop, which offers a space for aspiring writers to get their work out there and see what happens.)
Elmore Leonard has been writing books for almost eighty years and has had plenty of time to hone his craft. He is considered to be one of the greatest American writers of all time, with over 300 million books sold worldwide and a billion words of fiction written. (This is a pretty staggering figure for an industry where most books barely break 100,000 words.)
Even at the ripe old age of ninety-one, Leonard remains as enthusiastic about his work as the day he started. In a 2015 interview with the Chicago Tribune, he said: “I won’t say it’s all been fun. There have been times when I’ve had to work at being patient.” He went on to say that while some would give up on writing after their first unsuccessful attempt, he learned from that experience and kept trying, until he finally achieved success. (It must’ve taken a lot of effort, but we’re sure glad he did.)
Another one of the greatest American novelists of all time, Ernest Hemingway is famous for his dry wit and attention to detail. A key component of his style was a disdain for excessive adjectives and adverbs. (This probably explains why his books are still considered to be among the most elegant and concise of all time.)
Although he was famous for his short, punchy sentences, it wasn’t always easy to create those magic moments that make his stories so appealing. It was only after his first book came out that Hemingway started getting positive feedback from critics and increasing sales. Even then, he continued to struggle with poverty and alcoholism, which threatened to derail his literary career. (It was only after his death that Hemingway started getting the recognition he deserved.)
V. C. Andrews
We’re sure some of you will be familiar with the work of V. C. Andrews, perhaps America’s greatest children’s author. Andrews has written over a hundred books and remains as prolific as ever, with a new manuscript arriving every two weeks on average. (Apparently, he’s not getting any sleep.)
Kids, especially the young boy fans of Andrews’ writing, have shown a tendency to idolize and imitate his distinctive speech. (He attributes this to the speech impediment he had as a child, which made him very anxious to please others. As a result, he developed a speech impediment of his own and had to work very hard to overcome it. It’s an interesting story, made even more fascinating by Andrews’ unique perspective as the only child of a child psychologist.)
Speaking of fascinating stories, Andrews is also well-known for having a very unique writing process. To start with, he’ll often hand-write books for the children he’s writing for, which he feels is easier for them to understand. Then he’ll go back and edit what he’s written, adjusting the language to be more appropriate for older readers. (He considers this step essential, as young readers are much more likely to enjoy a book if they can understand everything.) He finds that this last step tends to slow down his writing process and requires a lot of self-discipline.
A quirky comedian, essayist, and novelist, David Sedaris is best known for his peculiar brand of humor, which often focuses on oddities of American culture. For example, his 2008 book Me Talk Pretty One Day is an account of his unusual method of meeting women, which he detailed in the 2013 documentary Buying Beauty.
Some of the topics he covers in his work are racism, homophobia, and cultural appropriation, all issues that he feels are still very relevant to this day. (In fact, he’s been quoted as saying that “the situations he writes about are still happening, just in a different way.” Whether or not you agree with his opinion, it’s definitely an interesting take on the world.)
Although he’s had some moderate success as a writer, most of his work remains un-published. In the end, it’s clear that Sedaris wants to keep things casual and honest with his fans, so he’ll continue to write whatever comes into his head and answer whatever questions his readers may have. He feels that this is the best way to keep his audience interested.
A bit of a dark horse of the list, William Golding is known for his epic, Lord of the Flies, which was first published in 1957. (Although it was his first and only novel, it wasn’t until 1972 that he started getting serious recognition, with his other, equally famous work, The Strain, receiving its first UK publication that same year.)
Even now, at the age of ninety-one, Golding remains as passionate about writing as ever, and is still putting in the hours, as he’s completed a new manuscript just this year. In 2016, he delivered the prestigious James Tait Black Memorial Lecture, which is given in memory of James Tait Black, who was the first Professor of English Literature at the University of Manchester. (Some sources say that the lecture was so popular that it had to be repeated.)
This last entry is a cheat in the sense that it’s not a single author, but a whole family. The John Cheever Foundation was founded in 1982, and it provides grants and fellowships to both emerging and established writers. (The first Cheever Award was given in 1990, and many of the foundation’s award nominees have gone on to become household names, including John Updike, Anne Tyler, and Mary Gaitskill.)