Can you review a book you didn't like if you "know" the author?
This is a question I think a lot of reader bloggers struggle with, because first and foremost, we're fans. We love the genre. We love to support authors. We love to talk books. And some people just find it hard to slam a book they hated after they've met the author who is just the sweetest person on the planet, dontcha know.
Me? I don't have this problem. To which this fellow blogger mused (jokingly) that I was hard-hearted.
I'm not, I just have my own code of ethics. Let me try to explain.
I've always been able to separate The Book from The Author. In fact, I prefer it this way. I hate when lines are blurred - which is why I tend to get annoyed with freaky rabid fangirl behavior. I like my reality in one box, and my entertainment (fiction) in another box. They can be in the same storage unit, but that's about it. For me the book is a commodity. It's a product that one buys and consumes - sorta like a loaf of bread. Certainly books can enrich my life, but like a loaf of bread, I don't always like every brand that's on the market.
Another thing (and this is worth repeating): The Book Is Not The Author. I even think that some authors tend to forget this. Calling the book "her baby." Railing against ignorant reviewers. Posting on reader blogs that the reader was just "too stupid" to understand how beautiful the author's "baby" was.
I know writing a book is hard work. If it wasn't hard work, everybody would do it. But let's keep it in perspective shall we? Raising a child is one thing, writing a book another entirely. I'm sorry, they ain't on the same level and you won't be able to convince me otherwise (code for: don't even try).
Does that mean I am without any tact whatsoever?
Hell no. I do have my rules.
For instance, I'm all for posting on my blog about how much I hated a book - but I'm talking about the book. I'll say the heroine was an idiot, the hero was a Neanderthal, there were plot holes you could drive a truck through, and was the cutesy toddler with a lisp really necessary? Notice there's not one single mention of the author here?
Also, while I'm all for spewing forth my loathing on my forum, I would never, ever, ever e-mail an author personally and say, "Cripes, you're a hack. This book sucked, you can't write worth a damn and oh, by the way, your feet stink." This is just rude behavior in my opinion. My forum is one thing. The author has to do the work to find me. Showing up at their house? Another entirely. This includes author blogs, author message boards or any other forum run by said author. These sort of promotional tools tend to be very fan oriented anyway, and personally I don't go out of my way looking for flame wars. That's me though.
Likewise, if I've read an author's book(s) and hated it, then meet said author I never say, "Hello, I'm a reviewer and I thought your last book sucked donkey balls." In fact, I tend to never mention I'm a reviewer, period. I just don't. A lot of authors aren't wild about "us", and again (being a wuss), I like to avoid uncomfortable moments when humanly possible. That, and I get a lot more love by saying, "Hello, I'm a librarian." Seriously, everybody loves librarians.
Do I feel guilty giving a crappy review to an author I've met before? Certainly. I love to go to booksignings, so it's happened more than once to me. I read a book, hated the book, meet the author and she's so bloody nice! I feel like a shit-heel for a while, but I get over it. Again, The Book Is Not The Author.
But I'm hard-hearted like that.