Reader: Do you separate author from their views? ~ Outside the Margins with Sue Brown

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First off, please don’t air your political grievances here. I’m just laying out how I started thinking about my main point.

Unless you’ve been stretched out on a beach drinking Pina coladas, or trekking to the North Pole, you might have noticed the UK is a state of turmoil at the moment. If you were on the beach or freezing your nuts off, the UK had a referendum to decide whether to withdraw from the European Union. It was close-run thing, but the final result was just in favour of leaving the EU, or Brexit as it’s been called.

The reason I’m rehashing old news is that Remainers (including me) have been very vocal about our dismay and this has led to ill-feeling between social media friends. Some have felt the need to delete their accounts to avoid the anger.

One of the things I did see was a threat that pops up every time there’s some drama. Something along the lines of “I won’t forget who said ‘xyz’, I won’t buy or review their books again.” This makes my feathers ruffle every time, because it’s a kind of threat.

Authors, don’t step out of line, don’t post anything controversial, or we won’t buy or review your books.

I saw this comment as usual and I got annoyed about it, until I started thinking about something I said a few days ago. “Why have all my favourite eighties actors turned into extreme right-wing religious nutters?” A very un-PC (apologies for the terminology) way of complaining that a lot of actors I used to like now despise values I hold very dear, and embrace homophobia, sexism and racism. I now struggle with the TV series Hercules, Andromeda, and Firefly. I also avoid certain Sci Fi authors for their less than progressive attitudes. I struggle to separate the artist from their real life views.

This is where I need help.

Is there a difference between saying a) “I won’t read X, because his views are X,” and b) “I won’t forget who said ‘xyz’. I won’t buy or review their books again.”

I think it’s the tone of the second one that offends me. It’s sending out a clear warning to all authors. Don’t step out of line. But do you think the first one is just as offensive? I’d really like your views on this, because I don’t want to be a hypocrite about this. If I can’t separate my feelings out why should I expect anyone else to be able to?

~Sue Brown


Title: Island Counselor
Author: Sue Brown
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Publication Date: 06/20/2016
Cover Artist: L.C. Chase
Genre: Gay Romance


Counselor Logan Wilde has a successful therapy practice in London, but when a traumatic incident there leaves him suffering from PTSD, he takes refuge in his holiday cottage on the Isle of Wight, unable to face going back to work. Not that he’s allowed to relax. Logan’s time is taken up with helping Liam Owens, plus there’s Nick Brent, whom Logan discovers collapsed on the beach. Nick and Logan spend their time bickering with each other, but that doesn’t alter the attraction they feel.

Logan is forced to make some hard decisions about his future, which entails facing up to recent events. Only he’s not alone—Nick is with him. Unfortunately someone else makes a decision too, and now trouble is on its way to the Isle of Wight.


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About Sue Brown

Sue Brown is owned by her dog and two children. When she isn’t following their orders, she can be found plotting at her laptop. In fact she hides so she can plot and has got expert at ignoring the orders.

Sue discovered M/M erotica at the time she woke up to find two men kissing on her favourite television series. The kissing was hot and tender and Sue wanted to write about this men. She may be late to the party, but she’s made up for it since, writing fan fiction until she was brave enough to venture out into the world of original fiction.

Sue’s internet links

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30 thoughts on “Reader: Do you separate author from their views? ~ Outside the Margins with Sue Brown

  1. Honestly, I don’t get both sentiments unless the view we’re talking about is really offensive/violent. But I agree that the second tone felt a tad threatening than the first one. As for me, I tend to overlook author’s personal view and just enjoy the books. Well, not always – I ocassionally drop comments or stuff on trivial issues on SM.
    Hopefully those who cut the ties just need some times to cool down, Sue. All the best!

  2. I don’t think I’ve ever stopped reading an author I like based on a comment they made on SM. I have stopped reading some who have included views I don’t agree with in their books, although I’m ashamed to say that sometimes I didn’t notice until someone else pointed it out (usually in a week-long rant on SM:). At that point, it’s hard for me to enjoy their books when I keep thinking about the racist/sexist/etc tones in a previous book. Everyone is entitled to their opinions/beliefs. If it really bothers me, I can chose to not support them by not buying/reading their books. I would never threaten an author though – I’m not a blogger/reviewer, so no real platform to threaten with, but still.

    • I don’t always notice that a book has unpalatable views until someone points it out. Then I have to make a decision. Is it deliberate or just a mistake on the author’s part? It’s hard especially if it’s a book I really enjoy.

  3. Frankly, both of them sound childish to me. I either like an author’s writing or I don’t. That talent doesn’t change regardless of what views the author or reader has. However, if the attitude becomes a focus of the writing and I don’t agree, I won’t buy that particular book. Mainly, I use social media to find out about upcoming books and try my best to ignore the rest.

    • Hi Andrea, I think it’s a mature attitude if you can appreciate a work for what it is, rather than who it’s by. I have to work on myself for that one.

  4. It’s impossible to separate an artist from his art, in my opinion…especially when it comes to books and paintings. Artist always incorporates something of himself in his work, and if I strongly disagree with him about some topic (especially if there are emotions involved), how can it be expected of me to enjoy his work without my personal opinion of him somehow sullying the experience? It’s not that I won’t read some writers’s work, with whom I strongly disagree, out of spite…it’s that I know I won’t be able to fully enjoy his work as I would if it were otherwise. I’m not talking about some minor things, like different taste in music, but bigger things. And Brexit is not a small thing – it affects the lives of all people living in UK. I’m not from Britain, so I don’t have a strong feelings about it, but I was in a couple of situations like this, and I was never able to separate out my feelings.

    And as for this: “Is there a difference between saying a) “I won’t read X, because his views are X,” and b) “I won’t forget who said ‘xyz’. I won’t buy or review their books again.” …it’s the matter of wording and of course they both can be considered offensive (esp. b), but these sentences are really just very condensed versions of someone’s opinion which may be completely legit, but we hear only the end result. But to say “Authors, don’t step out of line, don’t post anything controversial, or we won’t buy or review your books.” is crossing the line.

    • Do you have much loved books that you’ve gone back, and realised their views are out of date? I feel like that about a lot of scifi books from the 60s and 70s. I struggle to read much loved authors and books from that era.

  5. There was a time when a difference of opinion was just that. We may not all agree on how to get there, but for the most part I believe people want to see our world in harmony. Free to love who we want, live the way we want, free to be the person we want to be, and having enough wisdom to let the higher power sort out the differences. I never thought I’d see (hoped I’d never see) such a divisiveness between people. The world would be so boring if everyone agreed on everything, if everyone liked the same things, if everyone chose the same path. Enlightenment comes in many forms–if we close our hearts and minds to those who disagree with our ideals, does that make us as narrow-minded as they are? There have been so many devastating and confusing events that have occurred in recent weeks. For me, it just makes even clearer the fact that we should try to love and accept everyone, even those who disagree with us. That we should love those in our lives like there is no tomorrow (because sometimes there isn’t), and leave the judging up to the higher power, whichever higher power you look to in times of trouble. If your higher power happens to be science, then may your empirical evidence make things clearer. My sincere hope is that our world moves on to more harmonious times in the future…..

    • I’m not entirely sure there ever has been harmonious times, but now we have a different way of reaching people through social media. Angry and divisive words can be sent at the touch of a button. However, I’ve also seen social media as a force for good. We just need to find a way to steer it to the latter, not the former. Then maybe we can steer in peaceful waters.

  6. Hm. A tricky one, that. My gut reaction is to fume about both equally. On the other hand, everyone has the right to air their opinions, and the right to the consequences of said airings. I, too, voted to remain, and I’ll admit to a certain amount of [short-lived] bitterness towards the Brexit voters.

    Would I refuse to buy a book by an author who voted Out? No.

    Would I refuse to buy a book by an author who expressed racist or homophobic sympathies, especially citing religious reasons? Yes.

    In the first case, it’s the person’s political opinion, reached, one would hope, by a great deal of research and the weighing of the pros and cons, and therefore, I’d accept it [and yes, I have cooled down].

    In the second, it’s the person’s uncritical acceptance of a social situation that is the hangover from an outmoded way of life where ‘Different’ meant at best ‘Wrong’, and at worst ‘Threat to be eliminated at any cost’. And in the 21st Century, both cannot be justified, IMO, and I would not feel comfortable associating with that person.

    • Trust you, Chris, to see through to the heart of the matter. I think the reason everyone is so shocked about the force of the reaction is generally Brits (especially the English) are so apathetic about politics.

      I wouldn’t stop reading an author whatever their politics, unless it framed their book with other less than savoury elements, like homophobia or racism, or they have been openly homophobic/racist/sexist in public.

  7. It hasn’t happened to me with an author, that I can think of, but I must admit that it will be a cold day in hell before I ever willingly watch a Mel Gibson movie again – which is a shame, because although I was never a big fan there were certainly some films of his that I liked. On the whole I think we all need to be able to express our opinions freely, and we should certainly make an effort to be tolerant towards people who don’t agree with our own views; I’m not sure that carrying grudges or boycotting someone just because they have a different point of view is ever particularly helpful.

    • I missed the Mel Gibson brouhaha although I know something happened. I’m sad about the views of my acting heroes of the eighties. I really liked some of their series, but now I just think that they were probably like that then.

  8. I’ve been wrecking my brain to see if I could think of a single author I’ve stopped reading because of views they expressed anywhere, and can’t come up with one, so I guess I haven’t done that (yet?). But should that ever happen, I can’t imagine feeling the need to share that decision with others online (maybe in private with the husband but that would be it). I don’t like the blackmail sentiment behind both those examples you mention. But I guess it’s an extension of this right readers appear to have these days to decide what authors can and can’t write and how they’re supposed to be writing it.

    Personally, I do not want to live in a world where people can’t express their opinions any more. And while I know that there are certain things people could state which would make me turn away from them and never look at their profile or books (films/music/art) again, those examples would be rather extreme (incitement of hate, encouraging or applauding violence,….). And I’d like to think I would leave that particular person behind without a word, because if I disliked their behaviour enough to turn my back on them, the last thing I would want to do is attract attention to them or their points of view.

    • The only time I said I wouldn’t read X book/watch film (not in our genre) I got accused of not supporting women authors, so I’m wary about mentioning books at all. I just won’t buy them. However if an actor/celebrity is offensive I will mention that on social media. Not in a ‘he must die’ kind of way, you understand. I won’t support their work though.

  9. If it weren’t for the fact that one of my publishers is contactable primarily through Facebook, my account there would be closed by now. Okay, there are the games too, which I am playing through the downloaded Games Arcade so I don’t have to go to the site.

    I am one of those who feels thoroughly unwelcome in the community, right now, and other than checking in briefly each day for publisher updates I am stepping away from the site for the foreseeable future.

    I have also removed several people from Twitter so I cannot see their current political posts. Most of those I will add back when the furor has died down a little. I just needed to step away from the whole situation for the moment.

    I have to wonder if it was one of my comments on my blog that has triggered this post. If it was, I would say this.

    I have never stopped buying an author because of their political views. But when those views become personal attacks and name-calling I do add them to my “don’t buy” list.

    Yes, some of the angrily expressed opinions have been like a kick in the gut to me, especially coming from friends, but I wouldn’t stop buying someone’s books because of those.

    I think there is a vast difference between expressing an opinion, however angrily, and personal attacks.

    In the last week I have been called a racist, racist enabler, uneducated, ignorant, stupid, moron, xenophobic…. Well, you get the general idea. I have even been told that I should hurry up and die so if a second referendum is held mine won’t be there.

    Those who are on my do not buy list are not on it because of how they voted or because they have been angry about the result. They are on it because of the bullying they have engaged in since the results.

    I think that the latest drama is a fine example of why all authors should remember that when they are using their professional accounts to post views on any topic, it is a good idea to remember that not everyone shares the same opinion and when the line between airing an opinion and attacking others is crossed, there can be no going back in the eyes of readers.

    • You didn’t trigger this post, Lm, although it was one of the comments I saw in the last week’s furore. In truth, the separation of art and artist has been bothering me for a while. This just nudged me to make the post.

      Your last paragraph also proves something else. I made a post on FB before the result about authors posting about religion and politics. People said it’s okay, but it isn’t really, because somewhere along the line you’re going to upset and/or offend someone. And that affects you professionally.

      Were the comments aimed at you personally, or your voting decision in general? Not that it makes a difference in how it hurts but I am curious. I’m happy to talk elsewhere if you’d prefer.

      • Most of the comments were of the general “everyone who voted leave is a…(insert insult of choice here)…” variety.

        However, there were a couple that were more direct, in one case to myself, and in another towards a friend, where I felt the line was not only crossed, but that I could not longer support those authors.

        I would also add that I agree with Robyn in that the online attacks hurt just as much as offline. In the wake of the referendum I have seen some people really dismiss online bullying as “ridiculous”, saying that it is not as bad as the hate crimes that are happening offline. I cannot say strongly enough that online bullying is equally unacceptable – all you need to do is look at the number of teen suicides as a result of this form of harassment. I am genuinely concerned at the reports I see of teenage leave voters who are being bullied online for how they voted. These are the teens who took the time to go and vote, many for the first time in their life, and this is what they get.


        As for the religion and politics. I generally have tried to keep my wall pretty neutral in that regard anyway. Now more than ever that is my intention and if I do, one day, go back to Facebook, I will certainly be keeping my political opinions to myself. Not only because I don’t feel comfortable expressing them any more, but because I try to stay professional on my account and getting into debates (that quickly become arguments) about religion or politics is the quickest way I know to appear unprofessional.

        • I posted this to Robyn but I’d like to add it here too.

          I agree online attacks are just as painful as real life attacks. It may be different but it has just as wounding an effect. There is a certain naivety to people who say you can just ignore it, delete your account etc. Bullies are then forcing you offline while they continue their vile behaviour.

          I’m sorry friends crossed the line. I hope I didn’t although I can’t deny I was very angry for a few days.

          I don’t think I’ll ever keep my wall neutral. I’m too gobby to do that, but I can understand why you want to.

          • I promise you are still on my buy list, so you didn’t cross that line. If you had I would not even have replied to this post, or probably even read it.

            And I’ll no doubt get over being compared to a Trump supporter (something you shared from someone else about this referendum being a cautionary tale for the US)… eventually.

  10. I have stopped reading a couple of authors books because of their views and the way they treated their readership. I cannot stand hypocrisy, and if an author gives the impression of being all welcoming with their ‘public/professional’ face, then, with a different group of people, comments in a passive-aggressive’/ horrible way, then I would doubt their sincerity and not want to support their writing career.
    I have zero tolerance of bullying in all its forms,and some people are blinkered to the effect their words have online. I think its ugly and everyone needs to take a step back from social media and take a good long look at themselves in the mirror.
    The bile that is spewed on FB in relation to the British Brexit is a refection of fear and insecurity, but seriously, online forums are not the place for it. Just because a commenter doesn’t look you in the eye and say horrid things, it doesn’t mean the worlds are not harmful or hurtful. It’s all too easy to turn a political comment into a personal attack, and that is not acceptable. Period.
    When it comes to an authors political views, I’m not expecting writers to be angels. I know I will not agree with everything they say. I just think that if authors want me to spend my time and money on their books, and support them via social media, then they have to behave professionally. Would they say some of those things if they were in an office situation? I doubt it.
    Personally, I have had experience of authors who are two faced with their readership. They expect a cult like following who will rush and buy the books, but then the author will kick off if fans voice opinions that don’t fit their own political mandate. I have removed myself from several FB groups because I witnessed authors turning on readers because of their views, and their other fans joining in to castigate an individual. I don’t respect authors who suck up to readers in the hope of getting a review and then ignore them or disrespect them if they don’t like the views shared.
    I feel for anyone who has unjustly been targeted online. I think in general, more people should have social media breaks, as really, none of this stress is good for the soul.

    • I certainly agree online attacks are just as painful as real life attacks. It may be different but it has just as wounding an effect. There is a certain naivety to people who say you can just ignore it, delete your account etc. Bullies are then forcing you offline while they continue their vile behaviour.

      I think social breaks are good for the soul, both for the angry and the wounded, but you shouldn’t be forced away.

      It has been my experience that certain authors in all genres manage to get away with a huge amount of bad behaviour and get their fans to turn on dissenting voices. Some of them do it in public and some in private, but the effect is the same.

      • “It has been my experience that certain authors in all genres manage to get away with a huge amount of bad behaviour and get their fans to turn on dissenting voices”.

        I find it worrying that fans allow themselves to be shepherded into this kind of group bullying. It’s a sad reflection on the way the internet has, in some ways, dumbed people down.
        I have an automatic distrust of an author who abuses their power as you described. It is a privilege to be an author in the M/M genre and have access to so many people online who are open to may reading our work. However, its a very small step from fandom to pack mentality, and it can occur swiftly in author groups.
        Just because an author wrote a book that a lot of people have read does not make them the messiah.

  11. These are two topics in my opinion – one is the author’s comment and one the readers reaction.

    Author’s comments/opinions:

    Feel free to post them – but there is actually a difference between posts where people can agree to disagree and online mobbing. If an author posts something general on a topic – like e.g. Brexit or taxes or whatever – and has some arguments I can understand, even if I don’t agree, I don’t have a problem with it.

    But if authors blog on social media witch hunts which sometime are nothing more than online bullying – sorry – this is an easy way to get of my TBR-list. Unfortunately that really happens more often than I like.

    And it’s the authors own decission to give their opinion, they have to live with the consequences like any other person.

    If I had a shop and would hang a rainbow flag in the window for a few days – some people wouldn’t buy my goods either, maybe even tell others about it (and vice versa). I would have made a statement, given my opinion on a topic and would have to face the result, too. Why should authors get free passes on uttering their opinions without impact?

    Reader’s reactions:

    People react more aggresively in social media. It’s easer to be less polite, you don’t have to look the person right in the eye. So conflicts escalate quicker. So readers will post their reactions to author’s opinions – this is always going to happen.

    “Is there a difference between saying a) “I won’t read X, because his views are X,” and b) “I won’t forget who said ‘xyz’. I won’t buy or review their books again.”..” –
    no, a) is the polite way to say b) which would be the social media statement – in my opinion.

    As a reader I’m a consumer and I reserve my right to decide where to buy my goods, in this case books. If I can’t agree on the attitude/opinion an author has, if I really think, this goes against all my convictions, why should I buy the books? Why should I support this “company”? F

    • I agree with everything you said. You laid it out very clearly. Including the consequences for authors/professionals if they are vocal. But, also as you say, it’s the way they express their views. Sometimes you just want someone to take them aside and say stop, stop now.

      I have seen witch hunts led by and against authors, and it never ends well. It’s also pointless. Even those that start well-meaning descend into a maelstrom of ill-feeling.

  12. There is so much unrest in the world that I escape into books as often as I can.

    I’ve never joined Facebook (and miss out on a lot of Rafflecopter giveaways because of it) but I don’t want to know every thought that comes out of someone’s mouth because they don’t have a filter or choose not to use it.

    I too don’t read books if authors spout hate in any form, but don’t even reflect that in a review of the book. If nothing else, I just choose not to review the book at all.

    Authors, please keep writing and keeping sharing your ideas. If you stop, you’ve lost the opportunity to change someones mind.

    That is the worst thing that can happen… to all of us.

    • “Authors, please keep writing and keeping sharing your ideas. If you stop, you’ve lost the opportunity to change someones mind.”

      That’s what we’re here for! That is our job.


  13. I see this all over. Oh, Bob the author is having a fight with Karen the author. I love Bob the author, so I’m not reading Karen anymore. Oh, publisher X said mean things about author Y – I’m not reading publisher X anymore. It doesn’t matter that publisher X has 10 of their favorite authors who are going to suffer for something that has nothing whatsoever to do with them.

    Oh, I met so and so at this conference and she didn’t talk to anyone, she’s such a diva – I’m not buying her books. Of course they don’t know that the author has such crippling social anxiety that just walking in the door was a big step. The author didn’t live up to their expectations.

    And this isn’t just about readers. Authors do this to each other all the time.

    Very little about publishing is based on the merit of the book.

  14. Well I do struggle with this at times. There are certain authors who have done such reprehensible things or said such hateful things that I couldn’t bring myself to in any way support them. Orson Scott Card springs to mind. I wouldn’t see a movie based on his work or buy a book written by him again because I don’t want to give him the means to continue to spread his hateful bigotry. I think that’s different than making a judgement on how a limited exposure at a conference should or would impact my feelings about them.

    I’m not a social butterfly and I don’t expect everyone else to be either. One of my most favorite authors I’ve met at several different conferences. Only once have I had a decent interaction with her. I adore her books. We don’t necessarily click on a personal level – for whatever reason. And that’s OK. I’ll continue to buy her books. I’ve met plenty of authors who are quiet and shy at conferences. Since I’m that way as well until I know someone, I don’t think anything of it.

    On the other hand, there are other authors that I have observed repeatedly being rude to their readers, belittling their readers, laughing at their readers, etc. I do think more about whether I want to support those authors – regardless of how great their books may be. They may have taken advantage of the generosity of readers and supporters and that is not easy for me to get past – because that makes me question their motives and also whether or not they are even decent human beings or not.

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