I just read in a chat-group post that a certain author who became famous writing mysteries now insists that she not be categorized as a mystery writer. She purportedly claimed that mystery readers are stupid.

Wow. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you!

I've met readers who aren't the brightest bulbs in the box, of course, just as I've come across those who like nothing better than to show their (supposed) smarts by putting me in my place: pointing out mistakes, giving advice, and naming authors they like better than they like me. But by and large I enjoy talking with readers. I'm a reader, too, and talking about books is a favorite pastime. In my presentations, I never talk solely about my book and my work; I always share authors I like with the audience and ask them to share their favorites as well. Besides being fun, it lets listeners know what sort of reader I am. From this they can hopefully deduce the type of writer I am and make an informed decision about whether they want to read my book. I'd rather have them say, "Her tastes don't sound like they jibe with mine," and pass on MACBETH'S NIECE than have them read it expecting something else and end up unhappy.

The fact that a person reads ANYthing means that he or she is working on getting smarter. The genre matters to some extent, but I believe that those who read eventually widen their choices. Even L'Amour titles run out eventually, and his fans have to search for another favorite author. Maybe they'll try a mystery author's work.

I'm guessing they won't be choosing one who refers to them as stupid.

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Comment by Peg Herring on March 25, 2008 at 8:30pm
I agree. Nonfiction is wonderful but it often lacks style. Fiction is what turns a reader on, which is why I always used historical novels in addition to the textbook when I taught history.
Comment by Dawn M. Kravagna on March 25, 2008 at 1:18pm
She made her career off of people she has scorn for. Sounds ungrateful to me and not a "lady" I'd want to be friends with. My mother got me "hooked" on mysteries and I don't think my college professors would categorize me as "stupid". I read a lot of nonfiction, right now about the early 20th century, but I've found that I need to read popular fiction to relax. Also, I discovered that, by reading too much nonfiction, my own fiction writing was beginning to sound stale and forced. It's loosened up once I started doing some reading for pure enjoyment. And, besides, you can only reread the same Jane Austen novels so many times. I now get my Jane Austen fix from Stephanie Barron's Jane Austen mysteries. Writing style is nice.
Comment by Peg Herring on March 25, 2008 at 5:32am
I used to be like that. Now that I write I find myself more critical but also more appreciative when it's done well.
Comment by John McFetridge on March 25, 2008 at 4:15am
Well, I heard someone refer to mystery novels as the crack cocaine of books - people become addicted and need a constant supply, not caring about the quality.

Personally, I think that's romance novels ;)

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