J.A. (Julie) Kazimer
They say, Never Meet Your Writerly Heroes. I can see why. Writers are very much human, as in INCREDBILIBY flawed individuals. I mean, have you met me?
Then again, I’ve had the privilege of meeting three of my all time writerly crushes. In all three cases (Christopher Moore, Tim Dorsey & Robert Crais) they were perfectly lovely people. Not a one got drunk and tried to slip me the tongue (as opposed to a great story a friend of mine has about a certain, now dead, author named Hunter and a wild night in Boulder, CO). Much to my chagrin I might add, but that’s a post for another time, and probably another blog – Fifty Shades of Crap You Don’t Want to Know about Me.
What I wanted to discuss today, is Harper Lee and Go Set a Watchman. Yes, I am going to whine and there maybe a few spoilers (which I learned after reading the 1st chapter online so they aren’t exactly spoilers for the whole book so I don’t feel too bad about spilling some secrets).
To Kill a Mockingbird was and is my favorite book. It has been since I first read it at the not so tender age of 18. I won’t go into the whys, but to me, it’s nearly the perfect novel. What added to the mystic was the lore of Harper Lee--having written only one perfect novel, and then never having published another word. It was/is my idea of the best writing career.
For so many years she was incredibly protective of her privacy and her rights. And then Go Set a Watchmen was announced. I, like so many others, was thrilled with a squeal to Scout’s story. I imagined all the ways in which the tale would enfold, about how Scout and Jem grew up, about who they became in the wake of the events of that summer.
That excitement faded under the elderly abuse accusations and later the investigation into those charges. But I hung in, pre-ordering my copy. And days before the release, the publisher put chapter 1 online…
Are you freaking kidding me? Jem’s dead? His death gets a throw away one paragraph?
My innocence is lost.
To Kill a Mockingbird will never be the same for me again. Which is why I’m sharing that factoid with you, so your illusions are shattered too. Misery loving company and all.
Which brings me to the point of this post, as a writer, I need to make sure I never do that to my readers. I can kill off characters all I want, but I need to do it in a way that acknowledges the sacrifice of time and attention my readers have put into my books.
I am not blaming Harper Lee for killing Jem off, nor with how she did it, as I fully believe she didn’t intend this book to meet the reader’s gaze. Not really at least.
Which is my second point of this post, as a writer, you don’t fully have control over what happens after you sell as book or aren’t in control of your rights anymore. So be careful in whatever decisions you make, now and going forward, i.e., who you leave your writerly estate too.
Did you read Go Set a Watchman? If so, what did you think? If not, why not? And do you have any other examples of when a writer you love destroyed your faith in writerly humanity?