PG-13 language ahead…
You read the first book in a series. You love it. You can’t wait for more. But what happens when the next books don’t meet your expectations? It is your fault or the author’s fault?
I remember being enraged by the end of Meredith Anne Pierce’s Darkangel trilogy, a story about a girl married against her will to a vampire. The ending of the final book The Pearl of the Soul of the World, seemed exactly opposite from what the author had set up in the first book. I felt betrayed, cheated. And yet, I also feel forced to admit that the author has the right to spin her story as she pleases.
In our day of constant online communication, the give and take between an author and her readers only exacerbates the problem of unmet expectations. Since fans have the chance to tell an author exactly what they want to read, the pressure builds for an author to deliver it.
I was intrigued when Linda Joy Singleton recently wrote (in regards to writing a series), “I like to have two very different guys for my heroine to choose from, and then I wait to hear back from readers which direction to go.” I love the idea of getting online and telling Linda which guy I want to win the girl. I love the thought of reading the final book in one of her series and getting exactly what I want. And if Linda isn’t married to the idea of choosing one guy over the other, the only problem can be that she will disappoint the minority of her fans.
But what about authors who aren’t open to dictation from their fans? Of course, the recent uproar over Meyer’s Breaking Dawn comes to mind. A huge number of fans were dissatisfied by the way the Twilight trilogy ended; some started a campaign to return copies of Breaking Dawn. Apparently, Meyers didn’t feel that she owed her fans anything other than what she gave them. “There’s no way to make everybody happy,” she said in an MTV interview. She didn’t apologize for decisions she made about her characters–she simply told her fans to take the book or leave it.
Then there’s the fury surrounding the missing fifth book of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice series. When Martin posted about attending football games and other leisure activities, fans chastised him for not spending every spare moment getting his fifth book to market (thus far, they’ve been waiting four or five years for the book). Neil Gaiman’s response to this situation is hilarious. He tells Martin’s fans: “George R.R. Martin is not your bitch.”
In essence, Gaiman claims Martin has the right to finish his series or not, and he has the right to do whatever it takes to get his muse back. Gaiman says, “You’re complaining about George doing other things than writing the books you want to read as if your buying the first book in the series was a contract with him: that you would pay over your ten dollars, and George for his part would spend every waking hour until the series was done, writing the rest of the books for you. No such contract existed.”
What do you think? Does a contract exist between a series author and her fans? What does an author owe to her readers–the right ending, prompt delivery, happy romance?