Author suggests JK Rowling stop writing adult fiction

  • 24 February 2014
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Author JK Rowling poses with her latest book, The Casual Vacancy, on 27 September, 2012.
Are JK Rowling's books taking shelf space away from younger, more talented authors?

By writing the adult fiction novel The Casual Vacancy, JK Rowling "sucked the oxygen from the entire publishing and reading atmosphere", making it harder for aspiring authors to flourish.

At least, that's what Lynn Shepherd, an author of "literary mysteries" set in 19th Century England, thinks. On Friday she penned a piece for the Huffington Post in which she contended that the author of the Harry Potter saga has "had her turn" and should stick with children's books (which she admits she hasn't read).

"Rowling has no need of either the shelf space or the column inches, but other writers desperately do," she writes.

She concludes by telling Ms Rowling:

Enjoy your vast fortune and the good you're doing with it, luxuriate in the love of your legions of fans, and good luck to you on both counts. But it's time to give other writers, and other writing, room to breathe.

So what happens when you take dead aim at one of the most popular authors of modern times? Nothing good, that's for certain.

"What Ms. Shepherd appears to be suggesting is that Rowling should be happy with the success she's earned, and should stop, because apparently, there is no more reason for Rowling to continue writing in the adult market," writes author Nathan Scalia for Lit Reactor.

It's a "ridiculous" argument, he says. "If my book doesn't succeed, it's because it didn't resonate with fans the same way that Harry Potter did. There's room enough on the bookshelf for both."

Shepherd misunderstands literary economics, says author Larry Correia.

"JK Rowling making a dollar does not take a dollar out of your pocket," he writes. "That is loser talk. Quite the contrary, she has grown our market, and brought more readers into genre fiction, so she's actually put dollars IN your pocket. "

Steven Salvatore Shaw writes for the blog beautifulCHAOS that Shepherd is belittling young adult (YA) novels.

"There is so much more room for creativity with text in the YA genre than in adult fiction (not that I'm knocking adult fiction by any stretch), but it's obvious that Shepherd hasn't bothered to understand the genre that she's trying - and failing miserably - to critique," he writes.

But why stop at criticising Shepherd? Amanda Green on the blog According to Hoyt contends that the author reflects the entitled attitude of an entire generation.

"They haven't been taught what it means to have to face consequences for their actions or inactions," she writes. "Our schools don't help. How can they when more and more of them are doing away with pesky little things like homework or take a test one time and learn to live with your score?"

Romance author Tymber Dalton writes that Shepherd's piece is a shining example for new authors of what not to say in public.

"I can't think of a faster way to totally tank your career than to piss off a WORLD of readers by looking like a jealous, petty, wannabe hack," she writes.

In case there was any doubt about that point, visit Shepherd's author page on the online bookseller Amazon.com, where her books are getting blasted with one-star reviews from outraged Harry Potter fans.

"I didn't read this book but, if the author's HuffPo article taught me one thing, it's that I don't have to read a book in order to judge it," reads on typical post. "So here's a one-star review. Not because I believe in trolling, but because Lynn does. You want to pan other writers work without reading it first, then enjoy the world you built."

At the beginning of her piece, Shepherd concedes that a friend told her not to write it, as "everyone will just put it down to sour grapes".

If she's a really good friend, she's not saying "I told you so" right now.

Update: As reader SoIndianaGuy points out in the comments, best-selling author Anne Rice (of Interview With a Vampire fame) has also weighed in on the topic. On her Facebook page, she calls Shepherd's piece a "vicious, cynical, resentful and thoroughly ugly article".

She continues:

Never have I seen anything this malicious ever directed towards an actor, a painter, a ballet dancer, an opera singer, a film director. No, this is the kind of petty, spiteful condescending criticism that is for some reason reserved for writers in our world. And that it was written by some one who is a writer herself makes it doubly nasty and shocking...

In my life as a novelist, I've come to believe we are only in competition with ourselves when we strive to do our best; there is plenty of room for a multitude of successful endeavors in the ever changing world of books and readers, and there always will be.

It all goes to show that you should be very careful picking fights with people whose book sales are counted by the million.