C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

The publishing revolution already happened.

Writers, Readers and the Blame We Get

Dark Higher Than Jesus banner adI know a couple of erotica authors well enough to tell you that their private lives are not a full schedule of whips, naked gymnastics and ropes with elaborate knots. They’ve never had sex at the top of the Eiffel Tower with multiple hunky Norwegians. They’re ordinary moms who share your concerns about life. They have vivid imaginations that stay busy while they’re stuck in traffic as they chauffeur their children to play dates. Some readers draw conclusions about the character of the writer from the books they write. Unless it’s an autobiography, that’s an annoying habit.

When I wrote Self-help for Stoners, some readers assumed I was a drug addict. Never mind my liberal stance on unwinnable drug wars and the hypocrisy and sadism of sanctions against marijuana users. My addictions are sovereignty, choice and chocolate croissants. The drug I toss back most? Caffeine, just like you. When I wrote Sex, Death & Mind Control, some people thought I dabbled in the occult. Not so. I am not in a cult, either, (though I wouldn’t be averse to leading one for those awesome tax perks.) My work is fiction and my brain makes odd neural connections. Ideas get put together in new and exciting ways. That’s writing and that’s all.

When I gave my dad Higher Than Jesus for Christmas, he felt self-conscious about reading a crime novel written by his son that included sex. I know that because he tried to make me feel self-conscious about it. Yes, there’s a particularly blushworthy chapter, but I told him when I gave it to him that he never complained about the violence in my books, so he didn’t get to object to the sex. Here’s that fun phone conversation:

Me: Merry Christmas, Dad!

Him: I’m almost finished reading Higher Than Jesus. It’s quite the book.

Me (catching the tone): Uh-huh.

Him: I think you have fantasies about long legs —

Me: Stop! It’s fiction, Dad. I’m a writer. You’re an adult. I’m treating you like one.

Him (apparently unconvinced of points one through four): Mm, yeah. Well, I did enjoy it.

Me (deadpan): Imagine my relief.

Worse? Now I’m a bit worried. Since the gut-wrenching horror of the tragedy and loss in Newtown, Connecticut, even I’m becoming concerned that my fiction might intersect with real life. Part of the plot of Higher Than Jesus turns on a gun control issue and the actions of a fanatical group. Real life events have turned since I wrote that novel. Congruence make me think that my fiction and conjecture could actually line up with plots in reality. If something in particular (a very bad thing) happens in January, will some reader try to make that connection to my funny, sexy crime novel? They won’t call me prescient. They’ll wonder if a nut read my book!  

I hope law enforcement officers will foil any real life plots. Jesus Diaz is an interesting character, but I don’t think issues of national security and international peace should be left to my goofy, conflicted, love-obsessed, Vicodin-addicted hit man. He foils plots, too, but never in an easy, linear way. Our world has lots of tough problems, but fiction isn’t the problem. If anything, it’s a solution. Fiction is a safe outlet for revenge fantasies. Art yields entertainment, not sorrow. (Yes, I believe this is true about video games, too. Penn & Teller did an episode about the safety of video games. Here’s a link to that vulgar, NSFW video on my author site. This video is not for the easily offended or anyone who refuses to even consider that video games might not cause horrible school shootings.)

To readers: Please don’t ascribe words on the page to the character of the author. We’re just tap dancing to entertain you and most of us prefer to keep our violence where it can be safely managed: In fiction. Yes, my revenge fantasies are rooted in a deep dark place, but I learned to sublimate my rage with humour. If you’re going to make assumptions about me from my books, please assume I’m better than I am, not worse.

"Worthy of Elmore Leonard with shades of Thomas Harris..."

“Worthy of Elmore Leonard with shades of Thomas Harris…”

~ Robert Chazz Chute writes suspense and crime novels. He’s not Cuban. He’s not a hit man. He’s close to the same height as his Cuban hit man, though, so clearly he’s exactly like his fictional killer. Hear the All That Chazz podcast and check out his books at the links at AllThatChazz.com.

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4 Responses

  1. [...] (I talk about larger issues around fiction and the assumptions we make about writers from reading th… [...]

  2. [...] Writers, Readers and the Blame We Get (chazzwrites.com) [...]

  3. I’ve had someone read Shelia and ask me if I was a victim of abuse. How else would I understand so wholly what happens in the human psyche when those acts occur? Don’t take it personally; realize it’s because you did such an excellent job of creating that fiction that you blurred the line between it and reality. Prance like a peacock because you made them believe, even if only for a moment, you had those trials yourself. You made them wonder if you had inside knowledge. WRITE ON! :)

  4. [...] Writers, Readers and the Blame We Get (chazzwrites.com) [...]

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