Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Reading with the Stars

In today's news I read that Chris Colfer (Kurt Hummel on the hit show Glee) has been given a two book deal. I love Glee, first season more than the last season but still a great show.  This post has  nothing to do with Colfer, Glee, or his books - for all I know they will be wonderful.  However, I have noticed a trend that celebrity sometimes begets a publishing deal but not vice versa.

I'm not talking about memoirs or the "why it's so great to be me" books.  There is an obvious market of people who eat and breathe everything about the people who play their favorite characters on television and movies.  I always appreciate the craft of acting, but really have no interest in their "real" lives.  I find them much more interesting as characters than people.  I'm also not talking about the novels that are ghostwritten by real authors and then reviewed and approved by celebrities so they can use their fame to sell the copies.  I'm talking about full fledged writing of a novel not having much, or anything, to do with their acting career.  This is Colfer's deal - he is writing a childrens adventure story. 

There are several other examples.  Ethan Hawke was a A-list actor in the late 80s and early 90s when he appeared in Dead Poets Society and Reality Bites (two great movies).  He cashed in on that fame and published two novels The Hottest State and Ash Wednesday. Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia from Star Wars) has six books to her credit. Many other celebrities also have books under their belts.  Like Colfer's deal, I pass no judgment on the quality of the novels written by celebrities.  I have a great respect for anyone, even celebrities, who can finish a full length novel.  I'm learning each day how hard that journey is to complete.

The definition of "celebrity novelist" that I found online is "a famous person that has published a novel or a novelist that has become a celebrity." I know plenty of examples of the first type of celebrity novelist (like outlined above) but don't think the second definition exists.  Authors have their own fame.  Their names are well known, their faces may become well known - but usually not.  Everyone knows Stephen King, Stephanie Meyer, J.K. Rowling, Dean Koontz, Mary Higgins Clark, etc. by name but I doubt they get mobbed at the grocery store for autographs or need to wear disguises at ballgames.  The most ardent fans may recognize them and politely stop them  - but I doubt it's a regular occurrence.  For the most part, I think they can just live a regular life without much spotlight.  The tabloids don't have cover-stories about author's antics at wild parties, affairs, or how much weight they have gained since their last novel.  In my opinion, it's they may be famous but not really celebrities. 

Perhaps this is a good thing and many authors probably appreciate the anonymity.  The book and it's characters are more popular than the person that created them and that is probably expected and appreciated.  Maybe some authors would like to be famous and have their spotlight - I don't really know.  I wonder if it will change as ebooks and social media put more marketing power in the hands of the author and more information on the book's creator out in cyberspace.  I have started to follow my favorite authors on Twitter and enjoy their posts as much as their novels. I still don't think I would recognize them in public but I wouldn't miss Paris Hilton passing me on the street - how sad is that? 

I think that authors deserve to be celebrities as a reward for writing a good novel.  Just like the directors and actors that bring the story and characters to life in the movies the novelist deserves the fame for putting the story and characters into words for the imagination of the readers and filmmakers. They deserve their mob of adoring fans who want to know what they eat for breakfast, what they wear, who they marry or date, and any other aspect of their lives that lets them live vicariously through them.   

To start spreading the spotlight, I'll try to do some research on the author's of some of my favorite books and start getting some celebrity pieces for the authors I know and love.  This way, if we see them roaming the real world, we can treat them like the celebrities they are.

Who are your favorite novelists?  Do you know enough about them to fill a People magazine article?Do you want to know?  If so, please share.

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