There's a moderately well-known writer whose books I've always enjoyed. I'm not going to name her for reasons which will be apparent soon. We'll just call her the author.
I first read the author's work about five or six years ago completely by accident after stumbling across one of her titles at the library book sale. Good book. Not dazzling, but good enough that when I went to the bookstore, I picked up a couple more of her titles and read those. Also good. And she seemed to be getting better. I started to sense she was a writer on the upswing.
So I visited her website out of curiosity one day, and it was very pleasant and informative. Well-designed, good content, regular updates, all the things we like in a website. It detailed some of her involvement in the writing community, which was how I discovered she and I knew some people in common. Not too surprising. Publishing is a small world.
I reached out to her on one of the social sites. We emailed a couple of times. Nothing major, just networking stuff. Through it all, I formed a positive opinion of her. She seemed professional, upbeat, and generally good at author relations.
But then a funny thing happened.
She stepped outside of her author persona and started getting personal and controversial. She started sending around mass links with political rants, religious diatribes, and even, I'm sorry to tell you, veiled racist remarks. At first I just ignored her rants, but when she started with the racist stuff, I started to pay more attention. Was it a fluke? Had she sent it by accident? No. She sent more, and yet more. She was doing it on purpose.
And she was doing it in public. And that is the sin I can't forgive. The political rants, I mostly laughed at. The religious stuff I deleted without reading. The other stuff had me steaming mad and changed forever my opinion of the author, but after I cooled off, I realized that there was a bigger crime.
You see, I can talk to her about her opinions and show her where we disagree. I can even, if I'm lucky, get through to her and open her mind a bit. But what I can't do -- what nobody can do -- is take back what she already put out there. It's on the interwebz. www.hauntsyouforever.com. She can change, but her public words can't. Any fan might be able to stumble upon it at any time.
Yes, we all have a First Amendment right of freedom of expression. There are limits on this right, though. Some are legal (such as the rules limiting access to pornography), and some are common sense. Common sense ought to tell an author, a person on public display, that she stands to alienate a certain percentage of the public when she delves into politics and religion. Common sense ought to tell her not to flaunt her controversial opinions in a public forum because at least some of her readers will take offense.
Common sense ought to tell her that, with so many books to choose from, a reader who used to like and support her might just stop buying her new releases. She might, in fact, decide to move this author's books from the keeper shelf to the trash.
Garbage day is tomorrow around here. Not soon enough.