it’s only words after all

Taking a few minutes away from the huge pile of reading I had set as my afternoon task, I was quickly looking through some things online and what I can only call an Amazon flame-war was brought to my attention. I’ve certainly seen some good reviews and some bad reviews of my clients – both on Amazon and elsewhere, but never anything quite like the, er, conversation concerning Anne Rice’s _Blood Canticle_. I read the first 3 vampire books and one of the Mayfair books back in college. I think I also read the mummy book. I’ve never had the time to read any more (my TBR pile covers three floor to ceiling bookshelves and then some – and that’s not counting the manuscripts and proposals). I also mostly grew out of my vampire phase. In any case, I remember enjoying the books, and it was about the same time that I had started playing in my first World of Darkness game, so the idea of a sympathetic vampire worked for me. Since then, I’ve occasionally seen reviews of Anne Rice’s work and friends have mentioned reading some of her more recent books – their reactions seem to be mixed. Honestly, I don’t know if I’d go out and add one to my ever-encroaching TBR pile at this point.

On September 6th, Anne Rice apparently felt compelled to reply to the various reviews. You can read the whole thing if you care to page down that far, but here’s what caught my eye:

“I have no intention of allowing any editor ever to distort, cut, or otherwise mutilate sentences that I have edited and re-edited, and organized and polished myself. I fought a great battle to achieve a status where I did not have to put up with editors making demands on me, and I will never relinquish that status. For me, novel writing is a virtuoso performance. It is not a collaborative art.”

An interesting perspective.

17 responses to “it’s only words after all

  1. My take is that I wish, I really really really wish, that Anne Rice would get the hell over herself, already, and let someone who isn’t her take a flamethrower, or maybe a machete, to most of her stuff.
    I can’t get past page twelve in any of her stuff.

  2. An interesting perspective.
    That’s…putting it kindly.
    There was a great deal of hilarity going around LJ at her expense a couple weeks back, I think because it got cited on Fandom Wank.
    She has had that unfortunate attitude about editors for a while now, and her books have suffered for it. :-/ The rest of it kinda knocked me for a loop, but (a) Stan died this year, and Chris has been grown up and on his own for several, so it’s just her and the dogs in That Great Big House, and (b) she has a tendency to wax more…er…eccentric just before she starts a new book.
    My money’s on (b) as the primary cause of this little episode.

  3. She’s had sentiments to that effect posted on her website a while back. (Scroll down to the “On My Method of Writing” section.)
    This was my favorite line from it: “But never were drafts of anything produced. My methods would never allowed for anything so sloppy to have been done.”
    Though this is another winner “Be assured, before the criticism slobs descend, that they are deliberate — that whether they work for you or not, they are consummately intentional and thoughtfully executed.”
    Interesting manner to refute all criticism – I meant to do that.
    I am amused that she finds her editors comments of no value – I simply don’t conceive that any writer can perfectly execute what they intended (ego aside) and inevitably other readers are needed to vet whether you have achieved what you set out to do.
    I’ve never been a fan of her books, but I think this sort of attitude certainly is doing her writing no good (and when I read the her response on amazon I wasn’t surprised in the least.)

    • I can only say that I feel terribly sorry for her poor editor, and wonder how on earth the poor woman has put up with such a pig-headedly egotistical writer all these years. The money must be exceptionally good.

  4. From a primary source standpoint, and without defaulting to adding an entire book to your queue, Amazon does display the first 9 pages of the book online. It only took me about five minutes to make a judgment.
    Lest you think me hasty, I did go on to thumb through a copy at Borders to see if maybe the thing got better somewhere along the way, but the prose/punctuation/style does not get better. Possibly the plot or the characterization are enough to carry you through if you’re a dedicated Anne Rice fan? But if you are a casual dabbler of Anne Rice, with no patience for poor quality prose or for punctuation habits that are dubious even on the internet, that book is not readable.

    • Ah, but it is deliberately and thoughtfully unreadable.
      As I was never able to get past the Interview With a Vampire, I really don’t want to think what her writing is like without editing.

  5. “I have no intention of allowing any editor ever to distort, cut, or otherwise mutilate sentences that I have edited and re-edited, and organized and polished myself.
    You know, this is the exact same argument I heard used by the rather large self-publishing contingent of a local professional writers’ organization.
    As if being edited were a bad thing.
    Actually, a friend and I have promised that should either of us ever get to the point where we can say, “I don’t want to be edited,” and should we choose to do so, the other of us will slap her upside the head.

    • Hell, the idea of NOT having an editor to at least glance over things scares me… Years of working as a technical writer has made it clear that no one’s writing can’t be improved by a good editor.

  6. From : I am amused that she finds her editors comments of no value – I simply don’t conceive that any writer can perfectly execute what they intended (ego aside) and inevitably other readers are needed to vet whether you have achieved what you set out to do.
    contributed: As if being edited were a bad thing.
    And added: Hell, the idea of NOT having an editor to at least glance over things scares me… Years of working as a technical writer has made it clear that no one’s writing can’t be improved by a good editor.
    This touches on the crux of an entirely different matter. Good editing. Alas, it seems few and far between these days, as I think many professional writers will agree. Sometimes a person gets lucky, and I think in spec fic more often than not, but over the last couple of decades as the publishing companies have streamlined they’ve ended up with less editors handling more titles per person. And those editors are also now required to do a good bit of cover copy writing and meeting with production people and sales reps. Most of those that I’m close friends with do the actual editorial work on their own time – nights and weekends (which is how I do most of my submissions reading, so I am certainly sympathetic). It’s defintely true that an insightful editor/reader can assist in improving a book, and one who knows what they’re doing can act as a magnifier for the author’s vision of the story. I love when I manage to do that myself.
    In any case, I don’t think the quality of her editor has anything to do with Ms. Rice’s objections….

    • Good editing. Alas, it seems few and far between these days, as I think many professional writers will agree. Sometimes a person gets lucky
      I think I have been lucky–I’ve had some terrific editing, on books and short stories both.
      Part of this has to do with writing midle grade/YA, where I gather some level of editing is still more the norm than not.

      • I have the best editor alive, and one of the reasons I work as well as I do with her is that each of us will weigh the yea and nay reactions to each other’s suggestions.
        If she says “I think this because of this” and I say “hmmmm, I think no, because”, we’re communicating. No one plays god.

        • A really good point–it doesn’t work unless neither the writer nor the editor stands on ceremony–and also doesn’t work if either is hesitant to have opinions of their own, either.

          • Yes, exactly. I adore my editor and respect her halfway to the moon and back again; she loves me voice and wants to preserve it. She basically was responsible for the entire format of the current series, and a single suggestion produced a DINGDINGDING in my head and 83 or so pages of work in just under three days.
            Good editors are beautiful, beautiful things. What in hell is Rice thinking?

      • Were I more cynical, I would propose that the hypothetical consequences of letting something “wrong” slip into a “kid’s” book would generate a higher level of paranoia at the publisher, thus leading to more careful monitoring of the content.
        –Brian
        As we all know, book publishers are part of a vast conspiracy to force people to think. Luckily, we now have the internet to fight back with.

        • Nah–if one wants to see a conspiracy in anything, blame it on the fact that children’s books are shorter, and thus there’s more often the time to edit more deeply. 🙂

  7. How I envy that TBR pile. .. .
    I just filled my first-ever floor-to-ceiling paperback book shelf unit, built for me by my father. It’s about 4 feet wide. I can’t decide whether I’m delighted it’s full or sad that there isn’t lots of room for new books.

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