Saturday, August 2, 2014

J.K. Rowling: Should She Stop Writing?

Back in February, Lynn Shepherd posted an editorial on Huffington Post's UK blog about J.K. Rowling and why Rowling should stop writing. Shepherd equated Rowling's The Cuckoo's Calling (written under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith) to a monopoly, suggesting that the high sales of the book resulted in other books not being sold or possibly even given shelf space. Here are some of Shepherd's thoughts about The Cuckoo's Calling phenomenon and J.K. Rowling writing adult fiction:

"The book [The Cuckoo's Calling] dominated crime lists, and crime reviews in newspapers, and crime sections in bookshops, making it even more difficult than it already was for other books - just as well-written, and just as well-received - to get a look in. Rowling has no need of either the shelf space or the column inches, but other writers desperately do. And now there's going to be a sequel, and you can bet the same thing is going to happen all over again."

"By all means keep writing for kids, or for your personal pleasure - I would never deny anyone that - but when it comes to the adult market you've had your turn. 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."

Shepherd's editorial got me thinking--is it fair? While I understand the frustration Shepherd expresses--the same frustration is expressed often when celebrities publish fiction--in that it's hard to be published, and Rowling's books might mean other, equally talented, adult fiction writers won't get published. Still, I'm not sure I agree with Shepherd's sentiments. After all, J.K. Rowling had to start somewhere, too. According to Wikipedia, it took her approximately four years to write Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, and twelve publishing houses rejected the manuscript before Bloomsbury purchased the manuscript and published it in 1997.

What this means is, Rowling's publishing story isn't unlike that of other authors. It proves, in fact, how difficult it can be to get published. Did the success of Harry Potter make it easier for Rowling to publish adult fiction? Maybe. Does that mean she shouldn't continue to write and publish adult fiction, and instead let lesser-known and unknown authors publish it instead? I'm not so sure. After all, if she should stop writing adult fiction for those reasons, then so should many other authors--Stephen King, James Patterson, Danielle Steel, and other bestselling authors. In addition, if Rowling has had her turn with adult fiction, then can't it also be said that she's had her turn with children's fiction, and possibly just writing in general? The age level a book is written for doesn't make it easier or harder to be published--it's likely that there are just as many unknown children's authors as there are adult fiction authors, so can't it be said that if Rowling writes more children's fiction, she's taking shelf space and other resources away from children's authors who haven't been published yet? (That is, of course, if we follow Shepherd's logic.)

What do you think? Do you agree with Shepherd, and that Rowling has had her turn with adult fiction? Should Rowling only write children's fiction, or should she celebrate her success as a writer for multiple age levels across multiple genres, and continue to write anything she wants to write?


Anonymous said...

Sounds like sour grapes to me. Would we tell any artist to stop creating after a few well received pieces? There have been many authors who have written and published for years. In fact some well known writers (Nora Roberts comes to mind) publish several times a year. Talk about shelf space. No, I do not agree with the article.

Anonymous said...

NO ONE has the right to tell ANYONE to stop exercising their craft!!!