Thursday, May 5, 2011

I Am Not My Characters by Guest Blogger Susan Gable

Today at 4writers, we welcome author Susan Gable, whose new book As Good As His Word is now available in bookstores and online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Thanks for stopping by, Susan!
Susan, I liked Hayden in the previous Hawkins' books but he absolutely stole my heart in this one. Great job!

Special Guest Star Susan Gable

I Am Not My Characters/My Characters Are Not Me
Maybe my books should come with a disclaimer at the beginning.  Especially this new one.
Disclaimer: The author does not necessarily condone all behavior, comments, or thoughts, taken by the FICTIONAL characters in the story you are about to read. Some of them may be politically incorrect. Some of them may be blatantly dangerous. Some may go against your particular code of conduct/morality/ethics.
 Come to think of it, some of them may go against my code of conduct, too.
But then, I am not my characters. My characters are not me. My stories are not platforms for me to advance my particular viewpoints.
I'm just telling stories about people. Imperfect people. People who think differently than I do. Than you probably do. Because we all have our own viewpoints.
I love telling juicy, meaty, emotionally messy stories. Which means my characters are often hip-deep in something. I like stories that make people think without me beating them over the head, or without telling them WHAT to think.
I've done stories about surrogacy. About organ transplant. My last book featured a savior sibling. (A child conceived to be a cord blood donor for an older sibling who needed new bone marrow.)
This new story (As Good as His Word) features a heroine who is legally still married. It features a cheating husband who's in a permanent vegetative state. It revolves around a family who has lost one of their own and think this heroine kicked that family member when he was down.  There's also a teenager dabbling with pot.
Messy, And let's face it, life is messy. But just because I write something, or my characters do/say something, doesn't mean I'm endorsing that behavior or viewpoint.
This blog took on whole new meaning while I was in the midst of writing it. A woman who's been a very successful high school English teacher for over 20 years suddenly found herself being vilified by some parents because she writes erotic romance.  She'd been very careful to keep her private life separate from her teaching life, using a pen name, not spreading around the school what she wrote, etc. One parent fretted on camera to the "news" (and I use that term VERY lightly) that this teacher might now be "looking at" her high-schooler son in a certain "way."
Because, of course, if she writes about sex, then she must only be thinking about sex. Always.  Somehow I think that mother confused the teacher with the camera-hound's own hormonally-overloaded teenage son. (Teenage boys are generally always thinking about sex.)
That teacher is NOT her characters. (Who, I feel I must point out, are all consenting adults.) If she were writing about serial killers, would that mom be worried that the teacher would suddenly go berserk and kill her son?  I doubt it. Does she think J.K Rowlings has a magic wand, or is cooking up spells in her basement? Doubtful. Stephen King has a car that drives by itself and kills people? Or that because of the crazy stuff that comes out of his imagination (and he has the nerve to write down on paper) that he's some sort of menace to society and the people around him? D'uh, of course not.
But because she is writing <GASP> about characters who have sex, and even worse <bigger GASP>, enjoy sex, of course she must be looking at everyone around her with an eye towards having sex with them.
Seriously?? Come on, people. Do we need a remedial class in the differences between fiction and reality?
The good news for that teacher is her books are now selling like crazy. But her life is never going to be the same because someone who wanted to be the morality police and thought they had the right to vilify her for something she did on her own time. For something her FICTIONAL characters did.
Writers are NOT their characters. Sometimes we write stuff to pay the bills. If we're writing gay sex because it's selling, that doesn't mean we're gay. It doesn't mean we're NOT gay, either.  Sometimes people write Inspirational books when they're not big believers, too.
 My point is, you shouldn't know who *I* am or what *I* believe based on my characters.
Because...they're not me.
Have you ever assumed something about a writer based on something they wrote? Do you have to agree with everything the characters do in order to enjoy a book? Or are you just looking for a good story? Entertainment? What do you think about that high school teacher? Is she somehow a menace to her students? Should she be forced out of teaching? Where should the lines be drawn?

Now available!
BIO: Susan Gable's seventh book for Harlequin's Superromance line, As Good as His Word, is available now. (For a limited time only on the shelves! Thank goodness for ebooks and their unlimited shelf-lives.) Swing by her website, to read an excerpt, articles for writers, and all sorts of other stuff. Her book The Family Plan, another of the Hawkins' Family books, was recently named a finalist in the National Readers' Choice Awards.


  1. You're so right, Susan. I have tongue-in-cheek said over and over again that I'm crazy in tons of blogs and many of my characters are certifiable. However, no men in white coats have shown up on my doorstep (she crosses her fingers). VBG. What was done to the teacher is unforgiveable. I sure wouldn't want to be the people who vilified her. Bad karma coming their way--


  2. Susan, I agree with you completely. Because some authors write strictly true-crime books or suspense/murder, do we worry that they're secretly harboring murderous intentions? Do we think authors who write about war are violent-natured? Is Stephen King crazy because he wrote The Shining or sadistic because he wrote the one (name escapes me) that Kathy Bates starred in as a deranged fan?

    Just because people write about sex doesn't mean they think about it constantly and certainly doesn't mean that they'd behave inappropriately with a student or anyone else, any more than the fact that a teacher is homosexual means that he or she is more likely to behave inappropriately with a student. This is all about individuals' personal beliefs and prejudices. I'm sure the parent disapproves of the teacher's books, which she carefully attempted to keep separate from her life as a teacher, and therefore conjured up all kinds of concerns about what the teacher might be doing.

    If a parent hadn't brought the subject up in the news, there's a good chance the students would never have been the wiser. Now, however, it's possible that the books will make a difference in the way the students interact with her, much like my 6th grade teacher's having told us not to check Catcher in the Rye out of the library sent me straight to the library to get it. It makes me wonder how the parent even discovered that she wrote erotic fiction.

    My goodness, if all characters had to be above any kind of reproach so that they didn't reflect on the author who wrote them, then wouldn't our fiction be much more dull?

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  4. Excellent Post, Susan! I read that article on the teacher and thought the exact same things you did. I hope her the best for sure! Where do we draw the line between what people get to know about our private lives? Especially when it doesn't come from us! So much for privacy. If I did everything my characters did, well, I would have had a much more ecxciting life! :o)Thanks for sharing and good luck with your new book.