After I posted my thoughts on big book causality, I received this question in my ask box:
The Short Answer
My short answer to the question of whether or not I find it disingenuous to suggest that being male might have had some effect on John’s success is… no. Not even a little bit. Not at all.
The Long Answer
My long answer is (as one might suspect from my the length of my last blog entry)…. long.
I want to start with the scientific method and the concept of the null hypothesis. In any experiment, there is a null hypothesis: the hypothesis that says that the effect you’re looking for or investigating does not exist. So for the “experiment” you’ve just run, looking at a data set of the top 100 bestselling books in 2012, the null hypothesis is that there is no effect of author gender. In order to reject the null hypothesis, the data would need to show that the distribution of male and female authors varies in a statistically significant way from chance. In this case, based on the numbers you cite, I am going to assume that it does not.[i]
It means that you don’t reject the null hypothesis.
It does not mean that you accept the null hypothesis, or that the null hypothesis has been in any way proven or confirmed.
The reason for this is that you can get null results for a huge variety of reasons. In a laboratory setting, you can make pretty much any effect go away with a poorly designed study. A null result might mean that the effect you’re looking for doesn’t exist, but it also might mean that there’s something wrong with your logic or design, that you’re not getting at your big question the right way, that your measures aren’t sensitive enough or that they don’t measure what you think they do, that your sample size isn’t big enough…or any hundreds of things.
Null results are notoriously hard to interpret, and there is probably not a social scientist on the planet who would agree that saying “well, I analyzed a single data set, and the results don’t appear to be significant, so no need for further exploration! THE CASE IS CLOSED!”
Science doesn’t work like that—and neither should your day-to-day reasoning. “I did not see evidence of privilege in this one thing I looked at” is a far cry from “there is definitely no privilege at play in this entire domain!”
What stands out to me the most about your question is that you seem to believe that the evidence that you present is sufficient to robustly conclude not only that there is no effect of male privilege within the literary world (especially the young adult literary world), but also that anyone who so much as suggests there might be is being “remarkably disingenuous” and “silly.”
This is particularly striking to me, because as you pointed out in the question, “male privilege exists in many areas of life.” If you come into this knowing that male privilege—and white privilege and so many other kinds of privilege—do exist, in many different arenas, why does it take so little evidence to convince you that not only is it unlikely that male privilege exists in this domain, it is remarkably unlikely?
The existence of male privilege out there in the world should be enough to make a person look at a null result and think “this merits further investigation” rather than “case closed,” especially given that you can’t conclusively interpret an isolated null result anyway.
For the sake of the rest of my response, I’m going to translate the question from “aren’t you being disingenuous and silly, forcing something that isn’t there?” to “I’m curious, given the composition of this end of year bestseller lists and the existence of female writers of mega-hits, like J.K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, and Suzanne Collins, why would you think male privilege plays a role in the reception of literature and especially young adult literature?”
I could give a variety of answers to this question, but today, I am going to focus on one: reception by literary critics and review outlets, a factor John himself credits for contributing to his success.[ii]
First, I’ll give a brief overview of the question and its importance. Then, I will outline some theoretical reasons to think that male privilege might exist in this arena and that it might be particularly strong for stories that, like The Fault in Our Stars, are set in our real world, rather than a fantastical or futuristic world. And finally, I’ll examine some actual data on the topic.
Reception among adult literary critics and review outlets
The questions “could being written by a male author have affected the reception and treatment The Fault in Our Stars received?” and “do some books by women become huge bestsellers?” are not actually the same question, and it’s a mistake to treat them like they are. One of the many food-for-thought questions I posed in my last post regarded the interaction between gender and genre, in terms of success. The idea behind this question is that there may be particular genres in which being male is more of an advantage than others—for example, in books considered to be “literary,” or in realistic contemporary YA. There are a variety of theoretical reasons to think this might be true.
For example, there’s an idea in our culture that male stories are somehow more universal than female stories—we’re a culture that expects young girls to be willing to read stories about boys, but actively discourages boys from reading stories about girls. We’re also a society in which prominent female bloggers in the real world are frequently met with rape and death threats and told to shut up. Empirical studies have shown that male students perceive females as “dominating” class discussion even if they talk only 50% of the time. [iii]
In short, there is reason to believe that when women talk, they’re met with more resistance than men are; they’re seen as overstepping their bounds, even when they’re not talking any more than men are; and their experiences and stories are seen as holding less relevance for the opposite sex.
What does all of this have to do with predicting that literary acclaim might favor books written by men, particularly for books set in the real world—books that deal with things like break-ups and falling in love and infatuation and loss? Philosophers have suggested that worlds further removed from ours in fictional space—those that feature more fantastical elements, for instance—may trigger less “imaginative resistance” to counter-cultural norms. So there is a theoretical reason to predict that the “guy stories are for everyone; girl stories are for girls” rationale—as applies to both author gender and character gender—may apply somewhat more to stories set in our world than to stories set in a fantastical or dystopian world.[iv]
Here’s an anecdotal example illustrating how this overvaluing of contemporary male stories and undervaluing of contemporary female stories can play out in terms of character gender: I’ve seen it suggested that the reason that “An Abundance of Katherines” might have been received differently (e.g. coverage in the New York Times Book Review, Printz Honor) than a female-POV “An Abundance of Kevins” would have been is that obsessing over someone you’ve broken up with is such a female thing to do, that it’s more interesting and somehow a more worthy story when a teenage boy does it than when a teenage girl does it.
But is there any actual evidence to suggest that teenage boys take being dumped by someone they love any better than teenage girls do, that obsessing over a break-up is actually a “girl” thing to do? A google search for “why did my boyfriend break up with me?” (quotation marks included) yields 21,700 results. A search for “why did my girlfriend break up with me?” yields 118,000. If anything, it seems as if guys might obsess (on the internet) about their lost loves more. It’s also not the case that “guy gets depressed because his girlfriend dumped him” is somehow a unique or underplayed narrative in our culture. The Social Network, 500 Days of Summer, and Silver Linings Playbook all feature guys who don’t deal well with break-ups, and that’s just off the top of my head.
A story about a guy obsessing over an ex is not, a priori, a more noteworthy story than the story of a girl doing the same. But people treat it like it is. You sometimes see the same line of reasoning used in the adult literary world with respect to author gender—books written by men that deal with emotion tend to be seen as somehow deeper, because everyone knows that women are emotional creatures anyway, so it’s the male emotions that are really interesting.
You can see how this might put contemporary books by females—particularly those that, as The Fault in Our Stars does, feature romance and feelings—at something of a disadvantage compared to those written by males, in terms of the way they are evaluated for literary merit.
In the next section, we’ll look to see if there is any evidence to support the idea that the literary world may be biased in this way.
One of the contributing factors to his success that John cites in his original post on the success of TFIOS is the fact that “someone got a bunch of adult literary critics to read a YA novel that those adult literary critics really liked.” He actually bolded that phrase in the blog entry, because it was an important point to his analysis in the success of TFIOS!
So what do we know about getting adult literary critics to read stuff and feature it in prominent outlets?
Well, there is a wealth of data suggesting that adult literary criticism and review outlets are skewed in favor of male authors. You can see the round-up of 2012 review percentages here, but for a bigger sample size, you can also look at the numbers in 2011 and 2010. Or you could look, for instance, at this round-up of 2009’s “best books of the year” from various outlets.
This isn’t just one analysis from one list. This is looking at multiple review outlets, multiple best of lists, across multiple years, and there is a fairly unmistakable trend here: books by male authors are given more attention in these outlets than books by female authors.
So let’s return to the causality chart from my previous post (which, remember, is far less complicated than what big book success probably looks like). I’ve added in just this one consideration of author gender.
The dashed line here is meant to emphasize that gender is exerting some weight on press coverage. It does not have to affect all types of press coverage to be incorporated in the model; if it exerts a statistically significant effect on a subset of coverage that John identifies as playing a key role in his success (attention from adult literary critics), that alone is worth inclusion in the model.
Time Magazine Best Books
Just in case you aren’t yet convinced, let’s take a look at a specific major milestone for TFIOS that John mentioned in his exploration of the book’s success: being named TIME MAGAZINE’S BEST FICTION BOOK OF THE YEAR, the first YA book ever to hold the title.
Could there be an effect of author gender on the likelihood of being named to—and topping—this list?
I found a list of the books named to Times Best Books of the Year lists here.
This list covered the books recognized on Times’ Best Book lists from 1996-2010. I then went in manually added in the 2011 and 2012 titles, and I went through and classified each title by author gender (using Google to help me make the correct determination for unisex or ambiguous names). Then I ran some pre-planned statistical tests on the resulting numbers.
Disclaimer: all of this was done around 2 in the morning and is subject to some margin of human error.[v]
Out of the 249 titles (which included all of the books on Times “best of” lists—fiction, nonfiction, and children’s combined), a total of 76 of those books were written by females, while 173 were written by males. I ran a binomial probability test, and found that this distribution varied significantly from chance (p < .0001).
What that means is that there is a less than .01% chance that these results happened by chance, & a 99.99% chance that there is something systematic going on here.
ALL BOOKS ON TIME MAGAZINE’S “BEST OF” LISTS, 1996-2012
Then, I looked only at the fiction books, since that is the category that TFIOS won in. Of the 109 books I coded, 72 were written by men and 37 were written by women (binomial probability test, p < .001). Any p-value under .05 is considered to be statistically significance, meaning that again, this is not the distribution we would expect by chance.
FICTION BOOKS ON TIME MAGAZINE’S “BEST OF” LISTS, 1996-2012
Finally, I looked only at the #1 Fiction Books, the books that like (and including) TFIOS had been named the best fiction book of the year.
Out of 16 winners, 13 were male. Only 3 were female. Even with a relatively small sample size, this distribution was significant (binomial probability, p < .05).
#1 FICTION BOOK ON TIME MAGAZINE’S “BEST OF” LISTS, 1996-2012
Again, this suggests to me that gender is a variable worth including in the model. The model is complicated; the relationship between gender and the factors that drive the model is doubtlessly complicated, too—and that’s why a full understanding of author gender and publishing won’t be achieved just by eyeballing bestseller lists.
Looking at Other Variables
The data I’ve reviewed and presented here suggests that author gender seems to play some role in the critical attention a book receives from adult literary critics—and that attention can be a major contributor to visibility, which in turn can affect a variety of other things.
But given this effect, where else might we see privilege? What other questions should we be asking? I suggested a few in my last post:
“What’s the relationship (if any) between being male and being able to develop the kind of online following John has? What’s the relationship between being male and the likelihood of a publicist pitching your book for major media outlets? What’s the relationship between being male and those outlets saying yes? What’s the relationship between reception in the adult literary world and being male? What’s the relationship between being male and the way that people react to you promoting your book and the effectiveness of said promotion? What’s the relationship between being male and critical acclaim in general? What’s the relationship between being male and getting a certain cover? What’s the relationship between being male and the likelihood of being seen as a “big book” instead of a “big girl book”? What’s the relationship between author gender and potential for breaking out in various genres? Heck, what’s the relationship between being male and the effectiveness of a book-signing campaign?”
These questions are just a beginning.
This post—and the data I’ve presented—hasn’t even begun to scratch the surface of the kind of exploration we need of these issues. We need to further this line of questioning and discourse, and to explore all of these issues more deeply. We need laboratory studies that manipulate author gender and examine, under controlled conditions, the effects. We need to look beyond talking about the same pieces of data and look to gathering new data. And we need to actively discuss and ruminate on these issues.
Most of all, we need for people to be part of this discussion, to come to it with curiosity and questions, to say “tell me more” and “what else can we look at?” rather than suggesting—even in a roundabout way—that exploring the topic is silly, or disingenuous, or forced.
[i] If you run the statistics for 7 out of 10, the result is not significant—meaning that 7 out of 10 does not significantly vary from 5 out of 10. So even though the cut-off point of the top 10 appears to favor women, it does not do so in meaningful way.
[ii] I’m using TFIOS as an example here, but as I discussed in my last blog post, this isn’t really about John or TFIOS. It’s part of a wider discussion, made easier to have by the fact that John has provided us with a thoughtful analysis of his book’s success to use as a reference point for factors that might be worth investigating.
[iii] I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we’re also a society in which articles claim that female authors are “dominating” YA when a “Best Ever Teen Novels” list features 59 females and 44 men, a categorical distribution that—statistically—does not vary from chance. http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2012/08/why-do-female-authors-dominate-young-adult-fiction/260829/
[iv] This may be particularly true for YA, given that certain adult genres, such as science fiction, have a history of being more unwelcoming to women and women writers that could be an additional confounding variable here.
[v] I ended up with 249 titles total, which tells me that somewhere along the way, a single title was lost; however, as you will see once I show you the numbers, one book would not affect the statistical significance of these results. I’ve included the source of my data and details about the method so that others can check the math if they wish to do so.
John Green has a fascinating post in which he discusses the success of THE FAULT IN OUR STARS and opens the topic up for conversation. This post has made me think about many things, among them the way we talk, in general, about the causality of a Book Becoming Really Big.
In general, when we use the word “because,” we could mean lots of things. Any sentence starting “This book is successful because…” could mean that what comes after the “because” is a contributing factor, a really important contributing factor, the deciding factor, or the only factor. This is an imprecision of our language, that you can use “because” and it can mean any of these things.
For example, I don’t think that when people say “that book is so successful because he’s a guy,” they are actually proposing causal models that look like this:
Or even like this:
I think the model most people are talking about is one in which each of those arrows has a probability coefficient of some kind over it (meaning that being male exerts some force over the likelihood of receiving, say, major press and specific types of in-house attention, which in turn has a weighted effect on the outcome). But even once you add in the probabilities, it’s still not much of a model of success, because it’s not even close to a comprehensive model of success.
But that’s okay! I do not think it’s meant to be a comprehensive model of success.
Most people probably do not believe that being male is both necessary and sufficient for having a book be really, really successful. I think many people are, however, interested in author gender as a contributing factor (a point I will return to later).
John seems to propose a model that looks a bit more like this:
(Note: John did not call his own book awesomesauce. I did, because I think it is).
(Also note: John’s model would really have a lot more squares and arrows, with a feedback loop for word-of-mouth, and some role for the initial support of readers, and so on, so it is actually way more complicated than this, but this was the last chart I made, and I was kind of charted out by that point, so use your imaginations and read John’s post to get a better idea of the nuances!).
This, on the surface, seems to be a pretty reasonable model for book success in general and also seems to have a great deal of application here. I think Penguin did some BRILLIANT things with TFIOS before publication, around publication, afterwards! And I think the evidence that the book resonates with readers and turns them into evangelists is very strong.
Anecdotally, I have experienced this first hand.
The Fault in Our Stars was my favorite book last year. I loved it. I immediately bought extra copies to give as gifts. I loaned my copy out (AND NEVER GOT IT BACK AND HAD TO ORDER ANOTHER ONE). I taught it this year in my YA class and got to watch my students’ reactions (direct quote: “I want to make everyone I know read this book. And maybe some people I don’t know, too.”)
I have, in fact, had conversations with people before where I have argued—strongly—that TFIOS (the text itself, independent of any factors outside of the book) can teach us a lot about what goes into inspiring word-of-mouth and what it takes to write a big book. I have occasionally countered the opposing view of “it’s just because of vlog brothers,” to which I have made pretty much the same argument that John makes in his post, regarding nerdfighteria accounting for the first months of sales, but not the degree to which the sales have been sustained thereafter.
I think there’s something missing (or at least, underestimated) in thinking of the causality of success as a bunch of factors with +’s in between them—and that is the interplay and relationship between the various factors themselves, at the various stages. I think it’s far more likely that success follows a cascade model, where prior circumstances feed into later circumstances, gathering speed like a waterfall!
(Note: John never said this doesn’t happen! But I wanted to stress how much I think it does happen).
So what does a causal model of book success really look like? Answer: probably way more complicated even than this chart (which is already kind of complicated, because it is the first one I made).
This shares a lot in common with what John says in his post—for instance, the huge importance of word of mouth (people loving the book and recommending it) to spread past the initial audience, as well as an acknowledgment of the key role played by that initial audience.
But there are a few aspects of all of this that I wanted to talk about more specifically, and they center on the fact that all of these factors are not connected with the word “and.” They build on each other, they influence and feed back to each other. And that means that altering any one factor—especially early in the cascade—has the potential to have a very, very large ripple effect.
It’s obvious, from looking at this chart, that if you take away the magic quality of the book itself that makes people want to hand it to others, the book is not on the Times list much past the first month.
But what I think is underestimated in John’s post is the effect that changing the stuff in the box at the top could have on the book’s long-term sales, too. Pre-orders aren’t just book sales. They can affect the way the book is viewed by accounts, the kind of placement it receives, the numbers it is stocked in, pre-publication buzz and press, visibility, and all of these things that (as John acknowledges) get the machine started!
But what you get from a cascade model, that you don’t from an “and” model, is that knocking out something at the beginning of the cascade doesn’t just give it a bit less gas in the engine. It can exert a substantial effect on everything that comes afterwards, potentially in a cascading/escalating way.
Meaning that it seems very reasonable to me to also suggest that if TFIOS had had first week and pre-order sales of, say 3,000 copies, and vlog brothers had never existed, the book quite possibly (maybe even probably) would not be on the Times list a year and a half later either. The people who read it would still love it, but with a lower starting visibility, the press and coverage, the long-term store space, the effectiveness of recommendations (because finding the book is so easy, it’s right there at the front of the store!) would all be affected… and who knows what that would do to ultimate sales levels, though it would surely do something.
In other words, I completely agree with John that without the incredible magical something of the book itself, TFIOS probably wouldn’t have sales much different from John’s other books.
But I also think there’s reason to suspect that without nerdfighteria, TFIOS might well have sales that more closely resemble—for instance—Code Name Verity’s. Very strong, continual seller that has a ton of longevity because people LOVE IT SO HARD AND MAKE OTHER PEOPLE READ IT, a super successful book by any measure… but not TFIOS-level sales.
The statements “that book is so successful because he’s an internet celebrity” and “that book is so successful because readers love it and want to share it with others” are not mutually exclusive. They refer to different points in the cascade. The former is perhaps more nebulous, given that the portion of the model it affects is a lot less cut and dry, but I definitely do not think you can use the truth of one to negate the other.
“That book is so successful… because of a variety of factors that come into play at different points in time and have interesting and complicated relationships with each other!” is a pretty general statement, with not a whole lot of meaning. Which means that if you are talking about the success of TFIOS, you are likely to focus on one aspect or another. So which aspect should you focus on?
Well, in my opinion, that depends on why you’re talking about it.
Are you interested in what a variety of books with supernova sales have in common, and maybe developing theories about what factors influence how likely a person is to rec a book and how passionately they do so?
Then it makes sense to look at the book itself. Concentrate on the bottom half of the chart, and there are so many interesting discussions to have there! (I have theories. Many theories. And TFIOS is one of those books that has greatly contributed to my understanding, both as a psychologist who studies fiction and as a writer).
Are you interested in how to effectively translate social media audience into book audience?
I think the signing of the first print run here was genius (for some pretty rich and interesting psychological reasons involving parasocial relationships, essentialism, and contagion, over and above the coolness of just having a signed book).
Or are you discussing TFIOS as part of a larger discussion on author gender and its relationship to marketing, push, publicity, and critical reception?
Because my general impression is that when people are discussing TFIOS and author gender, they’re not usually trying to diagnose the intricacies of TFIOS’s success. They’re discussing TFIOS as part of a larger discussion or series of discussions that stretches far beyond one book.
You’ll notice that gender is not currently part of the giant complicated diagram above. That’s because integrating it is REALLY COMPLICATED.
What’s the relationship (if any) between being male and being able to develop the kind of online following John has? What’s the relationship between being male and the likelihood of a publicist pitching your book for major media outlets? What’s the relationship between being male and those outlets saying yes? What’s the relationship between reception in the adult literary world and being male? What’s the relationship between being male and the way that people react to you promoting your book and the effectiveness of said promotion? What’s the relationship between being male and critical acclaim in general? What’s the relationship between being male and getting a certain cover? What’s the relationship between being male and the likelihood of being seen as a “big book” instead of a “big girl book”? What’s the relationship between author gender and potential for breaking out in various genres? Heck, what’s the relationship between being male and the effectiveness of a book-signing campaign?
Those are open questions. But based on the evidence of gender bias in adult literary reviews, as well as a variety of other factors involving the publishing climate and our culture in general… I think there’s reason to believe that being male at least sometimes matters at least some.
Does TFIOS become TFIOS if John was a woman? What about if John was both a woman and his early books had not featured male protagonists? If you gender flip An Abundance of Katherines and it becomes An Abundance of Kevins, about a geeky girl who is heart-broken because she keeps breaking up with guys named Kevin, even if everything else is the same… does it get the same critical reception?
I think these are questions worth asking—and I don’t think that the questions themselves have to be set up against the other reasons for John’s success in some grudge match fight to the death. You can believe—as I tend to—that TFIOS owes the fact that it has been able to sustain initial buzz and sales to the incredible quality of the book and the hard work and dedication of the fine folks at Penguin and simultaneously believe that a woman writing the same story might have had a different publishing experience.
I also do not think that having this discussion has to denigrate, in any way, what John and this book have achieved. I have had many, many privileges and advantages in life. Without some of those advantages, would I have still ended up getting my Ph.D.? Quite possibly not. Maybe even probably not. Does that mean that I didn’t work hard for my Ph.D., or that I don’t deserve it, or that it doesn’t mean anything? Of course not.
Similarly, to the extent that being male (and as John points out, white and cisgendered and so on) conveys privilege in our society—and perhaps some specific privileges within our industry—that’s something worth discussing, but it doesn’t somehow nullify John’s achievement. I get why it might feel, from an author’s perspective, like people were saying it DOES. TFIOS is so big now that it’s going to come up a VERY LARGE number of these discussions. It is going to be named and discussed specifically in a way that I think would make me feel bad and frustrated, in turn, if I were in John’s shoes.
But here’s the thing: when you consider that the kind of success John currently has—not just with TFIOS, but with his backlist now, too—it’s the kind that has the potential to start trends and help other books break out. TFIOS could be that kind of market game changer, the way Hunger Games was, the Twilight was. I’ve already seen people starting to use the term “Green-lit” to refer to books in John’s subgenre. But what is that subgenre? What is the trend going to be? And is it a trend that will benefit male authors of contemporary and contemporary stories that focus on boys more than their female equivalents?
Maybe. Maybe not.
But in general, I think talking about these things is thought-provoking and important, and I think that a lot of discussions about the success of TFIOS aren’t just about the success of TFIOS.
One final thought, and then I will end this obscenely long blog post, and that thought is this: there are ALWAYS going to be factors external to a book that affect its success. Maybe TFIOS isn’t the TFIOS phenomenon without nerdfighteria to kick it off. But Twilight probably also isn’t the Twilight phenomenon if it had a negligible marketing campaign when it came out, and would Hunger Games have been Hunger Games if it wasn’t published by Scholastic and strategically positioned in book fairs and clubs?
Change things near the top of the cascade, and the ripple through could be huge.
However, even given this, I think there is a tendency, when a book reaches a certain level of success, to fixate on the external factors (unless you or a close friend wrote the book, in which case the psychology operates in the opposite direction, as seen below).
There’s a finding in psychology called the Fundamental Attribution Error, which basically has to do with a way that we systematically vary in the way in how we judge our own successes and failures versus the successes and failures of others. When other people succeed, we tend to attribute their success to external factors, but when we succeed, we attribute it to internal factors. You get the reverse pattern for failure.
Basically, there’s this really pervasive and unconscious bias to say, “When I succeed, it’s because I’m smart and I work hard and I deserve it, but when other people succeed, they got lucky. And when I don’t succeed, it’s because of all of the factors outside of my control, but when other people fail, it’s because they just weren’t really that good to begin with.”
When you apply this to authors and publishing, you can substitute “my book” for “I” and “[name-of-book-not-by-me]” for “other people.” When you succeed, it’s mostly because of THE BOOK. But when you’re looking at the success of books in the market, particularly big books, it’s because they GOT LUCKY. It’s the marketing plan, or the timing, or the author’s platform, or…
You get the picture.
This is just the way the brain works! We do it ALL THE TIME, without any idea we’re doing it, and it’s not because we objectively think we are awesomesauce; it just happens. And I think it’s a bias that is helpful to be aware of, no matter which side of the equation you are on.
Sorry for the length of this entry. I had a lot of thoughts and hope that some of them may have been worth my posting them and your reading them. Some of them are undoubtedly wrong or inaccurate or illogical—but there they are!
 I think it’s important to point out that John built his internet presence. Obscene amounts of time, effort, creativity, positivity… it’s not like he was just randomly blessed by the Internet Fairy. If Joss Whedon were to suddenly write a YA book, I bet a lot of people would be all over it. (I certainly would). Is that because he’s a “celebrity author”? Not really—it’s because he’s made things we enjoy, and those things seem relevant to any YA book he might write. So to the extent that nerdfighteria plays a role in John’s success, I think it’s important not to treat that like something external to John or completely disconnected from his literary works.
 And maybe some of them actually are saying that, but I think they should read the section on the fundamental attribution error below.
Anonymous asked: I want a fourth Raised by Wolf book just so I can laught a Ali marching righ into Stone River's territory to kill Callum over him turning Bryn into a Were. No matter what else happens in the book, that would make it perfect.
That Ali/Callum confrontation would be epic—especially considering that Callum not only turned Bryn, but has probably known, since he first gave her to Ali, that he eventually would.
After everything Ali went through with her own family, it would kill her to see what Callum’s machinations have done to Bryn. Callum cares about the “greater good,” while Ali cares about her DAUGHTER, and screw everything else!
These are the last three pictures of myself that I have posted to twitter.
I am starting to understand why people (dear friends, strangers at bars, my entire high school class) are always telling me I look evil.
I am not doing this on purpose, I swear.
Anonymous asked: Who's your favorite character in Every Other Day????!!!
My favorite Every Other Day character to write was Bethany. I loved writing a “mean girl” who was also incredibly loyal and tough and defied others’ expectations of her. There’s a scene, right after Kali saves Bethany’s life, where Kali acts surprised that Bethany sticks around to help her in return, because, you know, Beth’s not just going to sit around and watch the person who just saved her DIE. Anyway, Bethany just rolls her eyes at Kali’s shock and says something along the lines of, “I’m shallow, not a sociopath. There’s a difference.”
And I loved writing her from that point on.
(My second favorite character was Skylar).
Anonymous asked: I'm reading your book Every Other Day and LOVE IT!!!!! It is the first amazing book that I've read in a while. Anyway, I have to do a paper over you and was wondering: What's your life like just everyday and what's some history on you?
I love when people do projects on my books and am so glad you’re enjoying Every Other Day!
I generally am unable to answer questions for school projects—I get too many requests, and I have very little time for anything that is not work or family or friends! Oh, for Harry Potter-style Time Turner. (I have Hermione Granger hair! Why do I not have Hermione Granger time traveling abilities?).
But the good news, for everyone doing projects, is that with a little online sleuthing, you can find out quite a bit about me online.
You can read through this tumblr, and you will discover things about my job and the classes I am teaching and my writing process.
You can read my twitter, and follow my day-to-day adventures for the last few years:
You can find out all kinds of things about me on my old blog: http://jenlyn-b.livejournal.com/
There’s also some background information about me on my website:
And I have done lots of blog interviews over the years, which you should be able to find with a google search for “jennifer lynn barnes interviews.”
Anonymous asked: Raised by wolves needs a fourth book, although I don't know how you are going to fix the diasaster of taken by storm and its tragic and cliffhanger ending. Loved the first two books, but I don't understand why you did what you did in the third book. I read your explanation and I still don't understand it.
It is totally okay to not understand, disagree with, or hate the ending to Taken By Storm!
It was the story I wanted to write, the one I thought was authentic and true to the characters and the world I’d built. But my interpretation of the characters is not the only interpretation, and just because it was the story I wanted (and needed) to write to feel like I’d done my best by the characters and the world, that doesn’t mean it was the story you wanted to read. I understand that! I am sorry to disappoint readers—always. But at the same time, I have not, even for one second, regretted writing the ending the way I did.
I understand that it’s an ending that made some readers very upset and disappointed. It’s also an ending that other readers loved. For some people, it made the series, and for others, it ruined it. As a writer, I feel very strongly that my job is to write the stories that feel true to me. I hope readers will love it, of course, but I don’t write thinking “what do readers want to happen?” I write thinking “what would happen, in this world and to these characters, as they have been portrayed up to this point?”
And that’s part of the reason that I’m hesitant to write a fourth Raised By Wolves book. Because a lot of readers want me to write a fourth book to “fix” the series—and if I wrote a fourth book, it would not do that. Because, as a writer, I strongly feel that what happened in book three was the right call. You are completely free to disagree! You have a right to feel however you feel about the ending and about me as an author for writing it that way! There is no right or wrong way to react to a book, and by virtue of the time and emotions you’ve invested in the series, you absolutely have the right to your opinion, whatever that opinion is.
But having said all of that, if I did write a fourth book, it would not fix what happened in book three. It would not put a bandaid on it. It would not make what happened any less tragic. It would deal with the fallout of what happened—and eventually, the healing, but just as Bryn has physical scars, those emotional scars will always be there. She’s a survivor. She’ll get through it, but the very last thing I would do if I wrote another book is cheat her out of that process. Her losses wouldn’t stop being tragic. Her world wouldn’t stop being hard. That’s what it means to be alpha, and to be resilient, and to be Bryn, who loves so fiercely and lives in such a dangerous world.
None of which is to say she couldn’t be happy some day! I think she would be. It’s possible I might someday write a book about an adult Bryn, who’s had a decade or so to heal and has to learn to love (romantically) again. But I also believe, very strongly, that being happy and having a fulfilling life does not depend on one’s relationship status. Bryn’s worth and the weight of her life is not measured by whether or not she is with a guy. If I ever returned to her story, it would have to be hers. Maybe it would involve romance! But it would certainly involve Bryn growing and changing as a character and as a person.