Don’t judge and author by her appearance

We’ve all heard the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” I think that adage could be applied to writers as well: “Don’t judge an author by her appearance.”

This occurred to me after a recent conversation with a person I’d met for the first time.  I got around to telling him I had self-published a fantasy novel, and he asked what it was about. So, I started my pitch: “It’s about Brandan who is an assassin for Lord Wulfgar.” Before I could continue, he said, “I’m a good judge of people when I meet them for the first time, but I never imagined you were the type to write about an assassin.” If it hadn’t been my first meeting with him, I might have quipped, “Did you think I would write steamy romance novels?” Oh, but wait. I probably don’t look like I write them either. But say, what does a person look like who writes steamy romances? Or novels about assassins? Or horror stories?

NPG 1235; Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley by Richard Rothwell

© National Portrait Gallery, London*

Think of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. Looking at her portrait, would you peg her as the author of Frankenstein? Robin Hobb, one of my favorite fantasy authors, is the creator of the Farseer Series, in which her main character is an assassin. Hence, titles include Assassin’s Apprentice, Royal Assassin, and Assassin’s Quest. You get the idea. She hardly looks like someone who would write about an assassin.

Perhaps this idea that we can judge the kind of books a person writes by her appearance indicates the mistaken notion that characters are an extension of the author. Not so, in a way. I assure you I have never assassinated anyone. On the other hand, novelists write about human nature, and in that respect, characters are an extension of the author.

If each of us were to delve into our deepest self, we would have to admit that we are depraved people and capable of some pretty nasty things. Even our emotions are indicators of what is inside us. Jesus said that if a person is angry with another, he is as liable to judgment as a murderer is. The apostle John stated it more bluntly: “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer” (ESV). That is why a writer can create a character that is so different from her, even one who commits crimes or acts that go against conventional morality.

So, take a look at photographs of your favorite authors. You will find them to be ordinary looking people just like yourself. But behind their visage, they are capable of portraying all sorts of characters, from the most hateful villain to the most lovable heroine.

Or, do you find an exception to my pronouncement? Let me know.

Check out Sword of Deliverance, my novel about Brandan, Wulfgar’s assassin. The ebook version is now available at a reduced price on Amazon.