Love, Hate, Security, and the Writer
I’m on the plane flying from England to America. We’ve been gone for a month. It is the longest I have ever been away from home, except for the infamous tour for Narcissus in Chains which was twenty-six cities in twenty-eight days in October just after 9/11. I’ve never done another tour that was that long again. Part of it was the fact that no one seemed to know what to do at the airports. I got the business end of an automatic weapon pointed at me in St. Louis for trying to take a picture of airport security measures by a very nervous man in camflouge. He literally ordered me, “Don’t move, drop the camera!” It was like a comedy skit, except the gun was real and I said, “Yes, sir, but how do I not move and drop the camera?” I wasn’t trying to be funny, I was honestly not going to do anything to make him freak out more, the freak out level was high enough; thanks.
I’m not sure what would have happened if another man dressed in camo with more rank on his shoulders hadn’t come up and told him to lower his weapon and explain himself. At that time I was still wearing the designer skirt outfits and high heels, so I looked like a lot of business travelers and very unlike a bad guy, though bad guys can be tricky and look like everybody else.
The officer said, “No pictures in security.”
I said, “Okay, no pictures, got it, can I put my hands down now?”
“Yeah, and put the camera away.”
“Absolutely,” I said, happy to have orders I could comply with.
That pretty much set the tone for the tour. Jonathon would check the FAA report every morning trying to figure out what we were allowed to take on board and what was no longer allowed. At one airport they took our nail clippers as a weapon, at another they took my eyelash curler.
I said, “If I can take over the plane with an eyelash curler it deserves to be hijacked.” The desk attendant was not amused.
We were in San Fransisco for a bomb scare that closed the airport down for hours while we all stood in a line outside the building. The suspicious package turned out not to be all that suspicious, but by that time we’d gotten used to seeing people dressed like trees telling us what to do. Jonathon and I discussed options as we stood with our huge cart of luggage in case we saw the National Guardsmen run out of the building. A month on the road with no stop long enough for laundry, or dry cleaning, means it was a lot of luggage. We were going to use our suitcase pile as cover against the glass of the building behind us, depending on what part of the building we were creeping in line beside determined which side of the suitcase mountain we hid behind. Once the glass cleared, run like hell for the Jersey barriers and try to keep up with the Guardsmen. I remember really regretting the high heels for running possibilities.
This was also the tour that I was jumped by a disgruntled fan in the ladies room. A rather tall woman, she may have not been over six feet tall, but only seemed that tall after she slammed me up against the wall, and forced me in a corner (people often seem taller when they’re threatening you). She was angry about the new book, angry about Anita having sex with someone that wasn’t Richard, and angry with me for adding new men to her life, and basically not happy with the way my series had turned in book ten, Narcissus in Chains. Lucky for me I’d talked to a police friend ahead of time due to some other threats online, and took his advice to heart.
Never argue with the crazy person, never, ever destroy their delusion, just agree with it, or they could grow more violent. Okay, I told the crazy woman that I was unhappy with the way the series had gone, too. I’d written Richard to marry Anita, and I hated that they weren’t working better as a couple. I wasn’t happy about the greater sexual content, either. I agreed with pretty much everything she said, and she finally blinked at me, fists lowering to her sides. Why? Because most people want to be the good guys, and that means they want their victim to do something to give them an excuse to up the violence. They need to blame the victim, she made me do it, it was her fault, so they don’t have to see themselves as the villain.
I didn’t give her an excuse, or a “reason” to hurt me more, so she wandered away. She didn’t stay for the signing. I actually didn’t tell Jonathon what had happened until after we did the Q & A and signing, I think I was in shock. I mean someone had attacked me because my fictional character had dumped her favorite fictional boyfriend, Richard. It was too surreal, nonsensical even; I mean, who does violence because they don’t like how an author is writing her own series? As it turns out, more than you’d think.
The woman who attacked me was the only one who actually did something actively violent on that tour, thank goodness, but she wasn’t the only one that was furious about the new book and the new man in Anita Blake’s life. We had the angriest and rudest questions on this tour – ever. This was the beginning of fans asking how well-endowed my husband was, yeah you read that right. The first time they ask it, you’re just shocked, now, we’re sort of used to it. We’ve even managed to turn it into a light hearted moment when someone asks on tour, because it’s asked at least once every tour. Jonathon helps me make it into a joke, and no, we don’t answer the question. Nor do I answer the question for Jean-Claude, Richard, or Micah, which are almost always the men that they ask size on. I say, “If they were real, and truly my boyfriends, I wouldn’t tell you how well endowed they are,” or, “I don’t kiss and tell.”
This was also the first tour that someone called Anita and me a whore. Again, shocking the first time, now my answer is to the nice lady (always a lady) as she clutches her signed book to her chest (they always wait until I sign the book first) and leans in so most of the other fans won’t overhear, is, “Whore implies that a person takes money for sex. Neither Anita, nor I, take money so technically we’re not whores.” The woman blinks at me, thinks it through, then nods, agrees with me, and walks away satisfied in some way. Slut is a little more complicated, but that happens, too. I’ve got my answer for that one, but you get the idea.
Almost all the really rude or angry questions in the open Q & A stopped once we had visible security with us on tour, which means everyone chose to be mean, chose to vent their rage my direction. On the Narcissus tour I had so many people angry that Anita dumped Richard that I actually reread the scene I’d written, convinced I must be remembering it wrong. Nope, Richard dumps Anita, not the other way around, but a certain portion of the fans didn’t see it that way.
I have had other threats, against me and people I love. Enough that we’ve had the authorities of various flavors involved over the last decade and change. I remember one local detective when we went to him with some threats people had been so incautious as to leave up where we could get a print out of them:
“Did you write about their families?”
“You wrote something religious they didn’t agree with?”
“I write about vampires, zombies and werewolves, oh my, which is about as fictional as you can get.”
“And they want to kill you because of it?”
“Apparently,” I said.
He looked at me, shook his head, and said, “That’s one of the craziest things I’ve ever heard.”
I’ve since learned that you never want to be on a police officer’s list of, craziest, or worst thing, they’ve ever seen, heard, smelled, walked in, or experienced.
The police told me not to write about any of the above all those years ago because it might spread the craziness, but there comes a point where you just say, enough. I got well and truly spooked when all this was happening. I remember standing in a book store realizing that they knew what I looked like, but I didn’t know what they looked like, and feeling incredibly vulnerable. That was the year that I, ‘saw the elephant’ as they used to say of pioneers who tried to go West but went back East because it was just too much. Seeing the elephant means you’ve seen something so big, so frightening and unexpected, that you give up. I didn’t give up touring. I got security. I didn’t give up writing my book series the way I wanted to write it or the way the characters wanted it written – I hit the gym and got my carry permit. I started dressing more aggressively with the rockstar-stomp-your-ass boots, and my on stage persona got much more aggressive, too. I took my cue from stand up comedians and have now backed down mean-spirited fans from coast to coast, because verbal heckling will be met kind for kind.
I’m glad that so many of you love my books and that my characters seem so real to you that you are emotionally invested. I never pictured ever being the #1 Best Selling Book in the country, or being #1 on the New York Times List, or Publisher’s Weekly, or USA Today. I never dreamed of being translated into more than twelve languages, or selling millions of books. I never imagined that I’d be able to keep my family in the style to which they’ve become accustomed just from writing fiction. Most writers don’t even make minimum wage, and here I am. It’s pretty awesome, and totally unexpected. Thank you for reading and loving my books so much that my imaginary friends have become your friends, too. 99% of my fans are the nicest, best people on the planet. You are amazing! So why talk about that fraction of a fraction of a percentage? Because I’m ready to talk about it, and because maybe reading this will help someone else, either save another author from enduring this, or make a fan that could tip from positive to negative a rethink. Haters are going to hate, nothing changes that, this isn’t aimed at the haters, but the people who see the hate and think, “Oh, it’s just words. They’re not doing any harm.” Really? That’s the same reasoning that people who tell lynching jokes, say, “I’m not racist, it’s just a joke.” But if just one person hears the joke and they are a racist, you’ve just confirmed for them that they aren’t alone, because you’re like them, you’re a racist too, because otherwise you wouldn’t have said that joke. And if you’re very unlucky, the racist that hears you make the joke is insane enough to think if you joke about it, maybe it would be all right to do it for real. Trust me, the crazies are out there listening for enough echoes of their delusion to turn their violent thought into real life action. Still think your hate mongering online doesn’t do any harm? Well, then I can’t help you, you go on hating; as for me, I know that people are listening for someone to make them feel less crazy, to make them feel justified, to make it okay that they do something awful – you told them it was okay, because you hate just like they do.