Retro Post: Should an author push their personal beliefs in their books?

Posted April 19, 2017 by Casee in Discussions | 22 Comments

Today I’m bringing you a post from 2009. Suzanne Brockmann was a big voice in romance back then. She was a big voice for gay rights. She definitely brought her voice into her books.

This was originally posted on August 25, 2009.

If you read between the lines as you’re reading, you can see that some books do reflect the author’s personal belief(s) (i.e., Political, Spiritual, etc.). I think that’s natural. I’m not an author, but I would assume that writing is very personal. So I don’t think it’s wrong if it doesn’t really impact the reader. However, after reading Hot Pursuit, I have to put my reader foot down and say enough is enough. Not that she’s going to listen to moi.

I’ve met Suzanne Brockmann several times. I’ve listened to her speak. I lurrrrve her. I’ve read her Team 16 series from the beginning. I waited forevah for Sam & Alyssa’s book to come out. I was disappointed with it, but it didn’t stop me from continuing the series. I now get her hardcover’s from the library, but I still read them. Hot Pursuit didn’t make me decide to stop reading the series. It just annoyed the ever living hell out of me.

Suz’s readers should know that one thing she is extremely passionate about is gay rights. Her dedication to her son in Hot Target made me cry. Srsly. I was thrilled when she wrote Jules’ story in All Through the Night. If any of her characters deserved a happy ending, it was Jules. Occasionally her newsletters will inform readers of certain things that pertain to gay rights. To each her/his own, right?

I started noticing it several books back. If you pulled every passage having to do with what rights gay people do/don’t have out of all the books and put it together, that would be a book by itself. The point here isn’t whether or not I agree with her. The point is that all the facts and opinions she inserts really takes away from the story. Robin (Jules’ husband) was so glad he was married to Jules because if he wasn’t and Jules was hospitalized, he couldn’t see him because he wasn’t family. They live in Massachusetts because their marriage is recognized there. On and on about what they could/couldn’t do. And if that’s not bad enough, she also brought a new character into Team Sixteen. A gay SEAL. So now she’s going to be tackling the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that the military has. It’s not the character that I protest, it’s the reason she brought the character into the series.

After reading Hot Pursuit, I also have a good idea of her political beliefs. I’m reading a fictional story. If I wanted to read a political book, I would pick one up. So while I did like the book, I was thinking about this all the way through.

What do you think? Should authors push their “agenda” into their books? When is it going too far?

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22 responses to “Retro Post: Should an author push their personal beliefs in their books?

  1. I think authors often put their personal beliefs in books – I would imagine it’s probably inevitible. I agree that it can become way too much, however.

    I appreciate that SB is a huge gay rights activist. I also appreciate that she has strong opinions about the military and other government entities. But I don’t want to read about HER beliefs in her books. I just don’t. Especially since she has a tendency to harp on one issue and push it to the max.

    An example of an author that makes it work? Nora Roberts writing as JD Robb. Gun control, legalized prostitution, etc are all outlined in her In Death series, but I’ve never felt preached at or like I was at some rally while reading.

  2. As a writer, I think it’s almost impossible to keep your personal beliefs out of a book. I don’t think a writer wouldn’t normally go against what they consider moral (or immoral). Not to say they won’t EVER (Ie a writer who is Pro-Life writes a secondary character who makes the choice to have an abortion. Pretty drastic but the first thing I came up with), but typically, I think we’d stick with what we believe in just as a matter of fact.

    That said, this fairly liberal, pro-choice, gay rights, Lets Stick it to THE MAN cuz it’s All About Power To The People writer feels that preaching is BAD!!! Bad. B. A. D. BAD!


  3. I don’t think an author can help exposing their personal beliefs in their writing, it is what makes up part of their voice. However, there is a line and I’ve passed up authors after reading them cross it. And like you say, it may not actually conflict with my own beliefs, I just don’t want to hear it from them. James Michener was one of the worse. You never had to bother reading the last chapter becasue it was always a diatribe that had little to do with the story and lots to do with his political beliefs. Frankly, it was boring.

  4. Tangential to the post:

    Haven’t read Hot Pursuit yet, but I have a comment on the space given to Jules and Robin’s preoccupation with their rights as a married couple vs not married.

    I think it is very, very realistic to have these characters dwell on those things.

    I have a friend here in Florida who has been sick–seriously ill–for a number of years. Her partner has been wonderful to her and she’s getting the care she needs, but they do worry, constantly, about their lack of rights if things get really bad.

  5. AL,

    I’m not sure whether it’s realistic or not is the issue. The issue is more that if it overwhelms the story then the author hasn’t done her job.

    There have been many times I’ve learned something while reading – whether it be politically based or not – but didn’t feel like I was reading a how-to manual or a political report.

  6. I don’t have a problem with issues being worked into plots IF it works without seeming like a public service ad. But I find it very distracting to read current political names referred to in conversations between characters, etc. I also think it “dates” the book. I don’t care for it in the romance novels I read (to escape everyday life).

    Great topic!

  7. mph

    (sorry, this is not twitter, must correct spelling)
    If the issues are not things she interjects out of context to the story/characters, then I don’t thing we can find fault with SB’s writing. We, as readers, can admit we don’t understand it or care to read too much about it and choose to not read it. Because chances are, at this point in history, any story about a gay person will involve issues such as gay rights, marriage and conflicts – they are inevitably part of her/his story.

    And if you what you want is for SB to tone down the issues – well, let’s be honest, that’s an unrealistic. From the few of the series I’ve read so far, none of them can be categorize as light and feel-good. After all, it’s SB – if you’re not twisted inside with all the drama, she’s not doing her best work.

    My personal favorite example of author and their beliefs is Linda Howard’s way of dealing with bad guys. Except for one (that I could think of: open season), they die. You can tell she really believe in justice before law. How’s that for pushing personal belief? LOL.

  8. I haven’t read a SB Seal book since before Jules and Robin got their HEA- I’m getting around to catching up tho- so can’t comment there, but I have “issues” when it starts feeling like an agenda. Especially in my romance novels. I don’t mind an author putting themselves in their stories, how can they not? but when it begins to feel preachy- I’m done.

  9. Now that I think about it, I don’t really like it any fiction- let alone romance- as I can think of two non romance fiction books I’ve read where I hated them specifically because there was too much of an agenda behind their stories.

    I think it takes a true artist to put it in without being obvious.

  10. Honestly, if an author wants to push their agenda I don’t care. If I don’t agree with this agenda, I just don’t read the book. I have never read any of Suz’s books, mostly because I have no interest in navy seals as a sub-genre, but I have a feeling she and I would see eye to eye on many things. Saying that, do I think it is wise that she writes this way? Probably not, but I suppose she needs to be true to herself. If you look at a huge percentage of action adventure books, there is an agenda being pushed, usually conservative in nature. I just know that I need to stay away from those books.

  11. C2

    Political issues are awkward in contemporaries because it dates the book so quickly – and other reasons, too, of course. And authors have to find a line between characterization and soapbox. I think most can and do manage to find that line without driving away readers. Certainly Suz pounds some points pretty heavily. Could she step back a bit and still get her point across? Well, yeah. But it’s her call and I don’t feel preached at.

    Of course, all that being said, I can never read too much Jules and Robin. :o) Loves them!

  12. JenB

    I like seeing a glimpse of the author’s personal beliefs, but not to the point that it overtakes the story or, even worse, becomes the story. I don’t ever want to feel like I’m reading a pamphlet or a textbook. Instant DNF.

    I’m touchy about seeing entertainment used as a platform for politics.

  13. Tabitha

    As many have said, writers can not help putting their beliefs into their works. However, if a reader can’t read a story because the plot was focused on a certain issue then the author is going too far.

  14. I don’t mind personal beliefs being put into a story because it is coming from a person who has belief.. I do mind it when it has no relevance and seems like they are pushing it at the reader. I think a great writer is so subtle that their beliefs will flow smoothly within in their story.

    When a writer gets preachy I usually stop reading them.

  15. Lori

    She is getting pretty obvious with her agenda, and I noted it in my last couple of reviews. I think you can make a character so obvious, so over the top at some point that he loses the “same as anybody” feel you were going for in the first place to make your point. She was heading there with Jules in the last couple of books, IMO, in his interactions with other members of the team. I thought she did a little better with that in this one, but there was a lot of interaction with Robin, though, that definitely had the flavor you are talking about.

    But it didn’t take away from most of my enjoyment of the book anyway. Only a little bit here and there.

  16. I think its hard not to put in your beliefs in a book. That said as a reader I hate it when I get beat over the head with it repeatedly. Then I just get annoyed and it distracts me from the story itself.

  17. This has nothing to do with this specific topic, but while we’re talking about Jules…I think he’s totally changed in the last 4-5 books. And I have loved him since Book 1.

  18. Something to think about… SB doesn’t bother me.

    BUT could be because I agree with her if I didn’t would it bother me more, maybe.

    It is probably hard not to put your beliefs in a book but at the same time authors write about murder, incest, rape, adultery, all sorts of rotten things I would think they don’t ‘agree’ with soooo…


    I think the trick is balance.

  19. This is such a great topic that you have here darling!!! Can I say how much I love this series?? I adore every book. I have noticed that she does put the political beliefs in her books but its been so long since I read this one, I don’t even think I noticed that much, I mean I noticed but I don’t remember it having a huge impact on my reading. And when these books first came out, I hadn’t read a romance with any gay character actually, and I do love Jules as a character, he is probably one of my favorites. He is so funny and easy going and not ashamed of who he is. But I can see how frustrating it can be when author put in their political beliefs in a book. For me as long as it doesn’t come on as too strong I am fine with it. I don’t mind when its other issues though. Like rape, serial killers, or cancer even. But I do think authors need to balance it out so it doesn’t overtake the actual story. Great topic you have here and hope you had a wonderful Easter!!!

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