Authors With an Agenda

I've noticed a trend among certain authors lately that has me more than a little bit irritated. As far as I can tell, it's mainly restricted to well established authors with a high number of dedicated readers. And while this trend isn't new by any stretch of the imagination, it seems to be taking over the romance genre with increasing speed.

I'm talking about author activism.

Now, to be clear, I'm not talking about when an author takes a public stance about a particular social or political issue in their day to day lives. I'm talking about when those beliefs make their way into their stories in book after book with all of the subtelty of a sledgehammer. Where readers are subjected to mini-lectures over and over every time they pick up a book by a particular author.

For me, it's beginning to be a huge turn-off. Even if I, too, believe in the cause. Even if I, too, think these issues could use some publicity. Because I honestly don't think fiction should be used to preach an agenda. Even if that agenda is worthwhile.

The worst offender, by far, for me is Linda Lael Miller. I am just about to the point of crossing her off my list of authors to read. Not because I dislike her writing. But because I am sick to death of having her hit me over the head with Humane Society lecturing and examples. I don't need the 'this is how to care for your dog' lecture. I don't need the 'look what happens to horses sometimes' awareness either. And it's gotten to the point that I am less inclined to support those causes because Miller is being so heavy handed about it.

Want another example? Nora Roberts and her fitness/healthy food crusade. It started way back in the 1990s with mentions of healthy living, running etc. The 'lifestyle change' crusade overwhelmed the narrative in parts of the Sign of Seven trilogy. To the point that I never finished the series.

This isn't restricted to just romance, though. Far from it. Whether it is Upton Sinclair's The Jungle highlighting food safety or Charles Dickens highlighting the plight of London's poor in the 19th century, activism is nothing new. The mystery genre has several examples as well: Carl Hiaasen's environmentalism being an easy one to spot.

But, just as I hate info dumping by those authors determined to get every detail correct, I hate being hit over the head with preachy stories promoting the author's personal beliefs. It's annoying. And, in the case of Nora and LLM, it's enough to turn me off buying their books.

What do you think? Do you dislike when an author uses their books to preach their particular social or political beliefs? Do you notice it at all?


  1. Yes, it can be annoying, even if I agree with the position that is being promoted. When I read any kind of fiction, I typically read it to be entertained. If I want activism, I will choose a political book, and I have.

    I have a close friend who is an author. She has been told repeatedly by her agent and by editors that she needs to take a stand on an issue in her fiction and hammer it home over and over. She has been told that's what the public wants and that it sells books. I'm not sure I agree.

  2. I don't think I would notice or mind if it pertains to the story ie main hero is a vegan and promotes healthy life-style etc. But I see your point, I recently read PC Cast's books and there are very strong Mother Earth overtones, very strong. It doesn't fit, throws me off the story, and I do find it a bit annoying. I can't say for certainty that she is into protecting Mother Earth.

    The worst example I've ever seen is an author who wrote sci-fi romance & would blog/promote on reeducating gay people to like hetro relationships. I started to see this throughout her books. Total turn off. I crossed her off my list.

  3. @smokinhotbooks,
    I agree, it can work depending on the story and the characters. It's just when I see the same issues repeated again and again that it gets to be too much. Almost formulaic.

    I think that your friend is getting some bad advice. Picking a genre or style is one thing. Pushing an agenda doesn't belong in fiction. Because you risk alienating those readers who don't agree with you.