Monday, January 9, 2023

(Totally Faked) Death of a Writer

 Drunkards, have you been following this whole Susan Meachen saga?

It's a page-turner, a barn-burner,
a WTF of epic proportions.

Susan Meachen was a writer. Is a writer. May yet be a writer, but probably not. Let me explain. 

You're forgiven for not having heard of her - she was an "indie" author, a self-published creator of e-romance novels. She ran an online group of supporters and fellow writers called The Ward. And in September 2020, Susan Meachen's daughter took to Facebook to announce that her mother had tragically committed suicide.

The small but close-knit online community of Meachen fans expressed shock and grief at her passing. There were tributes, a surge in book sales - and at least one GoFundMe to raise money for the loved ones she left behind. While she wasn't well known outside her niche audience, her life and premature death clearly made an impact on her friends and readers. It was all very sad.

It could have come straight from one of her books.
Or not. I don't read a lot of online romance novels.

And then, on January 2, Susan Meachen popped up on her own Facebook page and announced, "lol jk." 


Not only that, but dig this: Two months after she supposedly croaked, she set up a new account under a different name and...volunteered to take over running Susan Meachen's online community.

I don't get to use this meme often, so yay!

Ever since this turn of events - which likely is more compelling than anything she actually wrote - her friends and fans have been going crazy. Accusations, exclamations, recriminations. People were confused. People were pissed. And with good reason. Susan Meachen had left behind a community of people who genuinely cared about her, who genuinely grieved for her. Who genuinely donated in the memory of someone who straight-up took their money and let them believe she was dead.

If you want to read a well-written and thoughtful summation of the Susan Meachen story, please click here. Because the rest of this post is going to be petty.

So...I haven't ready any of Susan Meachen's "perfectly flawed romances," as she called them. But I've read a few excerpts that are available on Amazon. Guys...they're not good. 

The romance genre takes a lot of shit, because romance novels are typically formulaic, over- or under-written, and less than intellectually challenging. But like other genre fiction - horror, Western, science fiction - romance can be done in a way that is engaging and enjoyable. It requires an author who understands the conventions of the genre. It also requires a disciplined editor and a focused marketing effort.

As a self-published author, Susan Meachen arguably understood the romance genre. But she operated outside the structure of a publishing machine dedicated to churning out well-written, professional product. And it shows.

Here's the first paragraph of a book called "His Wicked Way":

This is not polished writing. This is a paragraph of exposition that could have been several pages of action and dialogue, with maybe a flashback thrown in and some mood-setting descriptions. And what the hell are "unknown riches"? Instead, the pages following this introduction are a steady stream of run-on sentences, flaccid passive voice, and statements that whoosh by without structure or pacing. 

I don't expect literary excellence from romance novels. I do expect writing that doesn't beat me over the head with mediocrity.

I don't mean to beat up on Susan Meachen. After all, during her lifetime (which apparently is ongoing) she managed to complete a number of novels, which outpaces my total output of zero novels. But Susan Meachen had a niche: She wrote pulpy stories for an audience that supported her. Much as I write silly blog posts for an audience that for some reason sticks with me. I don't pretend for a minute that her efforts were one bit less worthy than mine, and I give her full marks for exceeding my output of long-form stories.

I also would never denigrate or dismiss the struggles of another human to survive and thrive. If Susan Meachen was suffering, I feel for her. Even now, after she's callously deceived the people around her, I have sympathy for the situation she placed herself in (into which she placed herself...never mind). 

But Jaysus, she done fucked up. And I've seen no sign that she feels any remorse for her actions. 

My promise to you, Drunkards, is that I will never pretend to be dead. When I go, I'm all in. I expect the same from all of you. 

But I really want to try my hand at romance writing now. Maybe "The Wind Below." Or "Our Trembling Knees." Or "He Came Cummingly."

What do you think?

No comments:

Post a Comment

You're thinking it, you may as well type it. The only comments you'll regret are the ones you don't leave. Also, replies to threads make puppies grow big and strong.