Have you ever been put off an author’s books after reading a biography of them? Or the reverse – a biography has made you love an author more?
Actually, no to both. I don’t normally read biographies of authors, for one thing. I suppose I would if I was interested in reading more non-fiction, but at the moment I’m getting plenty of that. I do find their lives interesting, but in general I’m not a huge fan of history after the 15th century, which is before the development of the novel (and before a comprehensive biography of almost any author could be composed anyway). So that puts me off right to start. Secondly, I commented on this at Maw Books Blog a while ago, and I firmly believe we should separate the art from the artist. Just because an author has horrible beliefs or has done horrible things doesn’t make his/her work bad, and it goes the other way around too, because you can be a fabulous person but incapable of writing valuable works. I’m sure a number of authors had opinions we’d all be firmly against now because it was commonplace then. So we’d have to eliminate whole swathes of literature. Honestly, just think about what Chaucer must have believed; many of us have discovered that the medieval period was a whole different world, but that doesn’t make The Canterbury Tales less valuable.
So, learning that an author has horrible beliefs would definitely put me off the person and I wouldn’t want to meet them, but if they kept that belief out of their work and it was still interesting and entertaining, I would read it. Normally, I won’t even know, so this is not a big issue for me. I can’t ever recall a time when I liked an author’s work more for knowing something about them.