Friday, November 18, 2011

LJ Smith fired from her own series

In case you haven’t heard the news, it seems LJ Smith has been fired from her own books. Yes, her publisher has fired her. Any future Vampire Diaries books will be listed as “created by LJ Smith” but will not be written by her. This wasn’t a mutual decision, from what’s being said the series has been taken off her. I can’t imagine how much this must hurt her to have this taken from her. I’m not a fan (and, yes I most certainly do have to snark, in italics) but I wouldn’t wish this on any author and I only hope, for her sake, that at least she can use the name recognition she has gained to get a new publisher for a new series. I also hope that Renee will be the one to read it, not me

This all came to light with the now well publicised emails LJ Smith has sent to fans. Since there’s so many of them I’m assuming they’re correct, but still consider the source (and see? I managed not to suggest that if they’re fans they may be on some powerful hallucinogens! I can control my snark at times… but not often). I have seen several versions of this letter, sent to several different fans – so, while they could all be fabricated, I rather suspect it actually means LJ Smith is Severely Not Amused.
Thank you for your beautiful email. I completely understand why some fans get overeager—and especially if they think there is bad news for them. like a new Vampire Diaries to read I hope that you will enjoy Midnight, as it is truly the story of Damon finding his deepest feelings for both Elena and Bonnie Threesome? Why LJ Smith I never knew you had it in you —and his feelings are definitely not platonic. In fact, to be blunt, without Bonnie and something that Bonnie does at the end, Damon would be permanently dead.

But right now I have to tell you something that makes me so sad and devastated More Secret Circle? Because watching that makes me pretty sad and devastated—as bad, in fact, as I have ever felt except for when my mother died. It’s confidential, but it’s been so long now that I just can’t keep up a charade with good-hearted readers like you. Obviously not like me. I’m cruel and vicious :P

To put it briefly, I’ve been fired from writing the Vampire Diaries. Yes, I confess, my first reaction was “oh my gods, someone actually stopped her! Did the UN resolution pass? Then I was somewhat bemused by anyone being FIRED from their own series And I’ve been fighting and fighting this since last fall, but there is absolutely no recourse. Midnight is the last L. J. Smith book in the Vampire Diaries series.

It probably sounds completely impossible to say that I am fired from writing my own books. this is why I assumed it was humanitarian intervention from the UN. Or maybe the guys who give the Nobel Rpize for literature finally snapped But the truth is that they’re not mine, even though I write every word. When I was called by an agent and asked to write the vampire trilogy, that agent wasn’t from a publisher, but from what is now Alloy Entertainment, Ltd. And they are a book packager. A book packager sells books, already made with covers and all, to publishers, like HarperCollins—my publisher for The Vampire Diaries and The Secret Circle. And both these series were written “for hire” which means that the book packager owns the books the author produces. Oh dear gods WHY would you sign this contract? You gave away all your rights to your own creation?! Oh honey, you needed a lawyer oh-so-badly Although I didn’t even understand what “for hire” meant back in 1990, And this is what lawyers are for – seriously and snark aside, everyone, if you have a contract you don’t understand get a lawyer. when I agreed to write books for them, I found out eventually, to my horror and dismay. It means that even though I have written the entire series, I don’t own anything about The Vampire Diaries. this is either deeply tragic or an attempt to avoid responsibility for that International Criminal Court Tribunal for crimes against literature And from now on, the books will be written by an anonymous ghostwriter, so they’re not just cancelling the series, they’re giving them to someone else entirely? That’s not just your husband dumping you, that’s him dumping you and then re-using your wedding ring for his next partner…Classy just as Stefan’s Diaries are. there’s a Stefan’s diaries as well? Something else to add to Renee’s reading list It will say “Created by L. J. Smith” on the cover, but I am not allowed even to change a word in the ghostwriter’s book. really? I may have to read it then

You might wonder why the book packager and Harper would do this to me. Did you let them read your books? Bad idea. Though, to be honest, they’re wildly popular so I can’t imagine why they would either I am not sure either, but usually a book packager gets very submissive, non-assertive writers to write for them and people who can’t read contracts—not to mention that most of them, writers or ghostwriters, have had a lot of publishers turn their books down. too easy, not touching this one Book packagers are used to do a lot of editing on their author’s books—because the books need intense editing. And they let Vampire Diaries through as is?

But I’m not submissive, and I always fight editing. Careful, you’re admitting full responsibility to the court In Midnight, I had to fight to keep many Bonnie scenes in the book. shame someone wasn’t doing that for the TV series I’m not at all sure they liked the things I was doing with Bonnie and Damon—they kept trying to cut such scenes. And of course they didn’t like Elena’s behavior at all given that she acts with all the sense of a concussed armadillo, I can understand that. They want strictly Stelena books. oh gods cutesy compound names? Damn it Branjelina! I blame you!

So last fall when I gave them the book Phantom, they didn’t bother to give me edits. I think the editor may have snapped “no! No! I’m not reading another Vampire Diaries! You can’t make meeee! Instead, I was given a letter addressed to the ghostwriter by name, telling her to completely rewrite my book. can we backdate that to book 1? They wouldn’t even listen when I pleaded and promised to do Phantom as they required. Well written? Ok, that was to the bone The simply took the series and gave it to the ghostwriter . . . pity the poor ghost writer to write not only The Hunters trilogy, but whatever comes after that.

They have always tried to minimize my participation in The Vampire Diaries. Y’know, when the author’s participation in a book series is minimised one wonders exactly how that works? Do they just delete huge screeds of text? Is this why they’re so short? On the very first original books in 1990 my name was almost invisible on the cover. I assumed that was to protect you from those Nobel Literature Ninjas And now they have my manuscript of Phantom, and the book the ghostwriter writes from it may even sound like I wrote it in places, damn, that’s a shame because they have the right to use my work as they see fit. I say again –ye gods who drafted this contract?! Lucifer doesn’t have such vicious terms! Even Mephistopheles would say “hey, steady on now, that’s a bit harsh!” But the book after that … that will be pure ghostwriter. I would guess that they think you readers won’t see or care about the difference in writing styles and skills. Oh.. oh.. we care. Oh yes.

I have said this to another Bamon fan, Bamon? Bamon? Really? and I’ll say it now. I had so many plans for Bonnie in The Hunters trilogy. poor Bonnie
First of all, in Phantom, I had her showing a lot more emotion, grieving right along side Elena oh yay. Angst. Just what the genre needs because—well, because Damon does something almost unbelievable for Bonnie in Midnight and he doesn’t get out unscathed.

I won’t spoil it if you don’t know. But they wanted Bonnie to have just put it all behind her—and with Bonnie’s character, I don’t think so! She is always completely openhearted with her emotions; even though she has matured so much in Midnight, she’s still Bonnie, who says exactly what she thinks, even if she hasn’t had a dose of Black Magic wine.

I wanted to write Moonsong, and give Bonnie an admirer who is just as sweet and even more naïve than she is—a pure white wolf with radiant blue eyes, who happens to be a werewolf with moonlight colored hair and the same blue eyes when he’s human. uh… sorry, but that kind of reads like really bad fanfiction. And it’s never a good sign when an author talks about a romance she wants to write and her main description is of the appearance of the love interest I wanted to show Damon’s surprising reaction to Xander the good werewolf (not at all happy about it—so much that he “accidentally” almost kills the poor innocent wolf) .

I also wanted to show how Damon rescues Bonnie from a vicious wolf-pack attack, and then let her fly away with him. And I wanted to show how Bonnie, who knows a little medicine from her sister Mary, her sister taught her how to deliver a baby? helps Damon deliver Caroline’s twin babies DAMON knows how to midwife? when she goes into labor deep in the woods. But that’s one scene that I would have had to fight tooth and nail for, because even the glow that Damon and Bonnie share at seeing new life come into the world wouldn’t be enough for them to call it decent. actually, I’d like to see Damon gasp and faint like many a man before him They would undoubtedly have tried to make me cut it. But I still want to write it, so badly. And I’m sure you would have written it so badly

I even had the last book in that trilogy plotted out, where Stefan’s worst nightmare comes true Stefan and Elena get married? and he takes so much blood from Elena that has to be taken to the hospital for a massive transfusion. He then decides to Influence Elena so that she will forget his existence, so he hurts her then disappears from her life to protect her? Didn’t Twilight do that? And wasn’t it really really really awful? and he does so, to Damon and Bonnie and Meredith’s consternation Now really, I don’t think any of the characters in Vampire Diaries are capable of feeling any emotion with that many syllables. Let’s change it to “worry”. I wanted to show how this affected each one of the characters, aka Angst and how Bonnie once again begins to write in her diary, since Elena’s diary is also forgotten, along with Stefan. I like to write things from Bonnie’s point of view, as I did in Dark Reunion. But none of these things will happen, beause I won’t be around to write it. And I just can’t keep up the pretense any long with wonderful fans like you. I can’t pretend that Bonnie and Damon’s relationship will continue to grow as Damon learns to respect her as well as to love her. She has become “his girl” but I can’t follow up on that. I had to tell the ghostwriter that he would address Bonnie as “little redbird” when he speaks to her. personally, I’d be tempted to sabotage the ghost writer… so writing tips from Smith may do it

Sorry for the long rant, but the charade is over for me. I don’t know how Phantom will turn out, with a blend of my manuscript and the complete rewriting of it by the ghostwriter. But I dread it, I tend to look at each new book the same way and even more do I dread what the next books will be like. I’ve worked so hard to make Vampire Diaries a good series, too easy, not touching it only to have the unthinkable happen to me. And I have no one but myself to blame for not being submissive enough. ugh, no, the blame here is on the contract and if you must blame yourself, blame yourself for signing that awful thing in naivety.

L. J. Smith

While I indulge in a lot of snark (because I have to indulge in snark) and while I most certainly am not a fan of the Vampire Diaries (and most certainly not the books which I found a truly painful read that were redeemed only by the fact that they were extremely short) I do have to feel sorry for LJ smith here. I can’t imagine what it’s like to pour so much of yourself into a series of books, to work so long on them, to crerate them and then have them all pulled out from under you. I would advise any author or prospective author to watch sites like the excellent Writers Beware to avoid being caught in such traps.

This is a horrible thing to happen to any author and my heart goes out to her (even as I snark). Check your contracts guys, be very very careful what you sign away – if your books are your babies, you need to guard your rights to them