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Does Patrick Rothfuss Hate His Fans?

Not too long ago, Patrick Rothfuss wrote this:

Patrick Rothfuss (Hulk)Just when I was growing fairly certain my readers were clever people who actually have the ability to read and comprehend text, a brave contingent of souls rush boldly forward with comments, eager to prove me wrong….

The vast majority of you: Thanks for being a delightfully non-representative sample of what the internet has to offer. I love you with great love.

The others: I understand if the above sentences were too long for you to make it to the end. It must be hard to read an entire 70 words in a row, with that painful repetitive stress injury caused by your knees endlessly jerking in response to half-glimpsed imaginary insults.

I am sympathetic to your condition. So here’s the tl;dr…

I am disappoint.

Is that short enough, or do I have to slather it across a kitten picture for you?

That left the internet wondering: does Patrick Rothfuss hate us?

I don’t think so. The first piece of evidence I would submit to you guys is an example of the kind of person Pat is talking to when he writes the above message. You will notice his own tone matches his/hers pretty well:

How would you react to this guy? =/ I think Pat reacted much as I would (minus a punch to the face).

Anyway, my point of view isn’t really worth this post. Do you care…really? No, of course not. So, you’ll be glad to hear there’s more from a much greater man that I.

In an exchange with a fan who had congratulated him on writing so much, writing so well and being so approachable by fans, Brandon Sanderson found himself giving his thoughts on Pat ‘blowing up on his fans’. Brandon’s reply was typical Brandon: Classy (with a capital C). Here is what he had to say:

Don’t be too hard on Pat […]. I wish I could explain a few things to his fans that might help. Many writers, particularly discovery writers, have difficulty talking about a book they’re working–because for them, talking about it with someone “mimics” writing it. And that takes away the discovery and enjoyment for them. (Stephen King is like this, I believe.)

I get the feeling that if Pat talks too much about his book, the thing will become harder for him to write–and he’s trying to avoid that. I know for a fact that he’s a heavy reviser (meaning he could toss out any chapter at any time) which makes it very, very difficult for him to guess when a book will be done. (I, being more of an architect, spend all the guesswork time doing my outline–which could take from months to years. When I’m actually drafting, that part is over, and I’m able to project quite accurately when I’ll finish.)

This doesn’t explain how he can get snappish with fans, and I do agree that he could maybe back off a little on that. However, I’ve been his friend for many years, and have watched him interact online quite often. He just gets very tired of answering these questions politely, and has found that if he does, he just gets a ton more people asking for details pressing him on the issue in a way that–if he answers–might undermine his own writing process. (I can’t say this for sure, as I haven’t asked him. It’s just my instinct.)

So, like most of us, after many times answering politely and getting a snappish response, he’s just started dodging the question or making jokes instead of answering.

The Doors of Stone (cover)The first part of Brandon’s answer suggests that he knows something fans don’t. Whether this is personal, work related or otherwise doesn’t matter too much – an author is entitled to have secrets and we (fans) should always keep in mind we may not know everything about what is going on.

The second part makes a lot of sense to me too. As someone often called a perfectionist and, for that reason, someone known for not getting a lot done (despite having grand ideas), I can relate to planning/doing something then destroying it and starting again. In fact, I’m sure most creative people and authors would be able to relate in some way.

The part about being snappish with fans: I have to say that when I met Pat and asked about book three (a year or two ago), he was fine with me. Maybe that is because I was there in person and didn’t have Google at my fingertips. However, I think it’s because I asked about it in a friendly manner and he realised I wasn’t being a dick, I just wanted to know. That said, even I was thinking: ‘you know this guy can’t answer your question’ and ‘he must be sick of this’, so perhaps I should have shown a bit more self-control.

In defence of fans who do ask: Pat’s mistake, I think, is that he said on publication of The Name of The Wind he thought the books would be out at a rate of one a year:

The next two books will come out in one-year intervals. I’m able to do this because when I started writing, I had no idea how long a book was. I just kept blazing a trail until I came to the end of Kvothe’s story. When I finally finished, I looked back and realized I had a trilogy’s worth of material.

Fans have, and always will, hold Pat to that. Indeed, when you consider that the first was released in 2007, he has overshot the 2009 deadline he gave himself by eight years. I should tell you, that having spoken to dozens of debut authors over the years, many fall into this trap: thinking that once you become a full-time writer you can throw a book out a year. I can guarantee you that now Pat has had experience working with publishers and real-life editing, he’d tell you that although his plan was noble, it was the giddy ambitious chatter of a debut author.

And, of course, there are times when I think, “Why doesn’t this guy just sit the F down and write the damned thing to get these dicks off his back?” The thing is: Perfectionism. A person with this trait just can’t do that. You also need to consider that there is something special about the Kingkiller Chronicles and that’s because Pat wrote them. Something Pat does makes those books ****ing fantastic. How he does it, I don’t know. Neither do you. Maybe time is the key – we know he worked with Kvothe in his head for around a decade before the thing was published. Based on how great so many of us find these books, to try and force him to just ‘get them done’, seems a huge risk on our part.

If you want something tangible though, ask yourselves: how much debate, speculation, excitement, fan fiction, fan art, etc. has been created as a result of the delays to The Doors of Stone? If you truly love these books, go out there and find it. It’ll enhance your reading experience immeasurably and although you won’t have the next part of the tale any time soon, you will have a far deeper understanding of the material that is already out there. You’ll also have some new friends you can vent frustration with, but channel it in a way that has you speculating rather than screaming abuse (not that you, dear reader, would fall to such lows, I’m sure).

As for whether book three will be worth it, I’ll hand you back to Brandon Sanderson for his views (which, again, match my own pretty closely):

I’m confident that book three will be worth it. I think it is plainly obvious that Pat’s prose is simply better than that of any of the rest of us in this generation of writers. (Well, maybe not Nora Jemisin, but she’s kind of doing something different.)

Thinking about it a little further, here’s what I think I’m trying to say: If you put a line between the storytellers and the prose stylists, you’ll find people like me, Brent, Naomi, Scalzi, and Hobb on one side (though some of those are closer to the line than I am.) You’ll find people like Nora, Susanna C., and Erikson on the other side. Not that they don’t tell stories, and we don’t occasionally turn a phrase–but for them, prose is important enough that sometimes IT becomes the point. For us on the other side, we prefer writing prose that isn’t distracting, as story and character shouldn’t be lost. (I’d put GRRM here too.)

Pat sits right in the middle, like Tolkien and Pratchett did, with prose that is at once gorgeous and great at telling a story. We all do things well, and I think there might be one or two things I can edge out Pat on. But his prose is capable of straddling that line; it’s a thing of beauty, and it takes serious time to craft something like that.

What do you guys think? Are you on the ‘give the guy a break’ or ‘gimme my damned book’ end of the spectrum?

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Does Patrick Rothfuss Hate His Fans?, 9.5 out of 10 based on 35 ratings
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23 Comments

  1. Peter Andersson says:

    I’m on train “GIve him a break”.

    Do I want to read book 3? So yes!

    Same as I want to read Thorn of Emberlain, and books 7-20 of the Expanse etc etc etc.

    Every book get out when they get out, like movies and computer games, there are some that you just wish they delayed 1-6 months to fix all the problems they had or just scrapped all together.

    The time waiting for my current must-read unpublished books I spend looking for new authors and expanding my reading habits.

    • Brynn Turner says:

      You can’t rush genius. Writing is an art form…it will be done whe it is done. I am fine with waiting until it is.

    • Scott Hamilton says:

      I tend to agree, and give the author a pass. Of the tens of thousands of interactions a celebrity deals with online, not all show them at their best. For my part, I imagine the comment was far more focused on his end than on ours.

  2. Mig Hein says:

    This is a very good article, thanks for laying out the Sanderson input and your own thoughts.

    I sit somewhere in the middle of the “Kingkiller Book 3 Spectrum” slightly siding with the author. Obviously, Mr. Rothfuss can take as long as he likes to finish his series and he can interact/answer his fans as much as pleases. And getting snippy? Oh, so what, he lost patience. He didn’t commit violence over it.

    But if fans didn’t buy the book because it took forever and they perceive him to be disingenuous about its schedule, that would not be entirely unfair. I have forgotten much of the first two books after all this time and there is so much to read, I’m hesitant to take time to reread.

    But as you say…that prose! Oh, that lovely prose.

  3. Jo Hall says:

    Give the guy a break.
    As readers, we don’t know what’s going on in an author’s life at any given time, and we have no right to intrude. Writing can be really hard, and all the things that surround writing (like, oooh, appearing at conventions and blogging and and podcasting) are all, despite what that obnoxious person quoted above might think, actually still Part Of The Job. Enjoyable as they might be, they are still obligations and demands on an authors time that might well take him or her away from the actual writing-writing part of the job. And unfortunately, the more successful an author gets, the more they will be invited to conventions and book shop tours and guest blog posts and guest d-and-d hosting etc. It becomes a bit of a viscous circle, especially if you’re a nice chap like Pat and don’t want to say “no” to stuff.

  4. Travis says:

    Good article while feel some may be too hard on him its understandable their frustration mainstream authors put out maybe 1 to 2 books every 2 to 4 years and self published authors anywhere fron 2 to 4 books a year wuth the same amount of content and just as good. So yes i see and u derstand some of the frustration when it comes to mainstream authors lack of production and amount of product put out

  5. R. Campbell says:

    No, I’m afraid I agree more readily with the guy quoted at the start (although not with his form of language). Mr Rothfuss clearly does have lots of time to do lots of other things, except work on the third book it would seem. At the end of the day, he can do what he wants, I suppose, but he shouldn’t be surprised if people stop caring. I thought the first two books were among the best fantasy I’d ever read, but I’ve forgotten so much of them now – and I’m so pissed off at his lousy work ethic that I really can’t be bothered checking on progress any more. Mr. Rothfuss you created this sense of anticipation in your readers – and took money for it – don’t lose the head now whenever they come looking for an ending. Here’s a radical suggestion – just finish the book.

  6. Jo Hall says:

    I think Travis hasn’t taken into account things like publishing schedules. For mainstream authors it’s often out of their hands how many books they publish in a year….

  7. Scott says:

    As a human being who fails to get things done in a timely manner because of the high standards I place on myself, I can see it from Pats’ point of view very clearly. On the other I do think that at times Pat can be condescending toward some of his fans. He has a habit of talking down to people when he is frustrated. I don’t think it is something he consciously is trying to do. I just think that’s who Pat is, he is a man who feels very strongly and reacts very strongly to things that he believes strongly in. I respect him for this reason.

    I think he is a decent person and is just as frustrated in himself as some people are of him. He holds himself to a very high standard and demands nothing but the best from himself. Give him a break.

  8. Ryan says:

    As far as I’m concerned, if Pat wants to spend his time running massive fundraisers for Heifer International instead of finishing the third book, then he’s welcome to take all the time he wants.

    I actually wish more authors put in the time to craft their prose as carefully as Rothfuss, and I wish more readers appreciated it. Sanderson and his cohorts can tell a great story but Rothfuss tells a beautiful one, and the genre needs more of that.

  9. Joy says:

    Nothing is more disappointing than missed potential. We can wait longer for the right book. But if an author finishes a series with a subpar book, that’s it. That’s the world. I’m dying for Rothfuss to finish, and I want more Dresden Files, Mime Order, etc. (All later than expected.). But I want great books more. My reading list is long. Plenty to keep me occupied.

  10. Barbara says:

    Liking an author’s books does not give the reader the right to dictate the release date of any future tomes. Grow up.

  11. Jason says:

    I think Joy is onto something. With the time it is taking for the final ‘day’ to arrive, Pat takes a risk. At the onset, you have readers like R. Campbell who have lost interest enough to not care about the new book (but let’s be honest and agree that most of them will still read it). Then, you have indirectly built this enormous mountain of expectation for all of the fans that still Google ‘king killer chronicles book 3’ weekly, that if Pat doesn’t have a minor stroke due to the pressure after publication, I’d be surprised. A “it better be good” kind of thing.
    I just want to say that I will absolutely read days 1&2 again once 3 is released. I just hope it’s as good as Pat wants it to be. And that it’s published tomorrow.

  12. Gaz says:

    If Pat worked for me, I’d probably have a frank discussion with him about the pace of his work. But he doesn’t work for me. He works for himself. I read HIS books. He’s not writing MY book. The web is full of keyboard warriors with a misaligned sense of entitlement. Meh.

  13. Andrea says:

    Anyone responding like the “fan” above has no idea what writing is all about. Of course fans are important to an author, but on the other hand, spending money on a couple of books (of which only a small percentage actually pays the author) does not give a reader the right to tell the author what to do and how to live his or her life. If you want to tell an author what to do it’s going to cost you a lot more because you’d have to hire them.
    Writing a good book takes time. Honestly, that “fan” sounds like a whingy spoilt brat. Grow up.

  14. Marcus says:

    The problem now is that people have hyped up his books so much that it’s almost impossible (IMO) for him to meet those expectations. I suspect even if he writes a killer book, people will still be unhappy. People gonna be people.

  15. Andrew says:

    I think there are two separate issues at play here: how long it takes Pat to write DoS and how Pat treats his fans. An author will take as much time as they need to write. For Pat, that takes quite a long time. Even despite his and his publisher’s marketing campaign when TNotW was released that the other books were already written and would be out in a year, I’m still willing to give him a pass on how long it takes. I’ve got enough other books to read.

    I’m not willing to give him a pass on how he treats his fans.

    He has insulted fans in a Reddit AMA for not asking him good enough questions. He has implied that readers who don’t donate to his charity aren’t interested in making the world a better place. He recently blamed his fans for “leaking” a page (that contained no spoilers or anything of consequence) of DoS when he was the one who accidentally showed it on his livestream. This isn’t him going after just the people who are obnoxious and rude to him for taking too long to write Book 3; this is Pat going after large portions of his fanbase.

    I don’t know what drives him to say these things and I’m not writing this to psychoanalyze him. But Pat needs to realize that when he is making appearances (in whatever form) for events other than his writing — such as his charity, WorldBuilders — he is still implicitly “selling his books” to people. Hosting an event about WorldBuilders does not mean he is “off the clock” from his writing and does not grant him permission to act like a jerk to people without consequences.

    At the end of the day, it comes down to professionalism. Pat should hold himself to a higher standard than those “fans” who enjoy insulting and berating him. If it bothers him so much that people continue to ask about Book 3, then he should to cut out the public appearances, the livestreams, etc. until Book 3 is finished.

  16. Kevin says:

    Can you cite where you got those quotes?

  17. Kevin says:

    I’m in the first camp. The first two novels were released, and then… nothing. I’m a writer as well, and I would never tell my readers when to expect the next book. He rightly deserves a tongue-lashing or three, and it’s true; he has more time to narf around than to get things done. And he needs to get things done.

    What everyone who has commented that he needs more time to develop the story, guess what you missed? He already finished the trilogy years ago. Even with 2-3 years to polish up the endings after the success of the first two books, he is far overdue.

    Frankly, I read the first two books, enjoyed them, anxiously waited on the third and final book, and in 2015 gave up on Mr. Rothfuss and donated the books to charity. I won’t be buying the third one. It’s like waiting 25 years for a Star Wars sequel. Just plain dumb. Patrick: Get. It. Done.

  18. More to it says:

    Obviously this situation does not exist unless he wrote a turd of a third book and is in major revision mode. Don’t be niaive and picture this situation as an artist struggling with genius. Wake up to reality and recognize he Iacks the ability to close this and is milking where he is at until the last fool pays his last penny. The same reader who feels the empathy towards his seemingly high potential characters are the most gullible to hold out hope. Good luck suckers!

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