When I was younger, a favorite author was all about favorite books. That seems like a natural thing, right? You have some favorite book, so the author of that book is your favorite author. It was all dependent upon the book.
So, in high school, my favorite authors were Tolkien, David Eddings, and Piers Anthony. Tolkien is probably self-evident enough that I don't need to explain him, but, even if not, I'm not going to explain him. I started reading Anthony during middle school. A friend of mine gave me one of his books, Split Infinity (a great title), as a birthday present, and I started reading everything he'd written. I followed him for years. I didn't quit reading his books because I quit liking him; there was just always something else I wanted to read more, because, well, it, whatever "it" was, was better. Eventually, I quit buying his books, and I haven't read anything new by him in nearly 20 years. Why? Because, honestly, his books just aren't all that good. At one point, I tried going back and reading some of the ones I'd loved as a teenager, and it made me wonder about myself. I mean, what was I thinking?
And then there was Eddings...
Eddings is the reason this post came into being, but that post is actually going to be the next post, because it made me think of this post instead. Eddings is all because of The Belgariad. I love The Belgariad; it's one of my favorite series ever, and, for a long time, I gave credit to Eddings as being one of my favorite authors based on my love for that series. But, you know, that's really all he has, and there came a time when I gave up on his books, too, and not just because there were other things I wanted to read more.
The whole "favorite" thing is tricky, which is why I don't have any favorites lists, but you can pop up to my "Of Significance..." tab to find out more about that.
Anyway... I remember when I realized that I couldn't claim Eddings as a favorite author anymore, not that I remember when it happened, but I remember it happening. I still loved The Belgariad, but I also realized that nothing else he did was ever going to be that good, or, even, close to that good, and I felt kind of betrayed. How could I love this one series so much and the author not be one of my favorite authors?
I had separation anxiety. Author/book separation anxiety to be exact. But that's really the point, an author is not the same as his work. That can be a hard thing to understand as a fan and as an author as so often we take someone's displeasure of our work as a personal attack. Well, sometimes that does happen, but, mostly, it's about the work.
These days, I'd say my top three favorite authors are Tolkien, Mary Doria Russel, and Neil Gaiman (yeah, I know, Tolkien hasn't changed and isn't likely to). I should probably make that four and include Stephen Lawhead. The interesting thing? There's not a book by Gaiman that I would point to as one of my favorite books ever. However, I love his style, and, pretty much, I will read whatever he puts out. Right now, anyway. The same with Lawhead, overall, although that could change after his Bright Empires series (you can read the review of the first one here). I wouldn't say any of Lawhead's books are among my favorite books ever, either.
And, then, there's Richard Adams and Watership Down. Watership Down has been one of my most beloved books for 30 years, and I know it is, because the only book I've read more than it is The Hobbit, but I've never considered Adams one of my favorite authors. He just wrote a book that I love.
I suppose what I'm getting at here is knowing how to separate what is a book you love from who is an author you love. What makes someone an author you love? For people that don't read much, it can really just come down to the author of their favorite book, like, right now, I bet there are women all over the place that would call that James woman their favorite author. But, for those of us that do read a lot, and read authors that write a lot, how do you deal with the disappointment of a bad book or string of books from an author you want to call your favorite? Do you cling desperately to calling that author your favorite even though s/he is writing stuff you hate, or do you toss that author aside in favor of some new shiny author that hasn't had the chance to disillusion you yet?
I'm not even sure that "favorite" is a term I can adequately use anymore. There's Jim Butcher and his Dresden books, and I love those. That's my "favorite" series fiction at the moment, and, when I was younger, that would have meant that Butcher made my favorite author list, but not anymore. His books are my popcorn, and, though I love popcorn, I don't want to live off of it. I need stuff with a little more substance and a little more to say as my regular diet.
Anyway... where I am now, my "favorites" are the authors that I read and think "wow! I want to write something that good some day. I want to write like that." However, I will never write like Tolkien. I'm not sure anyone ever will again. What I'm saying is that the author doesn't have to write my favorite story, s/he just has to write excellently. Sometimes, it's difficult to separate those things. At some point, maybe Gaiman will write a book that affects me like The Sparrow did, but it's not something he needs to do for me to look at the way he writes and really admire it. I might love The Belgariad, but I don't want to write like Eddings.
I don't normally do the whole question at the end of the post thing, but I am this time, because I'm curious as to how this works for you guys. Are your favorite authors just the writers of your favorite stories? Do you have favorite authors that have not written any of your favorite books? What do you do when a favorite author falls off the author wagon (starts producing the same old crap over and over again)? Who are your "favorite" authors/books and do they match up?