Will the Real Author Please Stand Up?

What do you do when your fictional characters starts writing books that outsell yours?

Released last September, Heat Wave is climbing the bestseller lists faster than a monkey who’s found a pair of traction shoes. Fans are crazy about the main character Nikki Heat–based on Detective Beckett of NYPD whom (alleged) author Richard Castle met while helping the men and women in blue solve a murder.

It’s amazing that Castle finds the time to write at all. When he’s not solving murders or attending book launching parties, he plays poker with fellow authors James Patterson, Stephen J. Cannell and Michael Connelly. On the cover of Heat Wave, Patterson says: “Castle hasn’t lost it. Heat Wave looks like another bestseller for the thrillmaster. It’s hot!”

Wow, another bestseller—Castle already has 26 according to his bio. Here’s what else it says: “Richard Castle is the author of numerous bestsellers, including the critically acclaimed Derrick Storm series. His first novel, In a Hail of Bullets, published while he was still in college, received the Nom DePlume Society’s prestigious Tom Straw Award for Mystery Literature. Castle currently lives in Manhattan with his daughter and mother, both of whom infuse his life with humor and inspiration.”

This is a fantastic career, except none of it is real.

Okay, so Heat Wave actually exists but the bio on the back of the book is of the character Richard Castle, played by Nathan Fillion (whom I loved as Captain Malcolm ‘Mal’ Reynolds in Firefly and try to like in Castle, but find the show too predictable to watch). Kate Becket is played by Stana Katic and there are other actors filling in the roles of Castle’s mother, daughter, ex-wives, and various other characters of the show.

Only the writing buddies are real—well, the authors show up on the screen playing poker with Nathan Fillion—sorry—with Richard Castle and Castle has even done a book signing—sorry—Nathan Fillion signed books while in character as Richard Castle.

So who wrote the book? Richard Castle? Nathan Fillion? Probably neither of those, but ABC won’t say.

Intellectually I know that this is just another fantastic marketing campaign by a broadcasting company finding creative ways of promoting a TV show. Emotionally though, I find this so disturbing. I’m not sure why that is. I don’t think I would have the same reaction if a fictional music group from a TV show or movie put out an album (wait that’s already happened several times), but for some reason—maybe because it’s a book and those are supposed to be sacred—this bugs the hell out of me.

A popular rumor which has been partially confirmed by the show’s creator is that the name “Rick Castle” was chosen because when you say it, it sounds like “Rick Asshole” and that just about sums up how I feel about this fictional author, the book, the show, and the marketing department of ABC.

Am I overreacting? Is this just the beginning of a new thing? Are we going to have to keep track of which authors are real and which are played by real actors? Does that bother you?

11 Comments

  • JaimeRWood says:

    Wow, talk about meta messin’ with your mind! That’s some crazy shit. Although, it’s really not all that different from the ghost writers who produce books for Sarah Palin, et. al and put the public figure’s name on it. Which I suppose raises the question of the value/ethics of ghost writing. I’m fine with it personally, as long as readers know that what they’re reading was not written by the ex-governor of Alaska. And why does that matter? Well…good question. Art is art, right? Should it matter who creates it? If so, then what about collaborative art or anonymous art? (By the way, I’m not calling Sarah Palin’s book art, just to clarify.) In this case with folks like James Patterson blurbing “fake” books, the line of authenticity gets really fuzzy. I have no answers.

    • Asa says:

      Oh good point Jamie, I didn’t think about ghost writing. A lot of times they’re listed on the book though in smaller print and usually as: with [insert actual writer here]. Although I know there are books that are completely ghost written–as in the actual person doing the writing is not listed anywhere.

      Hmm, I’ll add this to my list of disturbances.

  • TJ Fuller says:

    I had that same disturbing feeling when I found God Hates Us All on the shelves of a bookstore, the title that made David Duchovny’s Californication character Hank Moody famous. For a split-second, I was in a surreal daze. Like the Castle books, the author is listed as imaginary Hank Moody. It’s interesting promotion. I guess I’m more embarrassed for the writer. Could you pour yourself into a book that is just an elaborate advertisement? Some online reviewers think the novel is actually good. I guess I’d be surprised.

    • Asa says:

      Yeah, I knew this wasn’t a new thing. I think what got me so worked up about this was the book signing. And you’re right, it would be very embarrassing for the writer–although we all have to make a living somehow.

  • Tiffany says:

    What’s truly frightening is how many people asked in Barnes and Noble for his other books and believed he was a real author even though they watch the show.
    I don’t think there can be too much mystery about who wrote it- one of the script writers for sure. It reads like the TV show instead of like a book. The marketing ploy didn’t bother me at all, it’s effective, fun, and a nice use of cross media. I thought they should have sprung for a better writer though.

    • Asa Maria says:

      Did you read the whole book Tiffany? I have several friends who are big fans of the show and are very excited about the book. None of them have finished it yet though.

  • Gleunig says:

    I suppose it disturbs me that my first novel, whenever I complete it, is now going to be competing with fictional authors in addition to real ones. But that’s a selfish thing to be disturbed about.

    I can’t say I’m disturbed too much about this on an artistic level. There’s so much out there already that would violate the sanctity of the book that this just feels like a drop in the bucket. Books based on video games that were apparently written by programmers or high school children instead of writers, for instance. Without having read this “Richard Castle book”, I’m willing to guess that it’s a better read than the books based on the Starcraft video game.

    What I’m most upset about is that Nathan Fillion isn’t doing other things with his acting time.

    • Asa Maria says:

      “What I’m most upset about is that Nathan Fillion isn’t doing other things with his acting time.”

      Like working on a way to bring Firefly back!

    • Brian O'Grady says:

      Speaking of Nathan Fillion, who saw Waitress? I watched it after seeing Adrienne Shelley in Hal Hartley’s Trust and was impressed–especially because the movie is basically a rom-com. It was very solid storytelling, beautifully done, great acting and casting.

    • Gleunig says:

      Nathan Fillion seems to be everywhere lately, but I’m with you Asa – all I really want is Firefly season 2.

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