Literary Revenge

Did you know authors are a vengeful lot? Cross one and you might end up coming to a sticky end in their story. Susan Gable talks about her acts of litereary revenge...

There are some really fun aspects of being a writer. One of them is interacting with readers who’ve enjoyed your books. But another one is…(dumpdumpdum) literary revenge!

Wait, you don’t know about literary revenge? Let me give you the scoop. (Just don’t tell the others! This is a carefully guarded secret in the industry, and I could lose my writer card for telling you. What do you mean, I’m posting this on the internet so everyone will know?

Oh, well. No guts, no glory.)

Literary revenge is the fine art of taking someone who has annoyed you in some manner, inserting them somewhere in a book (names and identifying features are radically changed to protect the not-so-innocent. And to protect one’s self from a lawsuit!), and having something horrible happen to them.

You can see my two favorite writer mugs in this picture. One says, “If you were in my novel, I’d have killed you off by now.” And the other one, letters well-worn from use, says, “I kill off my enemies in my books. You’re on page 12.

So yes, sometimes people we’re annoyed with wind up as bodies in our books. But that lacks finesse. Subtlety. There are plenty of other things one can do to annoying people in books. I mean, FICTION! The sky is the limit. My most recent book, A Promise to Keep, definitely has literary revenge in it, but I’m going to leave it to you to figure it out. The victim in question is well aware of what I did, and knew s/he (See what I did there? No clues.) had it coming. We’ve made peace since then and laugh about it together.

Easter eggs have become well-known in the video game world, but writers have been doing it for ages. An Easter egg is when you put something fun and sort of secret into your books. It can be an inside joke that only a handful of people will get. Something for you and your friends.

For example, my good friend, writer Holly Jacobs, had this car. She loved this car. She named him Floyd. (See image of me with Floyd and another friend of ours.) It was a perfectly wonderful car. But I razzed her all the time about the color, which I called Burnt Pumpkin. So in one of my books, my heroine drives that exact car, and the hero razzes her about the color. (I’ll be releasing that book – rereleasing, actually – later this year.)

Another one in that same book came about because of something another writer friend had happen with the editing of her book. In her book, the heroine was making hot water for tea in the microwave. In her manuscript, the editor modified the text to say, “She added a wooden stick for safety”, which left the writer scratching her head.

Why would someone put a wooden stick into a cup of water and put it in their microwave? Turned out that it had to do with hyper-boiling water and surface tension, and the possibility of getting burned with hot water splashing around in the microwave. Still…one of the “rules” of good writing is don’t break the flow. And that made the writing sound clunky. (Plus…this was a novel, not a kitchen safety manual, but don’t even get me started on that rant.)

So, we did what all good writers do with a situation like that. We turned lemons into lemonade…or in this case, sticks into an Easter egg. We decided that going forward, all our books would have a stick (of any sort) somewhere in the book as an homage to this situation. Plus the idea made both of us laugh when she really wanted to cry instead, so it was a good trade-off.

I’ve used names important to friends, and other little “goodies” as well. Remember the Sneaker Monster from Bugs Bunny? He makes a “cameo” in one of my books, a homage to a childhood favorite shared with my bestie and critique partner. There are definitely pieces of my life scattered throughout my books. Easter eggs and literary revenge make writing life richer, and more fun!

Got someone you need to take literary revenge on? Go on, do it! You’ll thank me for it. (And I promise not to tell...)

Susan Gable's latest book A Promise to Keep is out now, the third (but stand alone) in the Hawmins Family series. She loves connecting with readers, so please visit her website, email her at or catch up with her on Facebook or Twitter.

Have you read any favourite acts of literary revenge? Written any yourself? Tell us about it here or on social media using the hashtag #LiteraryRevenge. We'd love to hear from you!

#SusanGable #LiteraryRevenge #EaserEgg #APromisetoKeep #amwriting #amreading

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