Author Nelson DeMille has served his country with honor.
He survived the Tet Offensive in the Vietnam War and fought in the battle over A Shau Valley. He’s leaned on that military experience to flavor best sellers like “Up Country,” “Word of Honor” and “The General’s Daughter.”
It also means he doesn’t fear the Cancel Culture revolution crushing the creative arts. He still ran head first into the woke mindset while writing his latest book, “The Maze.”
The story, his eighth featuring anti-terrorism expert John Corey, draws inspiration from the Gilgo Beach murders and reunites the hero with old flame, Beth Penrose.
DeMille told Daily Wire podcaster Andrew Klavan how various editors fought him, and his vision, during the publication of “The Maze.” The Long Island native also explored how storytellers can no longer make villains villainous and why the woke restrictions are so punitive to the creative process.
DeMiller says he had to find a second editor and shift to a different publishing imprint while writing “The Maze.”
“I had a lot of editorial problems with this book because of the language, because of the ostensible sexism of John Corey and the whole idea of an alpha male,” DeMille said, adding he was willing to concede on some minor disagreements during the process.
He’s still aghast that his editors cared more about the sensitive of a small subset of readers than a novel’s fundamental parts. Editors matter, he said, and they should be examining a draft for “grammar, punctuation, spelling, plot and pacing.”
“It was kind of a shock to me.,” he said of the battles behind “The Maze.” “All of a sudden I’m getting an Orwellian read on the book and what I’m saying.”
His editors said the suggested changes would “broaden” his audience, a notion he flatly rejected.
“I said, no no, I already have my audience … I’m gonna lose my audience if I listen to you guys,” said DeMille, with seven New York Times number one bestsellers to his credit. “I know who my readers are.”
The author came away victorious, more or less, but he worries less established scribes will either self-censor or listen to their editors and back off
“The business has changed,” he said, adding how a villain in “The Maze” used an Asian slur in the story, drawing his editors’ ire. “You wanna white wash the bad guys so they sound OK? There’s no logic there.”
DeMille noted how his publishing house, Simon & Schuster, stood by former Vice President Mike Pence when an internal protest demanded it shelve the Republican’s autobiography, “So Help Me God.”
“[Pence] has never done anything that he should be canceled for,” he said. Another publisher, Hachette, chose not to publish film icon Woody Allen’s recent autobiography due to allegations made against the “Annie Hall” creator.
“This is chilling to see books being canceled because junior editors felt they were being offended,” he said. “They get the book for free anyway, so who cares if they’re offended? They’re in the wrong business.”
Klavan recalls his own sensitivity reader battles.
“As a writer, one of the things you’re trying to do is tell the truth about the world … and these are editors who are 20-years-old and know not a sliver about the world,” Klavan said.
DeMille offered some hope for a less restrictive future.
“Either the pendulum is swinging the other way or there’s enough pushback [to affect change],” DeMille said. He recalled how one major publisher, Jonathan Karp, is taking a stand.
“We publish murderers. As long as we’re not publishing incitements to violence [it’s fine],” DeMille said of Carr’s comments on the subject. He added that someone has been publishing Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” for decades, the ultimate free speech test.
“If you can publish Adolf Hitler’s memoir, you should be able to publish whatever you want. That’s the whole point of the First Amendment,” DeMille said. “It’s there to protect speech that other people might find offensive. So what? Get over it.”