1. Have you been in denial regarding your true feelings about the author?
I love Larry McMurtry. Lovelovelove him. But there are times, I’ll admit, where I’ll read something of his and think “What just happened there? I’m not entirely sure that was worth the effort.” Have my feelings changed? In this case, no. I still love him enough to forgive him the occasional miss. But there are others with whom I am less forgiving . . .
2. Do the benefits of the relationship outweigh the hardships?
When you buy the latest Patterson novel, do you feel like it was worth the $25 in hardcover, or do you feel slightly . . . used? Like you'd put out (the money, of course) and all in all, you could've had a V-8? If you don’t feel like you’re getting your money’s worth (and honestly, this is subjective: nobody else can tell you if you enjoyed a book or not), it might be time to call it quits.
3. Is the issue with you? And are you willing to change?
You know what genres and writing styles you enjoy, and what ones just don’t work for you. That’s okay. Own your issues and don’t apologize for them (I, for one, have never been attracted to fantasy). I’ll always remember the good times Ann Rule and I had. But I outgrew my passion for true crime books and started reading more non-murderous nonfiction. She did not follow me. It’s okay. Sometimes authors and readers will grow apart.
4. Are you only in the relationship because you don’t want to hurt the author’s feelings?
Trust me: James Patterson will get over it.
5. Are you only in the relationship because you’re afraid of being without a book?
Maybe John Irving hasn’t been doing it for you lately. Maybe he hasn’t in a long time. Sure, you can try and revisit the good times you had with Garp and Owen Meany, but after the third or fourth reading, you start to feel a little . . . bored. Nothing's changed. Garp hasn't changed. Now think of all the other new, exciting books you’re missing out on because you feel obligated to slog through Last Night in Twisted River. You’re not having fun. Sometimes you actively hate the book. Time to put it to the side and find something new.
6. Be willing to accept that you’re just not that in to your favorite author anymore.
Nobody knows why human beings are so darn fickle. But we are. There was a time when I couldn’t get enough Jodi Picoult. I loved her, and she could do no wrong. I’m not so sure she was that in to me, though—I suspect if she truly did care about me, she wouldn’t have written so many darn depressing books. She didn’t make me laugh. She made me feel bad about things that weren't really my fault. Spending quality time with her novels made me sad, and I had to give her up.
All of these are telltale signs that it might be time to find someone new. We can all forgive the occasional bad book, but if the bad times outweigh the good, it just might be time to move on.