Friday, December 23, 2011

Tip For Writers: Leave A Will

Swedish crime writer Stieg Larsson is responsible for what has so far been three of the most popular crime novels of the 21st Century. His Millennium Trilogy, featuring a tattooed, goth-like, tech-savvy protagonist named Lisbeth Salander, has sold millions of copies and inspired films in both his homeland of Sweden and now the United States.

Unfortunately, Larsson died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 50, in 2004, never having seen his works reach their pinnacle of popularity. Also, when Larsson died he left no will, meaning his longtime partner of 30 years, Eva Gabrielsson, had no control over his work. Instead the rights to Larsson's work passed to his father and brother who are now being accused by Gabrielsson of selling-out in order to reap the maximum profit rather than maintaining the integrity of the original work.

I am not about to step into this fray. I didn't know Larsson and have no idea what his motives might have been regarding his work. I am a fan of the Swedish film versions of his books and am NOT looking forward to their U.S. adaptations, but that's about as far as I'll go.

What I will weigh in on is the importance of writing a will, especially if you have a library of creative works--or even a pile of unpublished short stories in a dusty desk drawer. If you have any concerns about what happens to your work after you are dead you need to take a few simple steps to ensure your wishes are followed. A will does not need to be an expensive or complicated matter. You can write your explicit instructions on a piece of paper, sign it, date it and mail it to yourself (don't open it) and that works better than nothing.

But don't trust that people will know what you want done with your work. Don't leave it to family members to understand what your thoughts were, or what you would or wouldn't approve. This is a recipe for disaster.

As millions of people head out to the theaters to see the latest film adaptations of Larsson's work; buy the related merchandise or whatever else the current owners of his work have planned, I will be wondering what the author himself would have thought about all of this. Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing because he didn't leave a will.

The longtime partner of late Swedish crime writer Stieg Larsson says he wouldn't have approved of merchandise being linked to this week's release of a Hollywood adaptation of his best-selling novel, "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo."

Eva Gabrielsson said Monday that Larsson would have instead used the buzz around his work to call attention to violence and discrimination against women.

"We would never have sold any rights for merchandising," Gabrielsson said. "It has nothing to do with books."


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