For writers, it is hard to forget the writing life, but on days like this, when I’m just about recovering from what might have been the most debilitating throat infections of my life, I go back to being just a reader.
As a child, I wanted to merely read the book, and sought no further communication with the author. Content to roam in the world the author had created, the characters who I met on the pages, and the events that occurred in the story, the only contact with the author I wished for was for them to to write another book I could read.
Writers are people who keep to themselves?
I imagined writers were people who kept to themselves, wrote as and when the muse hit them, and wanted only to be known for their work. I was keener on meeting characters than their creator, and even in novels where I loved the author’s voice (I don’t mean the narrator’s, which is different), I was reluctant to meet them in real life. I was afraid they mightn’t sound the way they did in my head. That they might disappoint.
For the longest time, I had no occasion to meet an author. As an adult, I did encounter a few in Malaysia, and then in Singapore. By this time, I’d begun to scribble in notepads myself, and authors were no longer foreign creatures from an alien land I had no business in. This was the age when Facebook first began to make its mark, but social media still wasn’t a thing. Any authors I met were live, flesh-and-blood beings, at book festivals or writing workshops. It still felt like a choice for authors to come out and interact. They retained some of their reclusive air.
What Bernard Shaw said (if indeed he said it) still sounded relevant: “My main reason for adopting literature as a profession was that, as the author is never seen by his clients, he need not dress respectably.”
Writers could hide, and do nothing but write, and dress only in the pyjamas, all day, all year. Some do that, even today. For the most part, these are the authors who sell too well to need to bother. Some others won’t come out of their private spaces–sales be damned. For the spectrum in between, authors like me who have just started on their journey, be it the trad or self-publishing route, there’s a bit of interaction involved.
Writers should not keep to themselves?
Being part of book groups, and listening to readers on social media, I see that they now expect to know about the author. Some readers want to be friends with authors. Others like the fact that their messages receive responses. Now that there is access, I guess a little interaction harms no one–somewhat akin to the letters to the author of yore, and the pictures of responses from famous authors that are still passed around long after the author themselves are gone.
For You Beneath Your Skin, I did show up at events. I continue to post on social media. Most of those reviewing The Blue Bar at the moment have either met me on this site, on my twitter, or Instagram. Some on my Facebook. I don’t imagine that all this showing up online leads to magically amplified sales, but it does help create a presence on the internet. And as my site stats tell me, a ton of people land here by googling my name, or the titles of my books.
As writers, interacting with readers…
To be honest, I don’t particularly mind the live interaction with readers. Some of them have been very revealing in the most positive sense of the word, others educational, or a fun laugh. None have been unpleasant. On the whole, I quite like meeting readers and being invited to book clubs, so those will continue.
As a new author, I don’t think anyone really shows up to see me, and that’s a relief. They turn up at events of which I’m a part, and that’s a good thing–they have interesting things to do besides talking to me.
In all my blog posts and appearances on social media, I try not to post my face too much (at all, if possible). For writers (or authors), I still feel the job is behind the screens. No shade on the writers who present all kinds of talents on their social media–from speaking, to singing, to exotic dancing (yes, sure). It takes courage and chutzpah to do that. I still remain firmly in the camp of writers who believe that an author should be read or heard (speaking about books or writing), not seen.
At least, not if it can be helped.
Writers on social media…
Most of the photos featuring me on social media are either author shots, distant shots, or pictures at book events holding up others’ books, and yep, when a new book comes out, to my eternal embarrassment, my own. (I’ve made peace with that, I think.)
I find myself more and more protective of my own space, and less inclined to go on social media and share. Social media is like a hamster wheel. You must keep running even though you get nowhere. And that’s only fun for so long.
I remain on Twitter primarily because I enjoy the interaction, and a thousand delightful people and links. On Instagram I’m there for the pretty pictures (and book recommendations!!) and on Facebook, because too many of my real-life contacts live there, too.
Daily (w)rite has been my mainstay for 14 years now, and is as much a part of me as my writing. It all began here, so here I’ll stay for as long as I’m on the inter-webs.
It is this low-level conflict that haunts me throughout. As a natural introvert, I’d rather not meet people. As an author, some interactions are enjoyable and even inevitable.
My writing life is a careful balance between the two. As I age, I wonder if the introvert might some day win over the interactive author.
As a reader, do you like to meet writers, chat with them, be a part of their lives? If you’re an author, how much of your real life do you share with readers on social media or during live interactions? Do you enjoy meeting readers or find it a trial?
My lit crime novel, The Blue Bar will be out soon with Thomas & Mercer. It is already available for preorders. Add it to Goodreads or pre-order it to make my day.
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