Public versus private…
Such a fascinating subject in The Guardian. Should we delve into authors’ lives?
It’s so relevant in this quick-to-judge society in which we live.
All authors have some kind of backstory. All authors have experiences. In this day and age, all authors are encouraged to invite the world into their lives via social media, so that the readers of their books can feel more intimately connected with the writer. It can be a powerful marketing tool.
But how much is too much? How little is not enough? Is the writer able to remain an enigma?
Sometimes I think I would LOVE to be an enigma. How enthralling! But even more in this day and age, is what we see on social media a representation of the true person?
Many people ask me how much of me is in my books. Are the characters filled with my foibles. In all honesty, no, they aren’t. If they were, in some cases I’d be certifiable as a brutal sociopath. In others, a gullible opinionated individual with no sense of boundaries. At the very least, a narcissist.
Our books are a melange of what we see and hear, what we experience but it’s possible to build a hybrid character within a fiction plot and have the total not at all representative of who we are and what we believe.
But will we, the authors, be judged in the future for all that we might have said or done on past social media posts, let alone how we represent characters in our books? Probably. Once out there, statements and beliefs can never be erased. But then we also can’t stand by the sidelines if there’s something we truly believe in. In this day of attack on some of the world’s most innocent, it’s beholden upon us, surely, to take a stand.
However, I suspect that many contemporary authors hold their most intimate details back, things that they don’t want to share, that they want to keep close. And why not? The right to privacy is enshrined in most western countries’ constitutions.
But reading back over that Guardian article, I am reminded that many authors ARE judged on their personal views and on what they may have done in their lives.
VS Naipaul I have never liked to read and am glad I have never finished any of his books. Dickens has finally dug himself a deep grave in my estimation, with his vicious racism. I grew to dislike his books at university through three years of studying him, so I’m glad I at last have a cogent reason for never reading him again. Steinbeck and Salinger? Not my cup of tea at all. I’m sure if I had ever met them, they would most definitely not have been kindred spirits.
But I could never hold being a gossip against Elisabeth Gaskell. I’ve been a devoted reader of her work for years. Besides, how many of us can deny having a good old gossip when we have the chance?
And so to a final question: when we buy books today, do we buy because a writer has charmed us on social media, inviting us into their private lives?
How many of us rush to Google and try to find out as much as we can about an author before the deal is sealed?
Or do we just buy books anyway, because the cover, blurb and a few reviews have sealed the deal?
What do you think?