In response to an article on how the real slog and sadness in an author’s life can begin on publication, I’d like to raise the issue of so-called ‘celebrity status’, and the silent worlds most comfortably-dressed, disconnected, happily-individual writers inhabit.
In what now seems like a previous existence, I studied dance and drama. It was drummed into us that we must never be seen off-stage during a performance, and certainly never in costume. Later, I became a teacher in International secondary schools. I usually always lived well outside the catchment area and wore vaguely school-ma’am-ish outfits. Neither audience nor pupils have ever got very close to seeing the real me – and I was successful in both arenas. So, please, why do I have to reveal the real me to my readers? Or, more to the point: how will knowing what I have for breakfast and where I live influence potential readers of my fiction?
As an avid reader of fiction all my life, it has never occurred to me to want to know much about authors themselves. In fact it could be downright disappointing. I’m thinking here about the disillusionment I felt on learning Tolstoy was mean to his wife. This does not apply to non-fiction, obviously. One might need to know what’s on an author’s cv if they are writing about health or wealth matters. But not story-writers, surely. As a school-text book writer I can see why teachers want to know my background, which is made readily available on the appropriate sites, but as a fiction author (using a pen name) why does my social-media profile matter? In fact, I have recently stopped reading the work of an accomplished author because of her incessant political comments on social-media.
Question: should the life and opinions of an author (of fiction) matter to readers, who readily suspend disbelief and enter into that author’s imagined world?
(4th August, 2016)