At least, I hope it is. It’s technically Sunday right now, but this topic came up and wouldn’t let me go. So here I sit, on a Sunday evening, writing a post for Monday. I hope I haven’t lost anyone yet. This is very important.
As authors, we need to create a public persona. The face of us as authors we put out in the world. Something that is how we see ourselves as authors, but isn’t completely us. An image of a person who isn’t the sum of who we are, that doesn’t include every aspect of our non-writing lives.
Because the moment you published your book or signed a contract, you became a public figure. And everything that goes along with it. Like stalkers.
This happened to an author friend I know. She posted a bit too much about her personal life on her author page. Someone went overboard. Sent her emails with images from Google Earth with her house on it. Gave her step by step directions of how they knew where she lived.
Scary, huh? It’s one reason I say I live in Seattle Suburbia and not exactly where. I have kids and a husband, but I don’t share names, ages, or schools.
My husband and I had a discussion one night, within a few weeks of me getting my first contract. On how much of our lives we wanted to present to the world via me being an author. On what we would discuss about our kids, our home, our private lives. Because those things are private. I understand wanting to know more about your favorite authors. I’ve been a reader a LOT longer than an author. But I always kept a respectful distance. I treated them as i would want to be treated if the roles were reversed.
It’s one thing to ask them questions. It’s another to refuse to take ‘it’s personal’ as an answer. Whether you classify yourself as a reader or a fan, you need to respect that your favorite authors have a life beyond the books they wrote.
As authors, we need to remember that not everyone out there will read our books and respect our privacy. Some will pry. Others will out and out invade our lives if we let them. Be vigilant. Plan ahead. Watch what you say on FB and Twitter.
Of course, there are some who will dig no matter how much you think you’ve covered your tracks. They’ll find an article from a local newspaper from your initial release. Or do search after search for your name to see if anything will help them locate where you live. Let’s be totally honest here. Some people are going to be mentally unstable. They will fixate on you, identify with your characters, in unhealthy ways. It’s part of being a public figure.
To give you an idea of what I mean, here’s a short story I wrote years ago in response to a challenge from my old writing group. The topic for the week was meeting one of our characters in real life.
I stretched my neck. The hotel had a spa that offered massages. I just might have to splurge on one. I was on a pretty full schedule, though. It could end up waiting until we were back at O’Hare.
Sipping at my coffee, I checked the time on my cell phone for the third time since sitting down. My signing wasn’t for another hour, and then a panel after that. K2 still wasn’t sure why I wasn’t happy with the coffee available for free in the room. It would’ve made her job easier. Like many people knew who I was by sight. Sure, the book had taken off and I’d been invited to this event, but I still had a measure of anonymity. Todd was swinging by this afternoon, promising to take us out to lunch at the best pizza in town. It was going to be a welcome break before the party I *had* to attend.
I felt a chill as it crept down my spine. My senses, all of them, went on high alert. There was something Not Nice in the room. And it had me targeted.
Pray to every deity you want to that you never know the feeling of a blinking neon light saying “Blue Plate Special” directly over your head. It is NOT a nice feeling.
He sat two tables away, dark eyes locked on me. The attempt of a smile crossed his lips. It came across more like a tiger stalking its prey.
On the table, next to an untouched glass of water, sat a worn copy of “Daughter of Hauk”.
My spidey sense was screaming at me to get up and move. I grabbed my cell, twisting out of my chair and grasping my bag at the same time. He was within inches of me as I turned around.
His hand encircled my uppper arm in a vise-like grip. “Going somewhere, Arwenna?” I struggled to loosen his grip on me. “It’s just you and me now, Sister dear. No one here’s going to care if I take what’s mine!” His voice dripped sarcasm.
My eyes grew as it dawned on me. This psycho thought he was Bohrs, and I was Arwenna! I opened my mouth to scream.
The fist flew across his jaw first. He let go of my arm, turning to his assailant. A violent shove drove him into a table. A stiletto heeled boot pinned him to the ground before he could shake the stars from his vision.
All the bravado and swagger evaporated. His voice trembled as he looked up at the woman attached to the boot. “Who are you?” he stammered.
K2 glared at him. “I’m Y’Durkie, you son of a bitch.”
The point of the story is this: you never know who is going to read your books. You never know who is going to identify with the different characters. And you never know if one of those readers is going to take it too far. For your own safety, and that of those you care about, make a persona. Define what of your life your readers get a glimpse at and what’s private.