20 November, 2014

Meeting Your Heroes

Does meeting a writer you admire (or even one you don't), change the way you feel about their books?

We might meet authors at festivals, book-signings or other literary events, but we now also have the opportunity to connect with them instantly online via their blogs or social media. Twitter in particular has opened up a whole new world of interaction. Neil Gaiman, for example, has 2.9 million followers on Twitter and has tweeted to those followers over 75 000 times - mixing author news with personal snapshots of his life. By all accounts he is as friendly, generous and gracious in the real world as he is online, but being a writer isn't a synonym for being a person everybody loves. What happens if you don't like what an author says on Twitter or in an interview? Does it ruin the magic of their books?

When I first joined Twitter I started following an author of a book I'd read that week. It was a good book and his name was fresh in my mind and so I thought I'd start my life on Twitter with him. Within a week I'd stopped following him and I've been reluctant to follow other authors ever since. Why? Because he expressed political views that were, to me, repugnant. I tried not to let this cloud my opinion of the book I'd just read, but I haven't made any effort to read another of his. His [very conservative, right-wing, pro-gun] views are now associated in my mind with his name.

There was a mini-news storm earlier this year when Jeanette Winterson tweeted "Rabbit ate my parsley. I am eating the rabbit". Rabbit-lovers everywhere were outraged, vowing never to read her books again. I found that absurd, but was it really more absurd than me being turned-off a writer for his political views that were nothing to do with his writing?

It's the same with our own media presence, of course. I usually avoid expressing political or religious views publically, not only because they are private and I hate conflict, but also because I am aware that I can and will be judged by readers, editors and publishers by what I put in the public domain. And so I should be. If we choose to make things public, we can't protest when people form an opinion of us based on those things.

Have you ever met an author or followed them on social media only to be disappointed by their attitude or what they say? Have you ever met or written to a writer who has been gracious and charming? I'd love to know who the good authors to follow on Twitter are!

4 comments:

  1. I think I told you my tale of going on a pilgrimage to where Tom's Midnight Garden was set, bumping into Philippa Pearce the author, and being invited in for a cup of tea. No complaints from me regarding meeting authors!

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    1. You did indeed! I was thinking of it all the time while writing this post!

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  2. I wrote to Richard Ford after I'd read Quest for the Faradawn and he sent me back a lovely handwritten letter. Similarly, Richard Bach and his then wife Leslie Parrish-Bach sent me a postcard. I've also had some uplifting and humorous emails from Dan Millman. I now realise how busy writers are, so their kindness is all the more appreciated.

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    1. Sounds as if you've had a pretty good experience of writers. I'm always too shy to write to them!

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