Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Don't judge a book by a....Facebook status?

by Karen Harrington

Recently a blogger got in touch with me after reading my novel Janeology and posed one of those questions which make me keenly aware that very interesting things happen after you release a book into the world.

She commented “I’m curious about something. I’ve gotten to know you a bit through Facebook and on your blog and was surprised by the dark subject of your book because your Facebook comments are always witty and fun.”

Talk about things that make you think.

Her curiosity got me to thinking about the whole nature of public perception as it relates to author blogging and Facebook updates. This is a fascinating area all by itself. For instance, one of my Facebook author friends met a girl, fell in love with a girl and broke up with a girl – and I read about the entire relationship life-cycle via his Facebook status updates. Reading the intimacies of his joy through heartbreak – one sentence at a time – probably caused me to make assumptions about his personality. By the time of the break-up, I was ready to flog the girl who broke his heart. She seemed mean and cruel while he seemed so sensitive and misunderstood.

Was this true? Maybe. Or maybe he was the jerk. Or maybe worse – a stalker! Only he knows. But his Facebook personality certainly made him sympathetic.

Now, this whole topic makes me wonder if a writer’s virtual personality necessarily has to match his/her writing themes. Do I necessarily need to post things about human nature and the dark nuances of humanity so you’ll know I write novels about troubled souls?

Perhaps I do, but the blog wouldn’t last for long.

When I was first published, I did whatever my publisher advised. If they said, start a blog, I did. If they said join every social networking site, I did. I thought I was blogging to sell books, but then I realized I was doing it for the sheer benefits of connecting with other people. A writer’s day is pretty solitary, but checking in with blog friends and Facebook pals is sort of like getting up and walking over to a co-worker’s cubicle and saying “Hey, did you get those TPS reports?”

So for this reason, I’ve created a blog that (I think) offers the kind of at-work discussion I’d like to have with you during a stressful day. Sometimes it reflects my writing themes, but mostly it reflects my writing struggles and my reading interests. When I take a break from writing a particularly emotional scene, it’s nice to switch gears and read a book review or write an opinion piece. Does this give an opposite impression from the themes of my writing? Well, yes. Only time will tell if that has an impact on my future readership. The novel I'm pitching now, Prodigal Son, is about the ripple effect hypocrisy has on a family after their patriarch, a famous mega-preacher, falls from grace. Will it sway readers either way if, after the book is released, I post on essay on why I think the Snuggie craze is hilarious? Maybe so.

I guess what I’ve realized about that reader’s question is this: Having a virtual personality is an interesting side effect of being a novel writer. And come what may, I’ll continue to do it because the social benefits are far greater than I could ever have imagined. (And where else can I write and publish my opinions the Snuggie?)

Karen Harrington is the author of the psychological suspense Janeology and the children's book There's A Dog in The Doorway. She can be found in Texas, writing, planting pink geraniums and awaiting that magical moment when a lovely agent calls and tells her Prodigal Son was the page-turner she's been looking for all year. Oh, and her witty blog updates can be found here.


Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Great post! :) I've tweeted this one. And, yes, I think sometimes we have to expand our blogging topics to keep things interesting. I rarely talk about my books on mine...mostly I blog on writing in general.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Glen said...

Thought-provoking post. I've been very careful in my Facebooking to carefully delineate all seven of my personalities. But I do live in diligent awareness of any new me's that might emerge in the future. I think it is important to present a virtual whole to my friends and fans. What was the question again? No, "Atilla," put away the cudgel. You are scaring "Truman." Pardon me while I break up a fight here.

Augusta Scattergood said...

I so agree with this! Blogging about writing has helped a lot of writers, whereas blogging about warm blankets- now that's just fun! Both can be delightfully distracting after a long day at the computer.
A virtual water fountain for solitary writers- Thanks!

Lyn South said...

Such a great post, and in this social media age, a very timely one, too. I'm unpublished (finishing editing first novel as we speak), but I've given very serious thought to how I set up my public persona (platform, whatever you want to call it), including my FB page.

I have a FB profile for family and friends only (if I don't know you personally, you aren't getting on that friends list) -- this is as much to protect my loved ones' privacy and safety as my own.

I have a separate FB fan page under my pen name...public and very geared toward my writing, but I would also like to just post random (appropriate and not too revealing) posts about whatever is on my mind at the time. Kinda like the water cooler/cubicle talk you mentioned.

Still, once I get published, it will be interesting to see how that public persona changes and others' perception of that persona.

At the end of the day, I think a writer must keep some private things private. It seems to be a delicate balance of sharing with readers/fans just enough information without compromising safety or privacy. Still, we obviously can't control what others' think of us.


K. Harrington said...

Thanks all for your kind comments. I have to say, I wonder what Hemmingway would say about all this social marketing and putting oneself out there in ways that have nothing to do with writing. Maybe he'd like it. Maybe not, but I sure would like to know. :)

All the best,

K. Harrington

Patrick Brian Miller said...

Hemingway would blog about his six-toed cats. Glen, very funny! This was such a fun post to read all the way around.