I was thinking today, as I wished someone Happy Birthday on Facebook and then "poked" an old college friend, that it would be neat to have some of my favorite authors as Facebook friends.
Who would I choose, if I could choose anyone? Well, some of them are dead and the rest are really old. Mary Stewart, my all-time favorite, is alive and 92 years old. Ross MacDonald and Raymond Chandler died long ago, as did Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers. But they're people I would want to friend and occasionally chat with online (assuming that was the only way I could meet them), because they are great mystery writers. I would become their fans, assuming that they were online as writers who were looking for fans (as most writers do nowadays).
There's just one problem. From what I've read of these people, none of them would have any interest in joining Facebook. Mary Stewart would ask why people weren't out walking in the fresh air instead of sending flair or playing Lexulous. Ross MacDonald and Raymond Chandler would scoff at the idea of plying one's books online when one could be using the time to perfect one's craft. Write more, play less would be their mottos.
Agatha and Dorothy might be slightly more playful, but still, I think, reluctant to join Facebook. Christie wouldn't need the fans and would prefer watching some archeological dig; Sayers would prefer writing old-fashioned letters to a carefully selected group of friends over "friending" strangers.
Facebook and its ilk are a phenomenon of the new publishing world--one with which they would not be familiar. There are swarms of writers on Facebook, and only some of them are polite about PR. Many of them write to ME and ask me to become their fans. Huh. Seems like once it was the other way around.
But writers know that they're expected to promote that book and somehow raise those sales numbers. Writers are made to believe (either explicity or implicitly) that if they don't sell, they are somehow not worthwhile. And that makes for a whole bunch of desperate people using any online resource they can to keep their books in the public eye.
Facebook is one of many places that the new writer must try to sell. But a part of me yearns for the image I once had of writing: the mystique of the writer who had no website, but only a glamorous picture on the jacket of the book. If one wanted to contact this writer, he or she had to write to the publisher and ask that they pass along the message (and the message was generally "I love your books!"). The writer, in the meantime, could remain relatively anonymous.
I think Mary Stewart was able to do her writing without it really affecting her everyday university life. I doubt she had to do much touring, and I think she would bridle at the idea of putting any personal information on a website.
This is a new world, and Facebook is an example of the very visual requirements of the public.
But sometimes, when I'm reading the newsfeed or sending mythological virtual snowglobes to "friends" all over the world, I seem to channel Mary and wonder if I'd be better off walking the moors.