Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Revealing The Woman Behind the Curtain

Recently I was incensed by an ignorant blog posting written by Maura Kelly on behalf of Marie Claire magazine. In fact, I was so enraged, it moved me to write a very personal piece on Babble ‘n Blog, my personal blog. The piece was extremely well received.

A short time later, I re-posted several political items from Facebook friends to my Facebook wall. The last re-post was a very short political statement with a very funny picture and statement. All postings triggered several lively discussions. While most of the people commenting on the last post agreed it was humorous, one reader cautioned me to remember that my readers might not believe what I do. That comment also started a lively discussion wherein the consensus was that we all are allowed to believe what we believe and to say what we believe, as long as we are respectful of one another.

But here is the million dollar question:  How much information about ourselves should we, as published authors, put out there?  Of course, we all know better than to post our telephone numbers and home addresses, but what about our personal beliefs?  Will letting readers in on our real selves cause them to flee from our work in droves?  Maybe. After all,  I’ve never viewed Mel Gibson the same since his drunken bigoted tirade, let alone recent accounts of abuse. Others will still flock to his movies.

But I’m not talking about drunken, abusive behavior here, or criminal activities.  I’m talking about basic viewpoints like political affiliations, religious beliefs and social attachments.  Would a reader of any of my series really stop reading my work because I’m a Democrat, a defender of gay rights, and voted in favor of the legalization of pot in California?  Who knows.  It’s not like I’m saying child porn should be distributed on newsstands, but to some folks, I might as well be.

The invasion of social media into our daily lives has allowed authors to be in touch more intimately with their readers, and vise versa.  Many of my readers have written to say they love getting to know me through the shared details of my life. But maybe all this personal information has also shattered images readers have established through the reading of our books.  If we allow it, they get to pull back the curtain and see us as we really are – not wizards at all, but everyday people with everyday lives, loves and heartbreaks, and opinions. 

But when is it too much information?  For some, any glimpse into their personal lives is too much to reveal. While others gladly share a lot. I found it interesting that my sharing the scars of childhood was celebrated, while sharing who I voted for was not.  They are all important pieces of me.

I’ve always been someone who has worn my emotions on my sleeve. I’m not good at facades. They take too much energy to maintain. 

Sue Ann Jaffarian
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Shel said...

It's interesting you bring this up. I saw the posts you referenced on Facebook, and neither of them bothered me a bit. But...I have to admit that there are two authors that have offended me with viewpoints they have shared. One was on Facebook, and one was in a comment on a shared blog, like this one.
In the first case, the author was ranting about how she refused to be perceived as a "genre" writer (in her opinion, she writes literature). She said it like genre writers had something to be ashamed of, which of course they do NOT. It made me mad, and I have not had the same respect for her since then. I have, however, purchased most of her backlist regardless.
The second case was of an author venting a pet peeve about people who read ebooks, that we needed to "pay to play". I read ebooks. Almost exclusively, as most of you Midnight Ink authors know. I DO pay to play. I buy a conservative average of 50 bucks a month in ebooks. How is that not paying to play, I ask you? That one went a little deeper. I have not purchased that author's books (or ebooks, and her titles ARE available in ebook formats), nor do I intend to do so, and I haven't gone back to that blog, either. Right? Wrong? I don't know. I know that the second thing hit me a lot harder than the first, and caused me to not want to support that author with my purchases, as she obviously values readers who read electronically less than readers who choose to read paper.

Mary@GigglesandGuns said...

Why would you be surprised that someone who disagrees with your beliefs would stop enjoying your work? Isn't that what you did with Gibson?
Maybe a little mystery about self is the better way to go.

Vicki Doudera said...

Find your post very interesting, Sue Ann, as I'm at a website re-design juncture and am pondering these same questions. I don't have any answers except what my dad used to tell me: not everyone is going to like you.

Darrell James said...

There is much talk these days of "branding" as authors. A brand in many ways is a facade. A facade that must be closely maintained.

I think revealing limited glimpses into personal life is fine, and maybe part of what inquiring minds want to know. But the golden rule of sales is, and always has been, "Never discuss politics or religion." I think it applies here.

Alan Orloff said...

Before I post or tweet or update Facebook status or whatever, I pause to think if I'm giving out personal information I don't want to reveal. I'm basically a private person (says the man who spills his thoughts out in novels for all to read), and I have absolutely no qualms about maintaining two lives, a private one and a public one. In fact, from an academic perspective, I think this personality dichotomy brought about by social networking is fascinating.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Actually, Mary, I haven't stopped enjoying Gibson's movies. I view him differently now and may not jump at the chance to meet him personally, but still admire his talent.

NoraA said...

I enjoy getting to know the authors in their daily lives and hijinks. I've learned that some of my favorites have wicked senses of humor, write about what they say to their kids and what their kids wise ass back at them. It tells me that they live mostly in the same universe I do but that they have a creativity and sense of wonder that many of us would love to be able to share.

Keep writing about who you are and let the naysayers grumble. LOL

Mark Baker said...

I tend to be jumpy when it comes to politics because it devolves into nasty name calling so quickly. Last week, after being called a name on Facebook, I posted an update complaining about name calling, and 24 hours later, it threatened to devolve into an arguement about who started name calling first, Democrats or Republicans.

I hope we can all agree there is a difference between saying, "I'm a Republican," and "I'm a Republican and all you who voted for Democrats are complete idiots." Unfortunately, very few people seem to be able to do the first one, especially in on-line communication.

Do I sometimes jump the gun as a result? Why, yes, yes I do. I'm not proud of that fact, but it is a fact.

As long as authors can be respectful of those who disagree with them, I don't mind them sharing their beliefs. But if they devolve into name calling, I am out of there.

Hannah Dennison said...

I'm wary of showing my true self to close friends let alone people who don't know me! It's true, we are so quick to judge (and I agree, I don't see Mel Gibson in the same light any more either). I'm very conscious of offending people on Facebook. Things are so easily taken out of context so I prefer to be Switzerland in all things and if there are any personal glimpses, they will be about my books or the creative process. You really got me thinking Sue Ann!

Deborah Sharp said...

I agree with Hannah on this ... I prefer to be seen as Switzerland, too. Though not as cold. I admire your honesty, Sue Ann (as I admire so many things about you), but I don't like to share publicly my views on politics, religion, or polarizing social issues -- a lesson I learned long ago at family holidays.

Kathleen Ernst said...

I also admire your honesty, and I have grappled with the same questions. I opted to stay away from stuff that is too personal on my blog and web page. On Facebook I maintain both an author page and a personal page, in part for that reason. No easy answers, though.

Jessie Chandler said...

I'm not one to bash anyone over the head with my political, moral, or societal beliefs, but I'm not one to hide anything either. While remaining in Switzerland can be fun (think of the chocolate...!) there are times it's good to step away and stand up for what you believe---in an appropriate way, of course. I think ultimately your readers will respect you for that, especially since if they are reading you, they're drawn to how you write, which is sometimes a knowing but more often an unrecognized reflection of yourself. I guess it boils down to who you want to be as a writer...and I, for one, won't see anymore Gibson movies. There are some moral and ethical issues there that are beyond my capacity to overlook.