Saturday, May 02, 2009

Real writers

I've just written on my other blog about the desire of Anne Michaels to remain invisible behind her text, and not to reveal things about herself which would affect the way people read it. It's an attitude I held myself for a long time, and which, you know, I still have deep down. But hey, look at me, I'm on Facebook and Twitter, I write this blog, I've just done the virtual tour for Balancing on the Edge of the World in which there was no way to avoid revealing stuff about myself - and of course it's all very gratifying: I love the connection with other writers and readers.

But there's always that worry, isn't there? Maybe people will look at my picture and read about my life and then impose those on the protagonist and book from which I've worked so hard, as Anne Michaels says, to expunge myself...

As I was saying the other day, as a radio playwright I've never needed to do any publicity: you get your name in the Radio Times, and that's it: any publicity based on personality devolves around the actors - same in the theatre and of course film. And in my view it's absolutely lovely, because when someone (thrillingly) writes to you to tell you they've loved your play, you know that what they have loved is the play in its purity, just as you intended it! Well, obviously the actors and director have contributed to the interpretation out there, but the great thing about radio is that they always strive to get your concept of the play across.

As I've said before, Elizabeth Baines is not actually my 'real' name, but was adopted as a pen name, purely because I wanted to get this experience with my prose. I thought I could sit at home, like those Victorian women novelists and send my missives out into the world and hug myself with amusement and glee when no one guessed it was I who had written them, and if they were a success, it would be because they were a success in and for themselves. It hasn't worked, of course, and Elizabeth Baines is now as much my real name as any other - as I've said, I answer to it and don't even notice any difference: basically, now it is my real name!

In any case, having spent my entire writing life so far sticking to publishing facts, more or less, in my author bios, I've realized how pointless that is now, and I've just written my most personal one ever (for my forthcoming novel, Too Many Magpies).

2 comments:

SueG said...

This is a difficult one for sure. I read your other blog and, actually, had just finished reading the Guardian article. It is very interesting what you say about your name. I know I thought long and hard about what I would call myself...not that I thought about another name entirely, but about whether my name would be Sue or Susan or Susie or Susan R. I guess I assumed that people would make assumptions about me, rightly or wrongly, as soon as they saw my name regardless of whether they had read any bio stuff or not. And as long as that was true, I decided I'd want people's assumptions to be as close to the "reality" of who I am as is possible. In my case, i think that many people are more likely to read my work because they know something about me. The hope is that once they are reading, I then disappear and I do think that happens (except for those who know me really well ie closest friends and family).

Elizabeth Baines said...

That's interesting, Sue. Quite the opposite of my early impulse, I think, though I guess we're agreed on wanting knowledge of our personal selves to fade away for readers once they are reading our work...