The writer, the writing and the audience

Stumbling into my first forays into online writing, it’s been an interesting month. Most striking has been the impact of social interaction online as dependent on whether people engage with your work or not. It’s all very well writing a blog, but if nobody reads it, what is it for?

It strikes me as strange how authors need to increasingly become ‘public’ figures, having blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. It used to be that the publishing house did all the legwork – for better or worse, until the dawn of e-publishing and the growth of the internet, this did the trick. It kept a wall between writer, writing and audience which now has to be deconstructed if people are ever to engage with your work.

But that strikes me as slightly odd. An actor is known for their different roles and, while tabloids do take interest in their personal lives, they would never (mostly never) read into the personal life of an actor within a role they played. Exceptions include, for example, openly gay actors who take on gay roles and freely comment in interviews with the press that they took on the role at least in part because they could identify with it on a ‘deeper level’.

But the reason I took so long to set up a blog – despite having had short stories published regularly since the age of 14 (a slightly-depressing-almost-12-years-ago) – was that people seem to increasingly prescribe what they know about the author to the fiction they produce. Despite my huge agreement with Roland Barthes, who was right long before the dawn of the web, it feels like I am one of a few remaining in this school of thought.

I write as characters. I am not a seventy year old man waiting to die. I am not a six year old girl who has finally learned to tie her shoelaces (mainly because I still struggle with this). I am not a transgender vampire who aspires to Broadway (storyline tbc…). But I write under pseudonyms, because if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that people will look for the ‘me’ parts in a story. They expect me to throw in clues about my life. It’s like Orson Scott Card becoming the latest Superman author – the massive backlash is because he is notoriously anti-gay. But is he going to make Superman homophobic? No, because his art – and the control DC Comics have over it – is separate from him.

I write stories. They are fiction. Make-believe. While I prefer realist fiction, some of it is sci-fi, some fantasy, some historical, some futuristic. That doesn’t mean I have a time machine (unless you count Wikipedia) or that I am a science fiction geek (still haven’t watched Episodes 4,5, and 6).

So it seems so odd to me that I have to generate interest in my fiction by putting myself, as a brand, as a person, out there. Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to remain incredibly secretive – indeed if you read any other post on this blog you’ll see that’s me laying my soul bare – but creating the interest around me as a person in order to create interest in the stories I write baffles me.

I can’t help but feel this post isn’t quite finished. But I need to percolate the remaining thoughts into something more coherent. I lost my essay writing skills shortly after leaving uni (and seems the Masters isn’t doing much to help).

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Obsessions

Being somewhat of a hermit, I’m aware that my social life is…restricted. This is mostly by choice, because people overwhelm me with their fascinating antics and if there are too many people in one place, I don’t know where to look and my brain shuts down.

It is only when talking to my friends (in small groups, on the phone or via my best friend, Skype) that I realise how much other people are also like this. And how it’s the eccentricities of life that make the world turn.

Take obsessions, for example. Everybody has at least one obsession, even if they don’t want to admit it. Mine are numerous, no doubt increased by the amount of time I spend on my own. Don’t get me wrong, I love my own company, but I think your brain starts to latch on to things to create a commonality within itself after a while. Just as you might read a book your friend has recommended (I have yet to read ‘Get Out More and Stop Being So Weird’ , Hannah, just as an aside), which you would then discuss with each other, or see a film together, or go to the same party, whatever – I think the brain has a fantastic ability to create this within itself. Hence, obsessions become part of life – they are familiar, they are a subject you could talk to others about if placed in a suitable social situation, but more often than not (in my case, anyway) they are something for my own brain to occupy itself with when the other part of my brain is switched off into fiction-world. (I often have to leave stories brewing in the back of my head for a while before I can write them. They formulate by themselves, but I daren’t check they’re ready for consumption until at least at a simmering boil).

Aside from the obvious of writing, I have a few obsessions. Friends close to me will understand my love of Lord of the Rings stems from an unquestionable desire to be Aragorn, minus the being a man part. This fantasy of rough good-conquers-all heroism directly contradicts my hermit lifestyle – you never know, one day I might save someone’s life by wielding a sword at a goblin, but the likelihood of this ever happening decreases relatively with the amount of time spent away from other human beans.

Tomb Raider has been an obsession of mine since I managed to get TR3 for PC when I was about 12. I started playing it so much, I dreamt of being Lara. OK, I dreamt mostly of exploding Lara as I repeatedly got the ‘all weapons’ and ‘explode Lara’ cheats mixed up, but you get the idea. I haven’t touched the games in years, but on the 5th March nobody, but nobody, will see me for days as the newest installment is released. I like other games, with a soft spot in particular for Prince of Persia, but for some reason Tomb Raider captured my imagination. This is, probably, in no small part due to the fact I discovered Lara Croft around the same time I was discovering that I was a lesbian. In fact, I think it’s Lara’s fault. Damn you, fictional game character for ruining my chances at a ‘normal’ life…

Shoes are a funny obsession. I’m not a girly girl, really – well, I don’t wear makeup most of the time, but I like having my nails look presentable. I don’t own tons of clothes, but this is mostly because I’m a very odd size to fit. I hate shopping, but love that moment when you find a perfect pair of jeans. But shoes. Well, shoes are a special part of my life. I used to be very fat, with size 10 (UK) feet – nowhere really does women’s shoes that big so I mostly lived in men’s trainers. Then two wonderous things happened: firstly, the shoe industry realised women’s feet are getting larger, and in particular Evans really expanded their range to beautiful high heels, practical work shoes, flip flops, you name it. The second was that I lost a ton of weight and dropped a shoe size. Suddenly, the world of shoes opened up to me – more manufacturers were making size 9 shoes, and they fitted me! Lucky for me, though, there are still few and far between when looking at all high street shops (which mostly go up to an 8). This is good, because I would spend every penny I had on shoes I would probably never wear.

I do not understand this obsession.

My brain doesn’t even have a common thread of conversation with itself about shoes. If I overheard people talking about shoes in a coffee shop for more than a quick ‘Oh I like your shoes’ ‘Thanks, they were from Primark‘, I would move seats away from such inane chatter. But I find myself admiring shoes more than I like to admit.

Lucky for you people who are worrying that I’m turning into an actual girl, you should be assured that I obsess over my Dr Martens boots, Batman Converse and DC skate shoes. But still. My latest obsession – in fact, ones I’ve wanted since I was 14 and are probably related to my Tomb Raider obsession now I think about it – are in my possession.

These babies:

Boots

I feel like I ought to get over my hermit lifestyle and visit Egypt, raid a few ancient places, hop to Cambodia to spend time with monks and raid a few other ancient places.

Yep. It’s official. I’ve gone insane.

Other obsessions include:

  • Getting a dog (when I can afford and when I don’t live in a shoebox in a shared house with 9 other people)
  • Writing (obviously)
  • Films (both writing and watching)
  • The paranormal (this is a new one, watch this space)
  • Moving away from London
  • Writing (Honestly, it takes up so much of my headspace I need to put this twice).

That’s about it. That I’ll admit for now, anyway.

So, what are your obsessions? Please tell me I’m not alone…

Find me on Findhrr…

A friend just told me about Findhrr, the new lesbian and bisexual dating app (basically the girl’s version of Grindr…) and I wanted to let you know about it. Or rather, find out what you think – do any of you remember Qrushr? Failed. Why do you think it’s taken this long for a girl’s version of Grindr to appear – is it because app developers neglect us, or because we (as a general collective) are not so into the casual ‘relationships’ associated with such apps…

I’m not sure either way, but I shall be sure to be signing up to see what the fuss is about!

Visit the website here and follow them on Twitter @Findhrr