Who Are You?

Tell me authors, do you pretend to be something other than who you really are when you’re talking to fans and other authors online? I’m not talking about pen names. I’m talking about the essentials. Do you tell people you’re in your twenties when you have grandkids? Do you act like you’re a sexual warrior when you’ve only ever had sex with your hubby? Do you portray yourself – give others an image of you – that is patently false? And why do you think it’s okay to lie to your fellow authors and your fans online? People you talk to every day, people you interact with regularly, people whom you have ostensibly made friends with? Why is okay to not tell them who you are?

I don’t know how many of you have discovered that the author you’ve been regularly chatting with online is not what he/she tells you they are. I know I’ve found out the truth about a couple of authors who portray themselves as something far from the truth of their lives.  In one case, it meant nothing because I had invested nothing. I just chalked that person up as a liar. In the other case, I felt used. Now, why should I or anyone else feel used or think of these people as liars? It’s the internet. Everyone lies there, or so I’m told, as if that makes lying to people a-okay.  Why would you feel used?

1blowkisses2The truth in my world is this: People who talk to you on a regular basis, who interact with you daily on groups and IM and Twitter, are people you begin to develop a relationship with. In any relationship, you should be truthful about yourself or someone’s feelings will get hurt and the relationship thus becomes damaged. If you consider these people your friends, why wouldn’t you tell them the truth? Why would you say you are a man if you are a woman? Why would you say you’re 25 if you are 50? Do you think your fellow authors and your fans won’t love you if you are a 50 year old woman instead of a 25 year old man? Don’t you think that the strength of your writing would hold up with them? If you don’t think your writing is good enough to capture them without you lying about who you are, what does that say about your work and your dedication to the craft?

I use a pen name. That’s not to say that there aren’t people out there who know who I am, where I live, where I work, and what my real name is. There are LOTS of people who know those things about me. And who I am when I talk to you on the loops is who I am if you were talking to me in my living room or the parking lot at Staples. I don’t mind divulging my age. I don’t mind telling you about my latest problems with my kid or my DH. There are some things I hold back, but I would hold those things back from most people anyway.  I am an open and honest individual and I want my fans and readers to know who crafted the characters they love. I want my fellow authors to see me as a forthright, honest, fair-minded person who has no qualms sending out a goodie bag with my return address on it nor any qualms speaking my mind.

Those of you who hide behind lies about who you are inside and who make yourself out to be something you are not just in the hope of getting more sales… I feel sorry for you. I am more inclined to buy books from an author known for his/her ferocious honesty than one who makes up a persona just to sell books.

So yeah. I think that about covers my thought for the day. What are your thoughts on made up personas?


Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Who Are You?

  1. Random Reader :) says:

    Great Post!

    I have seen this issue skirted around several times. I love how you tacked it full on.

    I don't know why someone would portray being someone they are not. I hope the true character of such posers would be reviled…they would have many unhappy readers to explain to …….

  2. Other than my pen name, I don't need to make up anything weird.

    My life is pretty dull.

    I do agree about the privacy issue and I respect anyone's right to privacy.

    Now, to lighten the moment.

    For the longest time I was sure one of my fellow authors at Loose Id was a guy because of the first name. I know Jules doesn't have a problem with me sharing that until we interacted online I thought sure Jules Jones was a guy! ;~D

    She never said one way or another until one day during a chat.

    Color me beet red.
    .-= Jeanne Barrack´s last blog ..Guest Blogger – Neil Plakcy =-.

  3. Lex says:

    Ruth – I care when the lie either hurts someone in some fashion or when the lie is for personal gain. I've been lied to so that the person could gain something of value from me. That's a pretty low down shitty thing to do.

  4. Ruth Sims says:

    I don't lie for the best reason of all: I have a lousy memory and I'd never remember the lie. I'd get caught for sure. (g) For anyone else, who cares? It's a personal choice. The only time a persona lie is important is when it involves one person trying to scam or seduce or harm someone else, such as child abusers or sexual predators presenting themselves as the opposite of what they are. Other than that, I don't care.

  5. Lex says:

    Dee – I think a lot of us feel just as you do.

    Serena – Thanks for the validation! *wink*

    Mary – Deluded is a perfect word for what those people who lie are.

    Dianna – I feel the same when I put on my reader hat. I've gotten really tight about who I spend my money on in this industry.

    Lisa – I don't think anyone would ever think you're not telling the truth. Honesty shines from you!

    Josh – I agree with you. Although, I have to admit that I wouldn't exactly put gossiping on the same level as backstabbing. I've gossiped (as in Did you hear blah blah? Yeah, I heard that too) and it's fairly innocent as in no one had any malicious intent. I've also been backstabbed by people in this industry who have lied about who they are. I've had people tell out and out lies about me. I've had people rip me off. These individuals are all sweet faced to the public and other authors too. I believe that the line to draw in the sand is whether someone's actions and speech about another was done or said with malicious intent.

    Rick – Thank you! I think the best writers out there are pretty much putting all their creativity into their work rather than their "face."

    Lisa – I am so with you on that. Not the pen name part but the rapport. *wink*

  6. Lisa Lane says:

    If I can't be myself around my readers, then what is the point of having a rapport? I can't even bring myself to use a pen name….

  7. Lex, I’m as honest as the day is long with everyone I meet. Like you, there are a few things in my life my online friends don’t know, but my real life friends don’t either. I’d never try to be something I’m not just to make a sale.

  8. Rick R. Reed says:

    Good blog. And I'm with everyone else who wonders: who the hell has time to think up a persona and pretend to be THAT? My creativity and character-building goes into my fiction.

  9. josh lanyon says:

    The author persona is as old as publishing itself, and while it is somewhat out of fashion in these days of tell all and share all media, it is still considered perfectly respectable and valid in mainstream publishing — assuming you are not selling yourself as part of the publishing package, i.e. writing biography or autobiography or memoir based on being a scurvy old sea captain or a fallen angel.

    Three points:

    1 – An author owes his reading public absolutely nothing more than the best work he can turn out. Period. That's the extent of the author/reader contract.

    2 – A publisher or fellow author who gossips and backstabs about an author will gossip and backstab YOU in a minute. Believe it.

    3 – Judge not lest ye be judged. If you don't have all the facts — and no one has all the facts about anyone else's life — then you're in no position to speak out about how someone should conduct themselves.

    If someone has always treated me kindly and courteously, treated their fans kindly and courteously, been generous with their time, helped other authors when they asked for it, then that's what I go by. Because that's all I know for sure — all any of us can know for sure — and anything else is simply not my business.

  10. Dianna F says:

    I am with you on this. I never could stand someone that thinks it is ok to lie to people to make them like you better. I know the reason for pen names…some authors lead private lives that need to be kept private…that is all good…but to flat out lie about how old you are or even your sex, if your writing is not something that can stand up to the truth about the basics of who you are…then you need to have a good long talk with your muse about what you are writing. If I as a reader of their work do not deserve to know the basic truths then they as an author do not deserve my hard earned money.

  11. Mary Winter says:

    I'm with Dee, I don't have time to be anyone other than who I am. In fact, with the exception of one project that is out of my normal genre range and needs to be completely, totally seperate, my pen names (2 of them) are all "Mary." Why? Because I'm scared to death of offending someone at a signing or a conference if they call me by a different first name.

    I can see hiding things back. That's only common sense. But to completely and totally lie? They're only deluding themselves.
    .-= Mary Winter´s last blog ..Save the School – A Letter from Delilah Marvelle =-.

  12. Serena Yates says:

    This is an excellent post, Lex. I agree with you that it is much better to be honest about who you are (except for the name thing).

    I must admit that when I first started thinking about my author profile I was tempted to 'make someone up'. But very quickly I realized that this would 1) never work (I can't lie for the life of me), and, 2) I would hate it because my readers wouldn't really know who I am. So, yes, like you I will hold certain things back which I also hold back in real life. But never anything important.

    Thanks for reminding us that it is important to be honest – even (or especially when) you use a pen name!


  13. Dee Carney says:

    You know, I don't have the time or energy to be anyone else but myself. And because *I* don't, naively I believe no one else does either. Then some asshat does something stupid and I'm astounded at the cradle of lies they've surrounded themselves in.

    I am who I am. Take it or leave it. Whether you do or not isn't going to make me lose one wink of sleep, either way.
    .-= Dee Carney´s last blog ..New Cover for COTW4 =-.