Sunday, February 5, 2023

In the Public Eye

In Lucy Worsley’s biography of Agatha Christie, we learned that Christie always wrote “married woman” in the “occupation” line on her passport. How did you navigate going public with being a writer? 

Brenda at the keyboard.

One only has to hear the intrusive stories of exploitation that some people in the public eye have suffered to know that privacy needs to be protected. Fame can be an incredible burden.Think of Princess Diana, Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck (first time around), Harry and Meghan ... cautionary tales all. The trick is to balance publicity and getting your name/book out there, with keeping your private life private -- to draw a line between business and personal.

Luckily, authors usually maintain anonymity, even the famous ones. I recall a story where someone was on a bus and kept looking at this woman sitting alone, wondering could it be? The woman finally stood to get off the bus but before she did, she leaned in to the person who'd been staring at her and said, "Yes, it really is me." Margaret Atwood then stepped off the bus and that was that. Urban legend made. So even Canada's most famous author still maintains a normal life and travels around Toronto in relative anonymity.

I write a weekly blog (taking the summers off) and decided early on that I wasn't going to get too personal. I write about 'the writing life' and the odd thing going on in my life, but I don't go deep. I keep personal opinions to myself when it comes to politics and the myriad of topics impacting our lives. I don't talk about my family, except surface-level stuff, and am always aware that once information is 'out there' in this social media society, you can't take it back.

Speaking of social media, I have a public Facebook author page as well as a private Facebook page where I connect with friends and post the odd more personal photo or comment that I do not post on the public page. I have two Instagram accounts with much the same set up, although I use the personal page rarely. I'm mainly posting on Twitter and Instagram for publicity.

As for being recognized by strangers for my writing, it's happened a few surprising times, but I wouldn't say this is the norm by any means. Even in my own neighbourhood, unless people know me, they have no idea I write murder mysteries. My first book was released in 2004, and I've been featured many times in local media, but still walk around unrecognized. I don't anticipate this will ever change :-) One thing that helps is that I kept my own surname when I got married, and many don't realize my husband's and daughters' last name is different from mine (which is also my author name).

On a final note, being Canadian, people in this country respect people's privacy for the most part, whether famous or not. There's generally a strong desire not to interrupt, intrude or offend. On the other hand, people here are strongly supportive of writers and help to quietly spread the word about books they like, especially if they know the writer personally, have seen them at an event, or met them out and about. It's not fame exactly, but heart-warming nonetheless to have a community of people cheering you on behind the scenes.


Instagram & Facebook: BrendaChapmanAuthor

Twitter: brendaAchapman


Jerry House said...

I suppose labelling myself as "Godlike Being" under Occupation would be a bit crass, but, then, I'm not a writer.

Dietrich Kalteis said...

I think that's wise, Brenda — keeping certain personal things private. Once it's out there, you can't take it back. Besides, it's good to be a bit of a mystery.

Brenda Chapman said...

Yes, mysterious mystery writers ....

Catriona McPherson said...

The Margaret Atwood story reminds me of . . . Ack, can't remember . . . who always said that people wishing to be rich and famous should try just being rich and see what they think!