Starting a dialogue about myself

The Naturae Series

I’ll be honest, if you had asked me to talk about myself and my work two years ago, I would have struggled to find the words. Although, if you met me in person, you would probably describe me as confident, outgoing, perhaps even bossy, but that’s not how I see myself at all. Ten years ago, I was at home in a corporate world, where I was in control. A figure of authority, someone ‘in the know’. But, outside of the work environment, I was never really the most sociable person. I’m happiest living in my own safe space, not having to talk to strangers or talk about myself.

I’m not good at ‘chit-chat.’ I’m socially awkward and not really that bothered about someone’s cats or the latest fashion; who was seeing who do what. I’m more interested in people’s motives – what makes them tick, why they do what they do. That’s a pretty unusual thing to ask over a glass of wine:

So… why do you think you behave like that? Is there a family tendency towards lunacy or is it a compulsion to make a mountain out of a molehill?

Tends to shut down a conversation pretty quickly, I’ve found. Great for avoiding personal questions about me and my life. I suppose I could be more subtle, but I always thought of myself as a direct kind of person, and you either like that or you don’t.

I didn’t understand the mask of performing in a job was an illusion, which I had to strip away in my current job.

Becoming a self-published author has challenged me because I can no longer afford to be the only one asking the questions. I have to provide some answers. Ones that make sense. Ones which expose me. Does anyone really want to know, I think, with each interview?

Photo by Pascal Riben on Unsplash

The more I’ve done interviews about myself and my books, the more I’ve come to realise, this has to be an honest dialogue. In order to actually make this work as a business, it seems I can no longer hide who I am. Not that who I am is a bad thing, or that I am bad, horrible or hiding anything specific. Just, I never thought I was that interesting enough to capture attention.

I am, without realising it, intrinsically bound with my works, and as such have to share who I am to encourage readers to check out what products I have to offer. It’s unlike any other business I’ve ever worked in. I thought my books were the product, but it seems, I am.

This self promotion (there’s no other word for it really and no point in beating about the bush either) is the other, undisclosed aspect of the job of being an author. The need to market oneself in order to market ones books. And, if I want to make a success of this role, I’ve got to let people, readers perhaps, get to know me. Or so I’m told. The dialogue wants, needs, to go both ways; social media is evidence of this requirement. The booktok/bookstagram and other communities discussing their reading proves that having a dialogue between authors and their readers is the modern way to grow an author business. Especially during and after a pandemic!

So, here’s me on social media… let’s start a dialogue!

If nothing else, have a laugh at me trying out silly filters on Tiktok or check out pictures of my cute dogs as I try to deflect attention from my ageing face and snarky sense of humour, whilst still ‘being me’ and not obviously ‘trying to sell books.’ Occasionally, I talk about books I’ve read, or things I’ve done as well.

Because, if you weren’t aware, it’s not the ‘done thing’ to go onto social media and just say, hey, I wrote a book, why not check it out, all the time. I’m trying to have that ‘honest dialogue’, in public, but without over-sharing. There is no need, I am convinced, to talk about how humdrum my life really is, or what craziness my kids/dogs/random strangers/life has thrown at me that day. That falls into the category of ‘chit-chat’ and as I’ve mentioned, I’m rubbish at that. I’m also pretty sure that if you have controversial views on something, then the algorithms get involved and then who knows what will happen?

But, if you message me, I will reply. If you like my posts, I’m taking the time to check yours out also. I need to get to know who my fans are, so that I can keep that dialogue going.

It’s funny – and something I don’t massively relate to – that readers want to get to know the author. Personally, I pick up a book and feel I know the most intimate parts of an author from the words describing their imagination on the page. I read widely, and I suppose, have pre-judged what I knew about an author based on my understanding, perhaps a mistaken belief, that their imagination is what defines them. I thought, that was all I needed to know about them, that they were capable of imagining such stories, weaving their tales. I don’t really want to know much about them beyond their credentials as an author, I don’t care if they are a loner or family person, or what they like to do in their spare time. But, the more I promote myself in the name of promoting my books, I realise I was in part correct, and in part, completely wrong.

Ultimately, people are interested in other people. Maybe we are all just born nosy? I realise now that readers do want, like I do, to understand where an author is coming from. What experiences they have had which influenced their writing. I’d be kidding myself and my readers if I said absolutely none of my life goes into my books. It might not be obvious, but it’s there. My curiosity. My exploration of faith, of history, and of the nature of humanity. Thinly veiled in a plotline or a character.

A strand of hope for us all in the magic. A lesson we can all take from the past.

I never set out in my writing to shout about myself and view of the world. I do not consider my voice to be an authority on matters of importance. I’m not so firmly fixed upon a view of things that I could ever be considered an expert.

I write because I enjoy it.

I write because I like to escape sometimes, and I want others to have that blissful immersion somewhere, some time, else. A place where they/we/I don’t have to be responsible for decisions, or what happens next, because the author has done that for me. I simply have to enjoy the ride; there are no other expectations of me.

Photo by Sara Ferreira on Unsplash

And yet, curiously, the more people question my writing process, the more I realise that perhaps my view, my voice, does matter after all. I’ll never be that person spouting political views across social media. I doubt I will ever be an expert in anything. Perhaps I’ll never be an inspiration to anyone. Except for my 8-year-old daughter, who has now decided she will be an author too. I think that is probably more because she thinks I do nothing more than sit at my desk without anyone telling me what to do, and type all day, which sounds dull but comfortable to her.

Maybe, after all is said and done, my voice does matter. In a small, quiet way, if I have provided a reader with a few hours of joy, of escapism, then that is my voice mattering. I take comfort in that thought. I take pleasure when a reader posts a review and says they loved the book, for whatever reason they list, I read it as ‘they escaped into another world and it was worthwhile.’ That matters to me, at least.

In an attempt to bring together some of the interviews I have done lately which lay my soul bare (sometimes more than I’m comfortable with!), I have created a page on my website where, if you are one of those people who want to know more about me, you can find a list here.

Published by Jan Foster

Author - So Simple Published Media

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