The BBC used to have a service called Great Writing, but when they shut it down, a bunch of enthusiastic individuals banded together to start their own version, which has just launched. But since they wanted to forge their own identity and deviate somewhat from the Beeb's stuffy language policy, they went ahead and interviewed John Rickards, author of some incredibly genteel cat mysteries and tea cozies -- oh wait, that's a lie.
Anyway, he makes an interesting point (when asked if his "impatient editorial voice" is really him) about public and private personas, and whether they should even exist for a writer:
Actually, no, that's just me. I'm like that - that is to say, I swear and bitch about stuff, as well as tell daft jokes and screw around as by and large I'm a friendly guy - in person. To be honest, most people are like that to one extent or another, but a lot of writers and people in the industry maintain a kind of professional persona and a separate private one, where they won't, say, swear. They'll talk about murdering (fictional) people for the entertainment of others, but they won't use bad language, which seems like an odd choice of priorities to me. But I can't complain really - everyone makes their own choices. It's just too much effort for me, maintaining the two sides, and to be fair I'd rather give people an honest impression of what I'm like so that if they ever meet me in person I don't come as a horrible shock to the system.
Persona can be a very, very tricky thing. In my own case I tend to present different sides of myself to different people so who knows how many different versions of "me" actually exist. But I remember when I first met Jennifer Weiner last fall, and she has a very open public manner -- the kind that makes people believe they could instantly be her friend. And I definitely felt that, but also wondered how easy it could be for people to misinterpret that vibe and try to get "too close" and possibly overstep boundaries. Which is probably why she has this in her FAQ:
I haven’t written a novel, and I don’t have an idea for one, but you seem really cool, so maybe we could get together and have coffee!
I am not cool. In person, I am incredibly boring. My conversational topics are almost entirely limited to what I saw on television the night before, and about how I don’t like old people. I rarely manage to look even a tenth as good as I do in my author photo. My table manners are iffy. Many days I don’t even comb my hair, and when I’m not writing I’m usually shlepping around a pre-verbal kiddo in a stroller with pureed pears smeared somewhere on my person, so in the interests of not having you be disappointed by the real deal, I am going to respectfully decline. But thanks! And please come to one of my readings, where I’m usually without the pre-verbal kiddo in the stroller, and nine times out of ten my hair is combed.
So how do you navigate the persona divide, if there actually is one for you -- or is this even something to worry about at all?