Being at a strange point in my life (strange, but not altogether bad), the issue of the divide between personal life and public persona, especially online, has loomed larger and larger in my mind of late. My specific question lies in where we draw the line as authors. A lot of my questions stem from the strange quasi-celebrity status that comes with being an indie author. This isn’t to suggest some misplace scale of where I stand in the whole thing; in fact, that diminished standing is what makes it so tricky.
The rules are fairly simple for real celebrities: keep the personal life and the public life as divided as possible. You can let little bits of the personal life poke through, but a certain facade and distance must be maintained in order to keep your sanity. Sure, celebrities have varying levels of how much they share and don’t share, but in general, the line between the celeb and the people with whom they’re connecting is fairly solid.
Not so with the indie author. Most of us reside (and are used to residing) on the other side of the line. That’s great, too. It’s the rare indie author that gets a head full of themselves, and those that do tend to be handled within the community. Most of us are humble enough to realize our true place within the scale of things. In fact, I like that quite a bit about the community: most of us don’t have out-sized egos, and have the freedom to connect with other authors and readers without all the trappings of celebrity. At this point, I’m not sure I’d ever want to experience what real celebrities experience. It seems like a huge hassle.
The problem is, we’re not celebrities until we become celebrities. I’m not speaking of some meteoric rise to fame here – though that might apply; no, I’m speaking of those moments when we’re called upon to act with the grace of the seasoned celebrity who has been separating public life from private life for years. A nasty review. Trash talking on the Internet. Gossip. You get the picture. Some of these are situations that might be handled very differently were you not putting your works out there for public approval, but because you are a semi-public figure, you must handle things with a modicum of respect and never, ever, allow your emotions to show, no matter how much what’s happening may hurt you.
I’ve spoken some in the past about this dehumanizing aspect of celebrity. Thankfully, the friends have stuck with me after all, though I have experienced some shifts in relationships as I develop new friendships. Still, I have experienced some of the situations described in that post and the ideas of just how to act and react that seemed so clear back when I wrote that post have become very blurry. How to deal with comments that include both constructive criticism and just plain snarkiness? We’ve recently seen some downright nasty examples of interacting with reviewers and it’s disappointed me a little bit – on both sides. In some cases, the authors were particularly nasty and reacted very poorly to fair criticisms, but I’ve also seen some authors attempting to be even-handed and thank reviewers for even highly critical reviews and it’s blown up in their faces.
I haven’t had the latter occur…yet. The times that I have interacted with reviewers have been after they’ve personally contacted me about posting a review, and of late I’ve set a rule that I’m not allowed to read any reviews lower than a four star, just for my own sanity. Of course these reviews can still sting, but the code applies: readers are readers, authors are authors, and interaction between the two needs to happen on a very removed, careful basis.
It’s unfortunate, but there are good reasons, such as protecting the integrity of the review process. So now as I’m in that awkward transition phase, somewhere in between reader and author from one minute to another, I’m trying to find the most effective way to connect and share with readers without overstepping my boundaries. This is all part of deciding whether to share with you, the readers, what is going on in my life. I’m going through a fairly big change, and it’s a tumultuous time (in a good way), but I’m not sure just how much is appropriate to share. Still mulling over that question, but would like to get some feedback. How much is too much? How do you maintain that line, or do you maintain it at all?