Random Musings On Accessibility To Your Heroes

Things have changed so much in the author/reader space since my childhood/teen years. If I loved a book or something I didn’t have Twitter to jump on to exclaim my love for it directly to the author immediately. I had to write a letter on my best stationary (probably multiple times because I always would mess up or sound dumb), beg for a stamp from my mom, lick the icky envelope and mail that puppy…more than likely to the publisher who would then forward it and WHO KNOWS if the author ever got my letter. I sure never got a response. Sidenote: sometimes I really want to send snail mail to the authors of my most favorite books to show my appreciation rather than popping off a quick tweet or blog post.

I’ve talked about this before but authors, and our heroes/idols in general, are so incredibly accessible because of the internet. It’s great. It really is. I love being able to connect with an author whose book I loved. To talk to them about it. To show them my appreciation. To sometimes even create really good relationships past that. I love having some access to my favorites — to see the behind the scenes and get to know the person. To learn more about them. To go on this journey with them. It can all be a really positive thing.

There are downsides to it, as I’ve said before, when it comes to trying to separate the author from the work and the author’s behavior/personality/beliefs all being right there in front of you. Everyone has their own levels of being able to separate I’m sure. I am typically gracious unless someone is an outright garbage monster or if I’ve had really unpleasant dealings with them on multiple occasions.

I think about what it would have been like to have had access to my idols back then when I was at such a formative age. I thought about this a lot when I met R.L. Stine a couple years ago at BEA. It’s scary to meet your idols because there is the possibility they won’t always live up to what you build them up to be. (I always think of The Fault In Our Stars when I think of how it can go horribly wrong or how they can disappoint you with Van Houten.) R.L. Stine was definitely one of the authors who made me the reader I am. He hooked me on Goosebumps and his Fear Street books (and Christopher Pike’s books) were the few I would still pick up when I went through my reading drought as a teen. Lucky for me, my image of him was not shattered when I met him as an adult but I loved him even more. He was kind and generous and so down to earth — I mean, he told me to CALL HIM BOB. He was everything I had hoped he would be, and more, to be honest.

But I know that hasn’t always been the case. I’ve met authors who I was excited to meet who unfortunately put a damper on my excitement for them. They weren’t my idols or heroes by any means but it still was sad when you had built an image of them from social media or their books and it didn’t match up. How would I have dealt with that as a younger person? How would I deal as an adult to meet a childhood/teen hero or idol who was disappointing?  Would they still be such legends in my mind once I meet them? I wonder this a lot. Because on one hand…JUST LIKE ME! And on the other…huh..you are just like me….no wait you are supposed to be otherworldly and superhuman because that’s what my kid mind thought you must be.

I think that’s the interesting thing (and scary thing) about the accessibility. It can be a gift and a detriment to authors and readers especially in the day of social media. Social media strips away some of that veil/curtain that used to be there when I was younger so you are able to form a little bit of an opinion on people that you couldn’t prior whereas before they were like this mythical authorly creature that was unknown. Some authors are really good at their social media and tending to their fan base. They are exactly what you hope they will be in person…at least what they are portraying to you. You meet that particular hero or idol and you aren’t disappointed. It reaffirms. Maybe even inspires you further. But then other times…it doesn’t quite work out that way.

And on the other end of it all, I often feel badly for authors. Writing books is markedly different now. You are pretty much expected to BE accessible and worry about your “brand” as an author…in addition to writing books.  And not every author is personable or good at the more social aspects that seem to be part of being an author now. You aren’t just worrying about how your words in your book are being looked at but also worrying about all the things you are putting out there on social media and at events. And they have to deal with people FORGETTING they are humans and not mythical authorly creatures who make millions (no seriously I used to think being an author = rich before I started blogging) and thinking that it’s okay to spew their every negative thought at them BECAUSE they have access. Or to get salty because an author can’t respond to everything (more access = more people asking for a piece of them which is hard for one human trying to juggle many things).

It gets complicated on both sides is what I’m saying…no matter how great it is.

Sometimes I worry about the access between the creator and the consumer even though there’s so much that is great about it. On both sides. Especially what I’ve witnessed while watching teens interact with their heroes/idols on social media. Seriously have you ever watched diehard fans of pop stars? It’s…a whole other universe to me because as a teen all I did was hang up posters and write the occasional fanmail and read all about them in magazines with my girlfriends. The building up of a hero and idol is even more intense these days. I’ve seen some extreme behavior — not necessarily a ton in this sphere but elsewhere.

I think the thing to always remember is that your heroes and idols? They are all just people. I think there’s a better sense of that “hey they are people” BECAUSE of social media but sometimes I think people forget in other ways. Authors are humans. Humans disappoint. Humans make mistakes. Humans have flaws and unlikeable qualities. Humans have feelings. Humans have lives and people who depend on them and love them. Humans have whole backstories and complexities that aren’t always on the surface. Humans are humans are humans.

I think that’s the key — enjoy the access to your heroes and idols and highly admired people but remember….they are just humans — in all their amazing and not so amazing glory.

This random post brought to you by recent musings on internet life, watching teens meet their heroes and a thing that happened to me recently wherein I totally misjudged someone based on their internet #brand. It was all just swirling around in there so I apologize for the lack of cohesion in any of these thoughts. THAT’S what happens when I haven’t been able to blog for almost 2 weeks….word vomit.

 

What do you think in general about what I’ve written? Have you ever met any of your idols or heroes? Have they lived up? Would love to hear an author’s perspective!

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About Jamie

Jamie is a 30 year old married lady who is in denial that she's actually that old. When she's not reading you can find her doing Pilates followed by eating ice cream, listening to music with oversized headphones and having adventures with her husband and dog.

Comments

  1. I seriously love this post! I mean, I’m someone who lives on the other side of the planet, so it’s great to have the chance to interact with authors in a much more accessible way. Though I do understand the expectations that the internet has shrouded for us. But at the same time, who can blame them if they are not exactly what we expect them to be, right? I love this soooo much!!! I’ve made a post about blogging a book that you didn’t like but being friends with the author and it got quite the conversation going. I guess it’s the same with meeting them for the first time in real life….

    • Thank you! And yes..I feel like that’s exactly it…they are just people and it’s easy to build them up for the greatness that they are but also…they are people tooooo. I love the accessibility but it’s definitely interesting to see this transition in my life time having not grown up with social media.

  2. I really enjoyed reading this, I’ve been musing over the accessibility of not just authors but everyone in general, it seems the world is closing in on itself more and more and this can be a good thing in the way of ‘normalising’ celebs and making them less unobtainable, but it also removes the air of mystery that I used to love.

    Great thought provoking post, and I also loved Fear Street and Goosebumps 🙂

    Rosy | Sparkles of Light Blog

    • YES! “it seems the world is closing in on itself more and more and this can be a good thing in the way of ‘normalising’ celebs and making them less unobtainable, but it also removes the air of mystery that I used to love.” I so agree! I love it and also don’t all at the same time? Sometimes I just want to enjoy someone’s work and that’s it…but at the same time I love getting to know them in a way….I mean at least with authors I feel like I DO get to know them through social media more than celebs tbh.

      RL STINE. I really want to go back and read the Fear Street ones!

  3. I’ve never met an author fave to face but you make an interesting point. I’m a self published author myself and I do hope when readers meet me in real life that I’m as good as I am on the internet. Thanks for sharing!

    • It’s such a hard thing because I know people who have refused to read authors after any sort of social media mishap or if they get a bad vibe from them on social media or maybe their political views rub them the wrong way and it’s so interesting because before social media you didn’t know much of anything about your favorite author other that what was on the jacket flap. It’s interesting how it factors into whether or not people will read a book. And I mean I support anybody’s right to use their time how they want and how they choose how to read or not read but it’s certainly changed things.

  4. This is honestly such a wonderful post! I was talking to a friend about something along these lines not too long ago. She was saying how she doesn’t understand how/why people become obsessed with celebrities because they are just people–people who receive a ton of media attention, but just people. We most likely have just as talented (if not moreso) people surrounding us every day, but we don’t even realize it because to us they are just people. One day, I hope to be a successful writer, and it’s actually a bit mind-boggling to think that someone could be idolizing me one day the same way I idolize my favorite authors. My reflex is to think that I could never compare to them, because in my mind they are these shiny, majestic unicorns that you’ll only catch a glimpse of if you’re lucky. I know I shouldn’t think that way, but I totally do! And to think that someone could one day view me in that same light is crazy. Why would anyone think that about me? I’m loud, impatient, selfish, and I can hold a grudge for centuries…I’m human.

    I went on this whole spiel because I think it ties back into what you were saying about our idols having flaws, making mistakes. They’re not perfect unicorns, they’re flawed human beings. It’s really hard to wrap my brain around that, but I do think it is important for me (and everyone else) to keep in mind.

    As I said before, this is a fantastic post, and I know it will generate thought in others the same way it did me.

    • YES. I mean, I used to obsess over famous people as a teen but it really was in such a different way. I see some people really spending soooo much time being obsessed with a person…who is just a person. Sure htey might be talented or inspiring or whatever but they are a person like you…but with more money haha.

      I think it puts a lot of pressure on you. I know that, on a veryyyy small scale as a blogger, it’s been very jarring to hear people tell me they are my favorite blogger or “fangirl” over me in person because I’m just like…I”m flattered honestly but like ask my husband…I am not worth being on any sort of pedestal or being fangirled over. And i’ve wondered before…like have I let people down. Like they have this picture of me as a blogger and then maybe they meet me and I’m not what they hoped? Or they thought I wasn’t nice enough or perky or excited enough? IDK. It’s….weird. So I totally get how you feel thinking about it as an aspiring writer.

      Thanks for such a thoughtful comment!!

  5. Even when presented with the opportunity to meet celebrities that I really like, I don’t feel the need to meet them because I know that 2 minute interaction won’t be real. I don’t just want to shake someone’s hand and say hi or tell them how much I admire their work. I want to actually know them. And that’s not possible. Even following someone on Twitter isn’t really know their real self.

    My one hero meeting, Rainbow Rowell, was extremely disappointing. Not because Rainbow wasn’t friendly or awesome because she was. I just felt this immense pressure to say something profound (which I failed at miserably) and the moment was over and I felt hugely let down. But it was my own fault. I let myself build it up in my mind. It would have been better probably to just skip the signing all together.

    • Totally understand that! That’s why I do enjoy meeting authors in smaller venues because I do feel like I get some good time with some of them…especially at my one bookstore.

      And oh man do I totally get that pressure to say something profound or that will stick out to them in the sea of things they always hear.

  6. Love love this post, it’s definitely something that I haven’t thought of before! Personally I’ve never met a author that I love or hero/idol as I live in South Africa and generally not many authors/idols come here and if they do it’s not for a meet and greet. Personally I have never got how people can get so obsessive over their heroes, when I watched Justin Biebers documentary thingy (don’t judge, haha;)) the fans were SCARY! Although I do think that’s more with famous popstars/youtubers etc. well I don’t know to be honest. Anyyywayyys just wanted to let you know that I’m super happy you’re back blogging and lovely post! 🙂

    • Oh my gosh I saw that documentary (NO JUDGING HERE OBVI) and yessssssssss. His fans are exactly what I had in mind. And yes I’ve seen teens get more excited about meeting booktubers over the authors at events and it’s…strange. I mean, they are all tremendously talented so I’m not knocking them because I know and like some of them but it’s always so jarring when it’s a book event but people are more there for the booktuber?

      and thank you!! I’ve been going stir crazy not being able to blog!

  7. This is a great post! Generally, when you meet an author, it’s in a long signing line and you have a few seconds to make some sort of connection. The seasoned authors seems to be good at talking first, or don’t care about the size of the line and take a little more time with you. Some of my best encounters have been with Libba Bray (nicest person on the planet) and Laurie Halse Anderson (extremely approachable). I also had an opportunity to talk to Patricia MacLachlan at a library conference. There was no one in line behind me, so I was able to have a really nice conversation. Newer authors seem just as nervous as the readers. In my experience, no one knows what to say, so the whole interaction can be awkward and leave you feeling let down. I guess it’s important to remember that we are all human. Authors are not automatically magical people just because they wrote a great book.

    • Oh my gosh yes Libba and Laurie are also two authors I’ve met and thought were SO personable and I walked away like MAN THEY ARE EVEN MORE AWESOME. I was early on in my blogging career when I met Laurie so still new-ish to meeting authors and like to me Laurie was like a LEGEND so I was just sooooo over the mooon about how cool she was.

      And yep…exactly that. They are humans too! Very talented humans but humans nonetheless!

  8. It’s definitely hard to separate authors from their work at times. I think that’s my biggest question mark about this whole thing. It’s insane to think we can see THEM and their personality so easily! I used to have no idea what the author looked like unless I saw a photo in the jacket. You expect authors to be one thing and they can be totally different from that IRL. I try to think of the idea of separating an author (or artist or director, actor, etc.) from their work.. like I’m not a fan of how Kanye acted online lately but I can still listen to his music? Can I still enjoy a Woody Allen movie even though I despise him as a person? Or does it make me a hypocrite? Maybe I’m getting off on a different tangent, but I think of “authors behaving badly” and having most of us bloggers get really upset and swear off their books. It’s got to be so hard for them to be themselves while also keeping their ~author~ vibes. Idk. This post definitely got me thinking and I completely agree with your thoughts! Such an interesting conundrum we never thought we’d have, back when we were kids!

    • Omg same! The only thing I would know about an author back in the day was what was on the flap. LIke COOL x author likes dogs toooo!!?? haha.
      And oh girl I feel you on that struggle. I have loved Woody Allen’s movies and then because of social media have found out stuff about him that I hadn’t previously known. And there are so many other celebs where I’m like ehhhh about them personally based on social media or TMZ or somethign but I dig what they create. Same goes for authors…I’ve seen some author “dramas” and I’m normally pretty low key when it comes to that stuff (ie I don’t really blacklist them unless they are really awful garbage monsters — racist, sexist ,etc) so maybe something will rub me the wrong way but I want to read the book still even though everyone else is like nope nope? It’s hard….like really hard. Which was never an issue back in the day! The creator and the work WAS separated! I have a hard time reconciling it sometimes. I really do. I think it all comes down to our own comfort levels. I think deep down we just KNOW. So for me..I might still read an author who made one small misstep if it doesn’t make me feel icky or like I CAN’T support that but others might be more like no way I’m not supporting it.

      And yeah…on the author side it’s gotta be hard. Even as a blogger I feel that…like if I say the wrong thing will everyone turn on me and not read my blog or follow me?

      YEEEEEESH.

  9. This was a fantastic post! I love the points that you made. You’re so right in saying that in this new age of social media, it really cuts down that ‘famous’ type of label on authors – where we would once look upon them as almost unreadable and untouchable, now that we have things like Twitter and Instagram, we are getting tidbits of their personality, of their life and of their beliefs and values. It makes the whole reader-author interaction much more… Human? Is that the right term? I suppose.
    But yes! I really appreciate this post!

    • Thank you! It really is SO interesting how it’s changed things….that we can interact with the creators or the celebs. I mean, the only thing I used to know about an author was pretty much what they put on the back flap of the book haha. It’s such a great thing but it definitely can be tricky sometimes. How do I separate the work from the person? In this day it is SO hard to do sometimes.

  10. Meeting RL Stine was a major moment for me too. And he was AWESOME!!! But meeting SO many authors, I’ve totally come across ones that didn’t strike me as very nice or friendly… and that was disappointing. It’s like- I read this AMAZING book and then I find out I can meet the author- I get SO excited!!! And then I go up to them (and say something stupid and rambling) and they’re like blah. Not mean, but not nice either. It’s such a let down!!! But you are so right about them being people. Maybe they are just having a bad day. Maybe what I’m perceiving as “not nice” is really shyness?? I know a lot of people don’t like me when they first meet me, but when they get to know me I make more sense to them. Maybe it’s a case of that.

    It’s still really cool that we get to meet the authors/see behind the curtain via Twitter or whatev. I could never had imagined it possible in my Judy Blume, R.L. Stine, Christopher Pike, Caroline B. Cooney days.

    • GIRL I had similar experiences where I’m like ooookay after meeting them. I really do always try to think about the fact I could have caught them on a bad day or they were tired or shy or whatever. I do recall a really horrible signing back when I first started blogging with an author whose series i LOVED and she was seriously not nice at all….or so I thought. Come to find out she has some pretty serious anxiety issues and like I don’t think she really tours much anymore.

      And definitely agree..I feel like my experiences are more positive than negative with it all. Sure is tricky. I think my thing I struggle with is separating the work from the author…and what personal lines do I have. Like I don’t get too “oh I am writing this author off!!” about too much stuff but I feel like if you are racist or make a really awful comment idk if I can read your books. Or as someone above talked about Woody Allen….I loooove his movies and had nooo idea about his personal life until the past couple years bc social media. I feel so conflicted because I love his work but then I know these things. GAH.

  11. Hi Jamie! As I mentioned on Twitter, I loved this post!
    As a reader, I’ve had lots of great experiences meeting authors, and one negative one. As a debut author whose book will be out soon, I think about that negative experience a lot. I remember how much my favorite authors meant to me as a teenager. I never want to be the author who leaves a reader with the bad feeling I had after meeting that author.
    At the same time though, I realize that in our world of 24 hour social media, boundaries are important. Everyone needs and deserves to have their privacy respected.
    You said it beautifully–Humans are humans are humans. I’ve gotten over the one negative experience I had with an author by remembering that.
    Thanks for this great post!

  12. I’ve never met anyone “famous” (including authors). I hope to go to some book signings in the future, but for now I am okay with twitter convos. I do agree that it is so much easier with the internet to interact with people and with people we normally wouldn’t get to. This was a great post! Thanks! 🙂

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