There’s a character in one of Agatha Christie’s books who writes plays. Her plays are witty and sparkling and clever, and everyone expects the writer to be like that in real life. However, in person she is dull and silly and rather boring.
I was reminded of this because a few nights ago, I saw an author on television. She wasn’t even talking about her book, she was just on a quiz show because she was promoting her book. She was silly and boring and achingly unfunny and I decided I wouldn’t be reading her book.
The next day, I carried on with the book I was reading – and then looked closer at the author’s name. It was the same woman. But I was enjoying her book. It was funny and clever and interesting – the total antithesis of everything she had been on television. What she wrote was utterly different from the way she had come across in person.
There’s this passion among publicists at the moment to get authors out there, talking about their books and anything else under the sun all over TV and radio and the internet. The problem is, the personality put on the page is not necessarily the public persona of the writer. What ends up on page is intensely private, something that can take place between the writer and the book. It doesn’t necessarily come across when the writer looks up and joins the real world. What an author is like in an interview can – and often is – utterly different to what they write. What they write is an escape of what they are like, not a reflection.
So I learned my lesson – don’t judge a writer by themselves. Judge them by their work. Which I hope will apply to me too. Because no matter how wild and weird and twisted my stories get, in real life I am terribly dull and repressed.