Musings, Writing

Do you care who an author is? 

There has been a fierce debate about  whether authors should be as well known as their work after an American journalist claimed to have discovered the true identity of the author using the penname Elena Ferrante. 

The author has always guarded their real name and has spoken about wanting the books to speak for themselves. I don’t agree with the article that claims to unmask her. If she wants to remain private, this should be respected. 

Why is there a need to know the author behind the books?

Nowadays authors are expected to be public. Authors are key to the promotion of their books we are told. We should have Twitter accounts and be open to book signings, readings, attending festivals etc. Because it’s so difficult in a crowded market for a book to stand out, authors are encouraged to shout about it themselves. But does knowing an author’s face, background and favourite books make you enjoy their novels even more?

I think books do speak for themselves. Obviously as a writer myself, I am interested in hearing other writers talk about their craft but knowing more about them wouldn’t make me enjoy their book more or less. It can be a bonus sure to converse with a writer you love, and fun to get your book signed by them, but still it’s their book that brought you to them in the first place.

And you can be successful without self-promotion. Look at Elena Ferrante or Suzanne Collins whose Hunger Games series is huge but I know almost nothing about her and she has no social media presence. 

Is it a myth that a more accessible author can make a book more successful? 

I think it comes back to the book itself and whether it connects with readers. Awareness of a book is key, adverts can make it more visible but I don’t think interviews or appearances by an author can make a huge difference. I think if an author enjoys doing them, that’s great, and I personally have loved meeting readers but if you don’t want to do that then you should be allowed to remain private.

We all want readers to connect to our books. Whether you use your real name or a penname, that should be all that matters.

Do you think she should have been unmasked? Should authors be public figures?



2 thoughts on “Do you care who an author is? ”

  1. good point, I wondered what the hooha was all about, and said, some publicity seeking journalist, sought publicity for himself by revealing nothing really, only disturbing the privacy of someone who probably wanted her stories to be read and not her private life. In a world full of nutters, who would want to blast their lives across the world!

  2. There are really two questions here, it seems to me.

    The first is the one posed in the title of your post. Do I care? In general, no (and in specific definitely no, since I’d never heard of Ferrante until this became a big story). If I have a favorite writer it’s Thomas Pynchon, and I’m very happy knowing nothing about him. The books come out from time to time, and they’re all good and some of them are magnificent. What more could I want?

    The other question, though is whether, no matter how much we care (and obviously some do care more than I do), our caring should overrule the author’s desire to remain private. Well, how would we want to be treated if we were in that situation? I would want my wishes respected.

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