How much of me do you want? Yvonne Coppard
That was it. I have no idea how the Mail on Sunday filled their two pages. But thank you, thank you, Harper Lee for refusing to play ball in a world where writers – along with actors, singers, artists and a whole load of et cetera – can no longer afford to have a private life if they want their work to be successful. (No, this isn’t a piece about ‘phone hacking, but bear it in mind).
The point is, not that Harper Lee refuses to show her face in the outside world, but that she refuses to show it on demand, wherever and whenever the Media Machine requires. She is not a ‘recluse’; she is ‘a bit private’. And good for her. It is becoming increasingly difficult for writers to make a claim for the right to privacy. Audiences of all things creative are trained to expect that the purchase of something artists have produced gives the consumer the right to have something of what they are. Our works no longer speak for themselves – and maybe they never did, except for the very fortunate few.
I’ve been thinking a lot about privacy and promotion as I’ve been deciding what I do – and don’t – want to include on my new web site. Fifty, even thirty years ago, it was not something a writer had to think about much. You wrote your book, your publisher launched it, the press would hopefully review it, and if you were very lucky there would be the occasional interview for newspaper or radio. TV interviews with writers were rare, and you could live your daily life as privately as you wished. I am not a Luddite, and I don’t mourn for the pre-computer days of my first book, laboriously written with a biro in a hardcover paper notebook. I like blogs, websites, interviews and features about authors. But I must confess that sometimes I find myself wondering about the value of keeping to the boundaries that other professionals rely on - between work and home, between the public person and the private life.
So I thought I’d ask you, if you’re reading this blog and you’ve got this far, because I’m genuinely interested to know what readers and writers think about the problem...
How far does a writer have to go in sharing his/her private self as part of the publishing package?
If you’re a writer, how far are you prepared to go? And if a reader, do you feel cheated, or intrigued, when anonymous or reclusive writers give you the book but nothing else?
To see Yvonne’s new web site, visit www.yvonnecoppard.co.uk
Yvonne is currently working on ‘The Arvon Book of Children’s Fiction’, with co-writer Linda Newbery, scheduled for publication in the USA and UK by Bloomsbury later this year.