Celebrity and the Author

OK, hands up!  How many authors reading this want to achieve Celebrity status?  How far do you want that celebrity to go?  Your books in all the big chains, a constant round of book signings, lecture tours, invitations to conventions in the genre(s) you write in, award ceremonies and major literary awards to your name, being listed on respected Top Seller lists, radio interviews, TV appearances, your books made into TV series or even movies, recognition wherever you go, wealth, relentless pursuit by the paparazzi?  Do you set limits on what you’re willing to accept, or endure, for your celebrity?

Personally, I don’t crave celebrity.  In fact, the thought of Fame makes me shudder in horror.  In all honesty, without any false modesty, all I would like is to know that I have written something that has given others some pleasure.  Even having a ‘publicity’ photo’ taken fills me with dread.  I can certainly live without making any kind of personal appearance.  It’s a character trait, simple as that.  Even as a small child, the first thing people would comment on was how quiet I was.  That was quickly followed by the observation that I was shy.  That was normal behaviour – imagine how much more pronounced it became when there were strangers around!  Of course, I would like to make a god amount of money from my writing.  That’s normal.  I’ve never had money of any significant amount and it would be nice to be comfortably well off.  I’d have to be insane for anything else to be true.

I still wonder, though.  How many new writers are pursuing the money and the celebrity, rather than obeying a deeply felt need to write?  I guess I can make an assumption for those who write the ‘get rich quick’, and some varieties of ‘self help’, books.  But what about the rest?  Are you honest enough with yourself, let alone others, to admit if you lust for celebrity and use that as a significant motivational force in your writing?  Does it colour your choice of genre?  Have you leapt onto a ‘bandwagon’ to exploit it’s popularity simply to gain that celebrity, or do you genuinely enjoy the genre, both in reading and writing?  Maybe you just want ordinary Fame, a notoriety that says that you are respected for your writing but doesn’t impose too powerfully on your life, and privacy?  Do you, perhaps, hide behind a penname and refuse to have any photographs of yourself published?  If you do desire celebrity, would you feel offended if you were not recognised by those you meet?

I will reveal something here.  I not only have no desire for celebrity myself, I’ve never been impressed that somebody else is a celebrity.  Whatever the scandal sheets might like us to believe, there’s no way we can know what a celebrity is really like.  Let’s face it, we have enough trouble understanding people we’re close to!  It’s possible that I have, in the past, offended the famous, by not showing any overt excitement at meeting them.  For example, in just one instance, our sons brought home a new friend one day.  They were all fans of Games Workshop’s Warhammer/Warhammer 40K and that was enough for them.  They had met at the local Games Workshop section of a major local department store.  A while later, the young lad’s father arrived to collect him.  Naturally, he was invited in.  While his son prepared to drag himself away from the games, he viewed our gathering of cockatiels, which we had just started to breed.  He was fascinated and told us that he had a friend who bred cockatoos.  There was nothing false about him.  I liked him, and that’s uncommon for me, in so short a time.  When he had his son safely in tow, he departed with genuinely friendly words and thanks for looking after his boy (though we’d done nothing more than let him be).  After he had departed, and my wife had come back into the living room, I mentioned the man was none other than Griff Rhys Jones, then famed as a comedian, though he is also an actor, writer and TV presenter.  She was astonished, though she had had strong suspicions (I’m afraid she struggles at times with putting names to faces).  Of course, when she mentioned this fact to our sons, it was utterly meaningless to them.  They had never seen him (that they could recall) so his fame was somewhat less impressive to them.   If I offended him by not acknowledging him as anything more than a visitor, then I apologise.  In truth, I don’t believe it worried him in the slightest!  There must be times when celebrity wears you down.

So, what’s your ambition?  Celebrity?  Simple notoriety?  Or just read and enjoyed?

~ Steve