I've been thinking quite a bit recently about what it means to be in the public eye as a writer. One of my friends reminded me of this video, filmed when I was 18 for The Eyes of a King:
But I still wanted to find a way to talk directly with the people who had been reading my books. For one thing, I appreciate the commitment and loyalty of readers who have chosen to spend several hours of their lives in the world that I've created. I also appreciate the fact that many people have written letters to let me know that they are waiting patiently for the third book, a particularly generous and encouraging thing to do. And, most of all, I didn't want to miss the chance to talk about reading and writing with interesting, like-minded people.
I looked at how other writers were managing to do this, and began to realise that being in the public eye as a writer has become something very different over the past seven years. When I first signed a publishing contract, in 2006, writers who wanted to communicate with their readers mainly did this through interviews with traditional media or organised public appearances: it was all very one-sided. Now, writers have interactive websites and blogs, Twitter feeds and profiles on social networking sites. They can talk to other writers and other readers directly and instantly, and most importantly, they can listen. It's more of a democracy. And for me, this is really positive. I think both the traditional ways of communicating and the new ones are necessary . It's a great thing that I can first read a literary interview with a distinguished writer like Salman Rushdie, and immediately afterwards go and follow him on Twitter! Writing is a dialogue, after all, and always has been - it's just becoming a wider and more inclusive one.
So on the first day of 2013 I decided to stop being a hermit and join in! I've tried to find ways that I can be as approachable as possible in the run-up to the publication of The Heart at War. Of course, I'm making the book my first priority, so I've mainly been working on this during the odd moments of spare time I can find at evenings and weekends. All the same, I've made progress in my journey into the 21st century: I now have a Facebook page, a Twitter feed and - one I particularly like - a Pinterest page where I'll try to share images that inspire me and which relate to the books, as well as giving a few clues about The Heart at War and, of course, following the beautiful pages other writers and readers have created.
What I like most about these ways of connecting is that they are about books and ideas, about sharing things, not just about individuals. They open up a whole world of reading, writing and thinking that is much larger and richer than your own single contribution could ever be. Communication, as a writer, has become less like a speech from a pedestal and more like a friendly conversation. I find that I'm inspired by the discussions and creativity going on, without necessarily having to say very much myself - something that has always suited quiet people like me much better anyway!
What do you think about authors using social networks? Which are the best ways to connect and start conversations about reading and writing, in your view? And do you have a page, blog or Twitter feed that you would like me to follow?