As a mental health professional, I've spent plenty of time thinking about the issue of personal self-disclosure, to clients in particular--and had to re-think it when I put up a website as LZcybershrink and started to practice on the Internet. With my first mystery due to be published, I have to re-think it again. It's particularly important to me to get it right because my main theme is rather highly charged. I hope my book will appeal to several different groups: recovering alcoholics, codependents, adult children of alcoholics, and mystery lovers who are not in any of those categories. I want to avoid setting up any kind of "us" and "them," because one group's "us" is another's "them." Yet many readers want to know how authors know the stuff they write about. Did we get it out of books? Did it come from personal experience? To other writers: have you had this kind of dilemma? If so, how have you dealt with it? To readers: how much do you care about an author's personal life? Liz

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Yes, readers want to know. No, as an author I don't think it is relevant to the enjoyment and understanding of my books.
What a great topic for discussion!

Personally, I wish authors received the same kind attention and respect they did back in the days of Hemingway and Faulkner. We're entertainers. Everyone wants to write a book. So why aren't we "rock stars" just like any other entertainer? Athletes get endorsement deals, actors and actresses get mobbed by photographers, and musicians have groupies.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating that writers write in *pursuit* of fame--not at all--but I do feel that it should be a side effect of a certain level of success. Not because fame in and of itself is all that great, but because of the power to influence younger readers and school-aged aspiring writers. It's hard for authors to compete with video games, Marilyn Manson, Paris Hilton, or TRANSFORMERS these days. But if someone made writing novels cool again, it would motivate youngsters to emulate them.

OK, so that's a little off topic to the bulk of your post, but as a reader and a writer, I care A LOT about the lives of my favorite authors. I secretly dream of Lee Child knocking out a paparazzi, or James Ellroy getting busted smoking a blunt on the red carpet at the Oscars.

As for the more meaningful implications of readers understanding the source of inspiration an author taps into, and the experiences which inform their work, I think they're both important. However, as a mental health professional, you have to be careful ethically. "Us vs. Them," frankly, makes for an entertaining read, but it's probably not the impression you want to give potential clients.

Anyway, thanks for an interesting topic!
My wonderful friend PJ Nunn is always telling me about how she's going to make me "rich and famous," and I keep asking her if she can skip the "famous" part. I tell my readers (both of them) things about my life that are relevant to my writing, but I don't answer personal questions, mostly because they're almost never asked. I'm not especially worried about it, since I don't expect Stephen King-like sales numbers and "fame" to me is the opportunity to be interviewed by the local weekly. But I am careful about anything that gets distributed on the web, especially as it pertains to my children.
This is a great question, Liz. As a gay writer who writes about gay characters, I face the same questions. On the one hand, I want to be a role model. But I don't want to cram my personal life down readers' throats; the books should speak for themselves. And like Jeff, I try to be aware of what gets out on line.

I was surprised recently when I read an author's blog that dealt with the breakup of her marriage. I'm sure it was therapeutic, and she got lots of support from readers-- but six months or a year from now will that personal material embarrass her?

Like any communication, particularly email, I think the answer is write then store it away, and come back a day or two later. If it still seems appropriate to send/post, then do it.


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