Monday, June 16, 2014

The Dichotomy of Identity and In-person Events

I must apologize for the tardiness of this post, but I am currently in South Africa and forgot to schedule a blog post for today! Here's a picture of me playing with lion cubs, which hopefully makes up for the lateness of this post...

While I am officially in South Africa visiting my family - many of whom I haven't seen in four years - I am also here doing some book promo for my South African set YA contemporary novel The Other Me. This novel was largely inspired by my teen years at a private, Catholic, all-girls school in Johannesburg, so being back in the city where I grew up after quite a few years of living in Finland is rather surreal and really special.

Even more special is that I'll be back at my high school later this week to chat to the staff and pupils about creativity, writing and of course, my book. And this brings me to the real topic for this blog post: in-person author events.

In-person promo is so different from online promotion. I find it a lot harder to talk about myself and my books when I'm face to face with an audience. While I have done some in-person events before, this is the first time I will be addressing an audience filled with people I know. It's infinitely easier talking to strangers about the events in my life that inspired The Other Me. Talking to some of the very people who were actually part of that time of my life and part of what inspired the story is quite terrifying.

Similarly, on Wednesday I'll be speaking at an LGBT event at a local university. Excited, enthusiastic and honoured to be invited to speak at this CtrlAltGender meeting, I very quickly created an event on Facebook and invited all my friends. Now all my friends are going and that's wonderful, but again, I'm faced with the terrifying prospect of talking about a very personal book in front of people I know, and not all of those friends know that I identify as genderqueer; in fact, I have only really spoken to a few people about my identity (well, outside of everyone on the Internet I guess) so the thought of standing up in front of my friends and even some family members and taking ownership of who I am, is scary in ways I can't begin to describe.

This brings me to the dichotomy of identity: the one we have In Real Life and the one we have online. I have found it much easier to be who I am online, to be my authentic self the way I want my YA characters to be. Somewhat hypocritically, I find it far more difficult to be this same authentic self in real life. By accepting these in-person events, I am forcing myself to amalgamate my online and offline identity in a very public way. I suddenly have a very real understanding of how my characters feel when faced with the prospect of coming out and I am emboldened by these fictional characters, their courage and their inner strength. I never imagined that the characters I created would be the ones to inspire me in return. 

The point of this rather rambling post is that authors can be inspired by their own creations and that it's only when we face our fears that we can be truly free. That's what I'm telling myself now as I attempt to summon the courage required for this week's public speaking events. I have no idea how I'll feel after the fact, but that's okay because no matter how this all turns out, it's going to be a learning experience and what is life if not an opportunity for new experiences?

How do you feel about in-person author events? 


  1. Balancing those identities is definitely not easy. It sounds like a wonderful opportunity to be back in South Africa.

  2. It certainly is and one I'm most grateful for!