With social media, sites like Goodreads and author blogs, writers have never been more accessible. But before all that, the only way readers and authors could connect was at author signings or via written letters. Today romance author Madeline Ash shares her thoughts on an Margret Atwood's theory on the double nature of writers and how writer accessibility has changed.
I’ve been going through some of my old university fiction readings, and rediscovered an interesting extract called Duplicity: the Jekyll hand, the hyde hand, and the slippery double, by Margaret Atwood. It discusses the theory of writers having double natures.
Basically, the theory is this: to be a writer is to have two identities cohabiting in the same body. One, the Person who exists when no writing is taking place (the one who brushes their teeth, does the grocery shopping, and clips their toenails) and ‘that other more shadowy and altogether more equivocal personage who shares the same body, and who, when no one is looking, takes it over and uses it to commit the actual writing’ — aka the Writer.
This makes me wonder. Are writers really like two different people living under the same skin? ‘When writers have spoken consciously of their own double natures, they’re likely to say that one half does the living, the other half the writing, and that each is parasitic upon the other,’ Atwood states.
Now that rings true, and probably does for many other writers out there. If the Writer in me had her own way, I’d be at the notebook and keyboard night and day. I wouldn’t cook, shower, or sleep. And if the Person had her own way, I certainly wouldn’t be wasting the precious days of my life sitting in front of a screen, lost in fantasy land. I wouldn’t slouch for hours at a time, ignoring restless muscles and the dog begging for a walk. The Writer is a pest to the Person, and vice versa.
‘Can an “author” exist apart from the work and the name attached to it?’ Attwood asks.
Good question, and one that’s pertinent to our online lives. When you think about it, it’s not the Writer who does blog tours, or invests precious time building a social media presence, or attends conferences. It’s the Person. The Writer writes. She writes and that’s that, leaving the promotional efforts to the Person.
Authors always used to be an enigma. The intangible genius behind our favourite books: the creator of our most beloved characters, the mastermind of the most memorable plots. Back in the day, many authors had a reputation for being eccentric, mysterious, and mercurial.
But it is now easy for readers to connect and interact with authors on social media.
According to Margaret Attwood’s theory, the only way you can interact with the Writer is to read their books—their body of work is the only body they perpetually inhabit. Any other interaction is with the Person.
And this makes me wonder — what is your opinion on the modern day accessibility of writers and how it detracts from the mystique of the “author”?
If you’re a reader, do you love being able to read about authors’ daily lives online? Does this bring you a sense of connectedness that would otherwise leave you feeling detached from the personality behind the book? Or are you the kind of reader that once you’ve fallen in love with a book, you’re hesitant to connect with the author in case you don’t quite click with them, and that taints your love of their writing?
- Madeline Ash
This piece originally appeared on Madeline Ash's blog and has been reposted with the author's permission.
Look for Maeline Ash's latest release, The Playboy's Dark Secret, available now. For more romance author news and coverage visit our Everything Romance page.