Writers and Celebrity
I would like to believe that writers achieve celebrity because their work reflects a depth of thought and intelligence. That these writers see their fame as incidental to the excellence of their craft and, unlike actors, they don’t behave any differently once they have achieved the pinnacle of success. Most actors, after all, aren’t known to be deep thinkers, and therefore we tend to forgive their public outbursts, drug binges and generally bad behavior as by-products and delusions of their fame.
But if you talk to the publicists and editors and marketing departments who have to deal with celebrity novelists and journalists, you might be disheartened to learn that some of these authors can and have been as demanding as any diva actress or actor.
- One Canadian novelist megastar, for example, insists on having a certain kind of peppermint foot cream made available at each stop on a book tour.
- Another will not stay in a hotel unless that hotel has a fully equipped gym.
- Another insists that the chauffeured limousine on a book-tour be a certain color and actually once refused to board a normal black limousine.
- Another wouldn’t take meetings at their publishing house unless a certain kind of mineral water were served to all.
But there are lesser, perhaps more subtle examples.
- One writer turned down a considerable literary honor because that honor wasn’t in this person’s opinion honorable enough.
- Some writers who blurb books do so with the proviso that their blurbs are not used on social media, which, ironically has become one of the most important venues for promotion.
- Others insist on a certain kind of prominent billing at writers’ conferences.
- Someone I know acquainted with two American writers said to be in the running for the Nobel Prize once said to me, “their egos are so big, I wonder if we should just put them in the ring and let them wrestle for it.”
But here is where fame works against what a writer must do. When a writer feels important, they are in danger of being seduced away from the gritty reality of the world they need to write about thoroughly and objectively. Instead of writing about a cross-section of this world, these writers might end up writing about their own privileged niche. There are so many books out there that take place on college campuses or deal with the difficulties of those who live comfortably financially that sometimes it seems that the lives of ordinary people are under-represented.
An example of this might be the “New York City novel” about the struggles of the upper-echelons that keeps getting published every year. Beyond this, high-profile writers, knowing that their readers are out there waiting for their next book, might not dig deep enough because they feel they have to deliver something that these readers will want. The unknown writer is more apt to write out of pure passion, and this is perhaps is why the “first book” has turned out to be many well-published writers’ freshest and often greatest work. Every good writer has original subject matter that surely could inspire many good books; after all their life is unlike anyone else’s.