I'm not really sure why it came as a shock to find out that urban fantasy author Kim Harrison really isn't named Kim Harrison, she really isn't a redhead, and she regards her black clothes as a costume. She didn't even start out in the urban fantasy genre, but in the fantasy genre as Dawn Cook. For some reason this development really surprised me. I always suspected her red hair was a wig (it had that "look" about it), but the revelation that her name and even her wardrobe were all part of a "persona" really floored me.
Yet, at the same time, it sheds some light as to why I have been asked multiple times if I'm really goth and if I "really dress that way." I may dress up more when I go to events, but yes, I'm goth and I really do dress this way. I have a closet full of pretty goth clothes and neat shoes that I love to wear. There is a store here in Austin that I love to shop at called Secret Oktober and it carries some beautiful clothes and accessories. I'm always on the lookout for something new to wear and love funky shoes.
As I wandered around the blogsphere, I noticed some Kim Harrison fans were rather upset to find out "Kim Harrison" doesn't really exist, while others could care less. It also appears to be part of an increasing trend among genre authors to "dress up" or "dress the part" when attending conventions and book signings.
It brought to mind the original controversy a few years ago when several paranormal romance writers attended the RWA conference dressed as their characters. They garnered a lot of attention (both positive and negative) and continue to dress up to support their novels. New York Times Bestselling author Carrie Vaughn shares photos of her dressed up in her costumes for the various clubs she is a part of and back in the day Anne Rice was known to show up wearing ornate costumes.
Since genre fiction writers deal in worlds of make believe and fantasy, we live with conflicting views on who we should be when we step away from the computer. Some writers love to stress how very "normal" they are in their "real" lives, while others love to stress how very abnormal they are in their "real" lives. Some stress how much they are or are not like the fantastical characters they write. Some seem to try to appear like them. Laurel K. Hamilton comes to mind resembling her Anita Blake in recent photos.
Some writers loathe going out in public, while others revel in it. From blog to blog, the message changes constantly. It can be very confusing for an author just starting out. Do you just sit home and write the story? Do you dress up and promote the story any way you can? Do you reveal your true self? Do you hide it?
What to do?
If I were to put on a persona for As The World Dies, I would probably have to don jeans, cowboy boots and a tank top in tribute to Jenni and Katie. I honestly can't bring myself to do that. I hate jeans, cowboy boots look good on other people, and tank tops are for sleeping in. For Pretty When She Dies, I'd have to look like a rocker chick and I don't think I can fit that bill either. A gown from the Regency era might be fun to wear to a costume ball (hrmmm...may do that at Horror Realm) to pay tribute to Lady Glynis Wright in The Tale of the Vampire Bride, but I wouldn't want to do that for a book signing. Though I think author's wearing costumes can be pretty neat, it's not for me.
So how much do I reveal of my true self?
When I started on this endeavor, my husband did ask me to take down a lot of personal photos I had up of us and to be careful with how much I divulged. Every time I post on a social network, I do keep in mind that the information will be seen by people I don't even know. Sometimes I have had to delete posts from friends to keep my personal life a little more discreet. But that being said, I also want to be accessible to my readers. I think communication between writers and readers can be very valuable. I have enjoyed my interactions with fans immensely. Since I feel the best communication is honest, I try to be my "normal" self.
So, yes, I am goth. Yes, I am this goofy. Yes, I am this random. Yes, I am a klutz (I trip over air) and tend to get easily distracted (SQUIRREL). Yes, I am a person of faith who believes in Jesus Christ, but also reads tarot cards. I am politically all over the map depending on the issue, though back in the day I was a Republican. I am a straight woman who is married, and also a strong supporter of LGBT issues. I'm multi-ethnic (though I feel closer to my Italian roots) and have been taken for about 20 ethnic groups (Turkish, Israeli. Spanish, Irish, Italian, Mexican, Indian, Pakistani, Arabic, Greek...) and wish I spoke all those languages. I'm forty and loving it. I could be more fit and I'm working on it. I'm happy in my life and treasure the positive aspects of it. And I am a Texan and DAMN proud.
All these elements create who I am as a writer and keeps me in the business of writing stories.
And, yes, this is who I am.