Wake up, Polly Parrot.


Meet The Author
by Brian Plante

Since you're reading this on my website, I guess you want to know more about the author. Maybe you also go to readings, signings or conventions to meet the people behind the words. Thanks for coming, but really, sometimes you don't wanna know.

When I was in college, I took a course in Science Fiction (I didn't get a very good grade in it, but that's another story). A couple of big-name pro SF writers were invited as guest lecturers, and were the first writers I ever met personally. They weren't bad speakers, but they didn't help my idea of writers in general. Before their lectures, I tended to put writer on a pedestal, thinking they had some remarkable skill that ordinary people like me could never hope to match. At these lectures, I saw for the first time that writers are just regular people.

Maybe that's OK for you -- you're comfortable with the idea that writers are no different from the rest of us. Some are smart and witty, some dull as dishwater, and others downright insulting. If you hope that the writer, in person and up close, will be as sparkling and enthralling as his prose, you may be sorely disappointed.

You may be surprised to find, as I did, that some writers whose works you treasure are less that admirable. I won't name names, but some are obnoxious drunks, insufferable bores, or cantankerous curmudgeons. Many authors are indeed as pleasant in person as their written works, but you can't necessarily infer the writer's personality from his works.

Of course, if you enjoy a writer's work, the fact that he's an ill-tempered know-it-all in person shouldn't affect your opinion of his books. It shouldn't, but it invariably does. Perhaps you can still enjoy that writer's work, but maybe you just don't seek out that author's new book when it comes out. If it is an author you have not read yet, perhaps you never give him a chance after finding his personality disagreeable.

In a perfect world, all writers would be like Isaac Asimov. Asimov was witty, charming and erudite in person, and made even the most ordinary things sound interesting. If you saw him at a convention or on a talk show, you couldn't help but think his books must be as interesting as their author. Even if you ultimately didn't like his books, his in-person appearances piqued your interest and begged you to check him out. On the other side of the coin, I'd guess the powerful writer Truman Capote probably turned off plenty of potential readers with his cartoonish voice and unusual appearance. Was this really the guy who wrote In Cold Blood? No, it's not fair to judge a book by the appearance of its author, but that's human nature.

I wonder, as a writer, what kind of impression I will make in personal appearances. Will I do more harm than good by making myself visible to my audience? In the looks department, I'm no Mel Gibson, but I'm no Truman Capote either. My voice is a bit thin and reedier than I'd like, and I'm not a natural public speaker. If I could just write the stories and pay some handsome and charismatic actor to go out on the road and be "Brian Plante" for the readers, I would.

If you do go to a signing or convention and your favorite writer doesn't measure up to your expectations, give her a break. She might be uncomfortable doing such publicity chores. If you liked her books in the past, you should still like them. The books haven't changed just by your meeting the writer.

Do you really want to meet me? Maybe you should just read my stuff. Be careful what you wish for.

Copyright © 2001 Brian Plante

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