Who am I really?

No grammar or style comment this week – just got back from a weekend away and I’m far too tired to think of grammar!

Thanks everyone for the comments on the post below…I am replying here. I know which photo to send out of those three, for sure – but the general feeling seems to be that one ought to get photos done professionally with all the blemishes removed and edges softened and…

So I thought about it.

Here’s the same photo very amateurishly softened and glowed and with half the wrinkles and most of the age spots magically banished to the photo-blemish graveyard of the cyberworld. (Took me all of 30 secs to do this).

But is it me?

I am the product of a life in the sun – the first 15 years of which was spent without the benefit of sun screen. (Unfortunate result: three skin cancers). I am the product of my years. I’ve had kids and I’ve breastfed them. I am greying and my hair is thinning, and I rarely wear much makeup – if any – and you are more likely to see me sweatily lugging a huge telescope and tripod through mangrove mud, than dressed in Westwood, teetering on a pair of Jimmy Choo’s, clutching a handbag bought in Paris. I have wrinkles and age spots and arthritis. Things droop and wobble.

I’m not proud of any of that – any more than I am proud of being my age or being short or born blue-eyed. I’m not ashamed of any of it, either. It’s just what I am, much of it beyond my control. I really don’t have much say in the number of years I have been around…!

If I get a professional to photoshop the real weatherbeaten me into oblivion for publicity purposes, aren’t I subscribing to the same principles that lie behind this artificial world of airbrushed supermodels and botoxed celebrities that I so loathe for its despising of what is normal and healthy and real? People do get old. Things happen during the process. It doesn’t make us ugly or in need of cosmetic surgery to correct the “faults”. They are not faults!

No amount of lighting and airbrushing is going to make me a better writer – and my books are not going to be one whit more entertaining because of it. And I doubt that a pretty pix will sell a single book anyway…I am sure most of you agree with that. So why should I lie? Why should I buy into the fiction that growing old and not looking perfect is somehow wrong and in need of correction?

(And btw, if you saw me out in the tropical heat of the rainforest with the sweat dripping off the end of my nose in a reality shot, then I would look even worse!
And about now, you have all begun to realise why I named this blog “Tropic Temper” – Yep, I can rant with the best of ’em.)

So here’s what I have decided. I shall send the untouched photo to the marketing dept and let them make the choice. Yeah, at heart, I am just a cowardly writer who likes to pass the buck…

And thanks all, for your input. It was appreciated! You’re a great bunch of people. And I have no idea why my b & w photo at the top of the blog keeps blinking in and out of reality.


Who am I really? — 7 Comments

  1. You’re right, of course, and with someone whose strength lies in words it is less than infinitesimally important what they look like – the best storytellers might turn out to be lepers or be victims of bad burns in childhood or whatever but that does not affect in the least the kind of story that they can enchant with.

    It matters not a whit what you look like.

    I have yet to buy any book, ever, based on the fact that the author looks like Sean Connery or Francesca Annis. It is the words, it is the *story*, that matter(s).

    I admire your mettle in sending them your true self (the Faerie might find that a dangerous thing to do, eh?…) but having said all the above and in YOUR PARTICULAR CASE I still think that you should go something less formal-portraitish, something with the jungle where you spend your non-fantasy-writing days as a backdrop, perhaps, or at least a suggestion of that jungle – or at the very least, a darker background, because with that lovely halo of white hair you are currently doing a wonderful job of disappearing into the background of your photo. WHich might be your intention, for all I know – I’m just sayin’.

    I’m not suggesting retouching, you know. Just a slightly…. different approach.

    Of course, you’re probably sick of the whole thing by now *grin* so take ALL of this with a grain of salt…

  2. Y’know, I don’t think any of us buys books on the strength of the author’s appearance, but publishers seem to *think* we do; hence their preference for glam. OTOH, maybe it’s just my perception that they have a preference for glam…

    It’s nice to know you wear your “battle scars” proudly, Glenda. Go Glenda. Go all ladies of maturity and wisdom!

  3. I know some authors don’t think their personality should have anything to do with their writing at all, like the reclusive Greg Egan.

    But I think its natural to want to know something about authors we read. And I think its natural for that to include knowing what they look like. YOu can tell a lot about a person from what they look like (human brains are optimised for it).

    I’d think of it, rather than assessing your physical beauty (which would, of course, be silly as you say), think of it as someone deciding whether of nor they would like to have a long conversation with you on short acquaintance (which, of course, can mean physical beauty for the shallow, but probably doesn’t for your readers) – try to look good company and interesting!

  4. David is right. And I’ll add that nothing we see of Ms. Larke is really her – from the surname (changed from the supposedly difficult Noramly) – through the photo to the words in the book. But all of these things humanise the work.

    If Mr. Egan doesn’t want us to know anything about him, he probably shouldn’t write.

    Don’t worry, Glenda. At least they’ve asked for a photo of you. None of my publishers have dared put a photo of me on any of my books.

  5. I don’t think a photo adds much to my feel for an author’s personality – maybe seeing them in real life, when they’re moving and talking might, but not a jacket photo.

    Although an exception might be that one of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett for Good Omens…wasn’t that set in a graveyard?

    Maybe as Anghara says, a setting that says something about you might be better, if you have to have a photo? But anyway, I agree with what you’ve said and like that you’re not doing the airbrush model thing, Glenda!

  6. Anghara has a point, you know, about background.
    A stone wall, a ruined temple in the jungle, as a background for the word wizard?
    In other words, anything that might suggest a connection with your plots and reinforce your projection of authority and intelligence.
    You look very interesting as it is, the sort of person one wants to listen to – wisdom, experience – but a different background would improve that image.

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