Mar 28, 2010

[TSS]The Side Effects of Being A Writer - Guest Post by Karen Harrington

Recently I read Karen Harrington's amazing book JANEOLOGY and was blown away by it. It's one of those books that you really don't know what to expect but are completely satisfied with the journey. You can read my review here if you missed it before.

Today Karen has agreed to be my special guest and I'm so happy to have her! Karen and I have become online buddies through our blogs and Facebook over the last year or so. Recently we had a very interesting exchange about how personalities come across and more specifically how surprised I was at the drastic difference between how I've come to know Karen and the dark subject matter of her book. In this post, Karen has expounded on that in her own inquisitive and humorous way. So, without further ado, here's Karen in her own words . . .

The side effects of being a writer

You’ve heard those drug commercials with the laundry list of possible side effects.

This drug may cause stomach upset, drowsiness, changes in eye color, walking, driving or having an affair in your sleep, colored urine or amnesia.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the side effects of being a writer. They are often as unexpected and funny as those listed above (which are all REAL, by the way, depending on the drug used.) I’ve kept a diary of my experience as a debut author and I can tell you – I have a list of unexpected side effects, all of which make me smile.

- Strangers send me nice emails. (This is simply wonderful. Please email your favorite authors. Who doesn’t want a friendly note?)

- Strangers send me emails demanding to know more about the ending. (This makes me smile.)

- I only make about $1 per book. (But I get paid much more in other means than money.)

- People tell me the acknowledgements were one of the favorite things in the book. (Wow, I wrote that paragraph in what, ten minutes?)

- People ask me when my next book is coming out. (Squeeee!)

- Readers ask me how I could write the point of view of a man so believably. (I never thought about this when I was writing the book, but virtually everything I’ve ever written has been from the perspective of a man.)

But recently, our lovely blogger Lisa got in touch with me after reading Janeology and posed a new thought. She commented “I’m curious. I’ve gotten to know you a bit through Facebook and on your blog and was surprised by the dark subject of your book.”

Talk about things that make you think.

Lisa’s curiosity got me to thinking about the whole nature of public perception as it relates to blogging and Facebook. This is a fascinating area all by itself. For instance, one of my Facebook friends met a girl, fell in love with a girl and broke up with a girl – and I read about the entire relationship life-cycle via his Facebook status updates. Reading the intimacies of his joy through heartbreak – one sentence at a time – probably caused me to make assumptions about his personality. By the time of the break-up, I was ready to flog the girl who broke his heart. She seemed mean and cruel while he seemed so sensitive and misunderstood.

Was this true? Maybe. Or maybe he was the jerk. Or maybe worse – a stalker! Only he knows. But his Facebook personality certainly made him sympathetic.

Now, this whole topic makes me wonder if a writer’s virtual personality necessarily has to match his/her writing themes. Do I necessarily need to post things about human nature and the dark nuances of humanity so you’ll know I write novels about troubled souls? Perhaps I do, but the blog wouldn’t last for long.

When I was first published, I did whatever my publisher advised. If they said, start a blog, I did. If they said join every social networking site, I did. I thought I was blogging to sell books, but then I realized I was doing it for the sheer benefits of connecting with other people. A writer’s day is pretty solitary, but checking in with blog friends and Facebook pals is sort of like getting up and walking over to a co-worker’s cubicle and saying “Hey, did you get those TPS reports?”

So for this reason, I’ve created a blog that (I think) offers the kind of at-work discussion I’d like to have with you during a stressful day. Sometimes it reflects my writing themes, but mostly it reflects my writing struggles and my reading interests. When I take a break from writing a particularly emotional scene, it’s nice to switch gears and read a book review or write an opinion piece. Does this give an opposite impression from the themes of my writing? Well, yes. Only time will tell if that has an impact on my future readership. My upcoming novel, PRODIGAL SON, is about the ripple effect hypocrisy has on a family after their patriarch, a famous mega-preacher, falls from grace. Will it sway readers either way if, on the day this book is released, I post on essay on why I think the Snuggie craze is hilarious? Maybe so.

I guess what I’ve realized about my conversation with Lisa is this: Having a virtual personality is an interesting side effect of being a novel writer. And come what may, I’ll continue to do it because the social benefits are far greater than I could ever have imagined. (And where else can I write my opinions on Snuggie’s?)


I can't thank Karen enough for graciously taking the time to write a special post for my blog. I also can't encourage any reader more to take the time and read JANEOLOGY. It's an amazing story that will stay with you long after you've finished the book. It touched me so much that I have begun my own journey into my family's history and am building my own family tree. With the help of and my parents, I'm learning more about my ancestors than I ever thought I would. If you'd like to learn more about JANEOLOGY, read an excerpt from the book or contact Karen, please visit her website.

Karen, thanks again, my friend for sharing your thoughts and your talent.


  1. Great guest post. The next time I love a book, I am going to email the author right away! I love Karen's blog and hope to read her book before long.

  2. Your review convinced me to read this book and now this post only reinforced that idea. I like the question that you posed to her and now truly wonder about the people behind the facebooks, blogs, we really know each other???? Great post!

  3. I read Janeology several weeks ago and really liked it - I should have gotten to it sooner! I loved this guest post of hers too...and I'll have to remember her advice about e-mailing authors.

  4. This was wonderful, Karen! I love the idea of writer side-effects - so fun! Your point is also valid about people's perceptions of others based on online information. This was a really interesting post! :-)

  5. I really enjoy this post and Karen's blog (although I don't comment there nearly often enough).

    Karen has led me to several wonderful blogs as well (like this one).

    Now to find time to read Janeology...

  6. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this guest post. It brought up so many great points about authors and perceptions we are putting out there in social media. I hadn't thought about it in that way before. Thanks Karen! I need to get a copy of this book, it sounds wonderful. I have been finding out more about my family history and need to do a better job of recording it. Your enthusiasm for this book has convinced me that I need to read it!


Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment! I look forward to hearing from you again soon!