Monday, January 10, 2011
When the real author disappoints
by Clare Langley-Hawthorne
In the last couple weeks I have watched two movie biopics about famous children's authors - one was the terribly miscast Miss Potter (about Beatrix Potter) and the other, entitled Enid, was about one of my favorite children's author, Enid Blyton. The latter was a bit of a shock as Enid herself was not in the least what I expected - and this goes to the heart of my blog post today - how readers' expectations of what an author is like in real life are rarely borne out.
I had expected Enid Blyton to be an adventurous, maternal, 'jolly hockey sticks' sort who loved to play games with her own children and who was just as fun and charming as her books. Boy, was I wrong. She was (assuming the movie depiction is correct) an ambitious, selfish and vindictive woman who couldn't stand being with her own children except for the one hour a day she allocated to them (nanny had them the rest of the day) before she then packed them off to boarding school. She reminded me of so many brittle, stiff upper lip Englishwomen who secretly despise their own offspring - but (I wailed!) she wrote such lovely children's books. How could it be?!!!
I was of course mistaking the author for her stories...and who amongst us hasn't fallen into that trap?
The movie Enid presents a side of the author that I hope my own children (huge Enid Blyton fans) never see. In many ways I think as a reader I prefer not knowing anything about my favorite authors, lest finding out ruins reading their books forever. Since Enid Blyton wrote 750 books over her lifetime (amazing in and of itself!) many a child would have been deprived of her wonderful stories had their parents known the kind of woman she really was (and in some way what does it matter, her books should stand on their own, shouldn't they?)
So have you met an author only to find your perception of him/her totally dashed because he or she were nothing like what you anticipated- nothing, in fact, like their books at all?
Have any of my fellow Kill Zoners been confronted by a fan who has expressed their own surprise/shock/dismay that the author persona was nothing like what they expected?
To date, I have only encountered fans who tell me I am exactly like they thought I'd be... (I'm not sure what that says about me or my writing!) Nonetheless I found myself lulled into the trap of hoping my childhood literary heroine was just like the girls she wrote about in her books. Sigh. It will be a few weeks before I can pick up one of her books again to read to my sons without feeling disappointment that fiction was so far removed from reality.