Wednesday, 30 June 2010

The "fan" and me

In all honesty, I'm still deeply uncomfortable with the term "fan", especially when it comes to me. "My" "fans" - I can't put in enough quote marks to express the raised-eyebow and "are you talking about me???" feeling I get from that.

I'm not humble, I just feel a little awkward. The way I refer to the people reading my stuff is simply - readers. I myself am not "fannish". There are almost no things in the world I'd call myself a fan of. I like stuff, I follow stuff, but "fan" is simply too strong a word.

On a personal level, I'm just somebody who writes and puts stuff out there. Yes, people are involved (it's not creative masturbation), but I see them more as the addressees of my writing than "fans" of me as the author or even my whole body of work. There will always be people who love Special Forces and none of my other things, and always people who want me to write "alone" and people who don't like my writing anything but dark and heart-rending.

The sheer scope and strength of the muse demands I produce a fairly diverse body of work (which will include mainstream books if the inspiration strikes), and the only person who will love everything I do is me. And even that's not a guarantee. After a few years, many texts lose energy and there are passages that I read and go WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING. It's a conscious and serious efford to accept that stories "age" and "fade" - it's hard to keep my hands away and say "that was me, this is me now". Even I am not a fan of myself, or at least not all of it.

Career-wise, I don't have to please everybody and I'm not inoffensive. I get into fights, I can come across as a belligerent, snarky asshole (especially in reviews and when I rant), but I have that freedom because my paycheque is not from (creative) writing. In the truest sense of the word, I'm an amateur and likely always will be one. Also, I've always published in niches, clubby "oh, don't I know you from somewhere" kinda places.

In RPG circles, I was a fairly established creator/writer, and it was all very informal. In RPGs, everybody is creative, I was just one of the guys who wrote it all down and got paid for it (if I was lucky). There has never been any distance between me and the people I'm writing for and that buy my books. It was all on a first-name basis, too. Not literary establishment by a long stretch, and that's exactly how I like it.

Now that I'm gaining what's called "traction" in the gay m/m romance niche, I suddenly face the situation where people send me letters signed with "your devoted/loyal fan". Heartwarming, utterly charming, to feel that outpouring of love from a stranger, somebody who feels they owe me praise based on some words I put down years or months ago.

And then I suddenly realise that emailing them, chatting with them leads to "OMG, the author CHATTED WITH ME" moments. Part of me can't stop grinning, because it's so endearing and cool and nice, some part of me goes "woah, I'm just somebody who puts words down..." and I think I don't "deserve" that kind of affection/love (I mean, for what? I just put down words as good as I can, but my motivation to do so is 90% internal. I do it because I want to and because I feel I owe developing that "gift" as much as I can - and share it. Responsibility and all that.) I'd lie if I denied there's also a moment of smugness that says "hell, I must be doing something right." But the overall feeling is "holy shit, what's just happening???"

I do wonder how people cope with that. Say you get from rags to overnight fame, from total obscurity to being "somebody" and people go crazy not just over the writing but YOU the author, your whole body of work. Everything you do. How do the Big Guns cope?

I'm glad to be in a very small niche - I never want to have to give up the personal contact and feeling "we're all peers here". I want to have the time to engage with my readers and chat to them for an hour or more. That's really what all this is about. People, and getting words out. Touching a life or two. Shortening a commute. Making people laugh and cry.

As a very good writer and writing teacher once said: "Your ego doesn't matter."


  1. Will you lose all respect for me if I tell you I am a fan of yours? Will you roll your eyes and mutter 'get a life' if I tell you I read your blog before anything else because I made it one of my browser home pages?

  2. May I deliver some explanation?

    In the roleplaying scene everybody knows everybody... it´s like... yeah, his street sammy was pretty kick ass.
    And after all, we all started with a D&D or DSA adventurer at some point.

    Here? You´re mysterious. Exotic. And simply not THAT "touchable".

    In my opinion it´s that remoteness.

    But it´s funny as hell.

    What´s even funnier?

    That your fans have fans for being your fans!

  3. To you, you might be someone who simply writes what your muse dictates, but I venture that your muse is a savvy bugger, who understands not only you but your readers.

    Niche, maybe, but there are those of us who crave the next Aleks word, because we have been charmed, intoxicated, lured, and left breathless by all the words that came before. It is your style, your unique view on each situation you write about which makes your fans wish for more.

    A hack, you're not, my dear. You have a wonderful gift, not only for putting words down but for the complicated, dark, intriguing stories you tell.

    Dammit, I am supposed to be editing a book I wrote for submission and I can't break away from Mercenaries long enough to do it! My goal of eight books by December, under contract, is only half realized, though I have all but one written. Why? Because, Aleks Voinov is such a damn good writer that I can't settle into my own stuff.

    That, my dear, has never happened before.

    Your unabashed FAN,
    Brita Addams

  4. I'm a reader. :) Just a little readergirl.

    Here? You´re mysterious. Exotic. And simply not THAT "touchable".

    This... true too.

    But what do I know. Just a little readergirl.

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  6. @Elaine: I'll always respect and cherish you. It's just weird to me. I'm happy to have "fans", but I wouldn't use the term. Or try to avoid it. :) Hope your move's soon wrapped up - this crap gets tiresome so quickly.

    @Kat: *laughs* Okay - fan of a fan is... unique.

    @Brita: Jesus, woman, a love letter like that in public... let's do a deal - I'll send you an unreleased story if you finish your edits. No cheating!

    @Amora: "just a readergirl"? Clever, Black Mamba. You had me fooled - for a nanosecond.

  7. heehee. Not buying that? Well, I tried. :P

  8. I'll take your unreleased story and promise to edit, I'm promising, really I am. Dan is still a HO! but I will get to my own Splendid Captivity, I will, I will.

  9. @Brita: How's the editing looking?