Karen Wheeler

Guest Blogger: Karen Wheeler on blogs, anonymity & novel writing

by Sasha Wilkins on August 27, 2010 · 16 comments

To be anonymous or not? Many bloggers will be familiar with the dilemma. After initially writing under the pseudonym Mimi Pompom on my blog www.toutsweet.net, I outed myself last year, shortly before the publication of my first book Tout Sweet: Hanging Up my High Heels for a New Life in France

It’s the (true) story of a former newspaper fashion editor who (foolishly) moves to the Poitou-Charentes region of France – an area that LLG knows well and has written about recently – to renovate a house alone.

But, as I have since discovered, there are perils to writing openly about your life. Even though I changed the name of my village, over the past two months it’s become increasingly common to find a reader or two waiting in the local cafe with a book to be signed.

It’s hugely flattering but it means that I can no longer leave the house in the morning with my hair looking like I stuck my fingers in an electrical socket, for fear that readers might think, ‘God did she really used to be a fashion editor?’

One of the biggest dilemmas is exactly how much to reveal. I started to question the wisdom of sharing quite so much detail about my love life, when a stranger at a party flashed me a knowing smile and said ‘I know far more about you than you know about me.’

One man rocked up at my door with two bottles of wine hoping to meet my dog; several others have written to say they looked for my house but couldn’t find it and to ask why there is no sign saying ‘Maison Coquelicot’ outside.

And as for the locals, how could I have known, when I described the dress shop in my village as selling an ‘an eye-poppingly awful selection of polyester clothing,’ that the owner would become a friend? Thankfully he speaks no English and the book has yet to be translated into French. For similar reasons, I’m currently avoiding the owner of the local wine shop, who’s just found out that he’s in the book too.

And although I try to disguise the badly-behaving expat Brits in my books, one former friend (also a writer) is no longer speaking to me after imagining herself to be the bisexual yoga teacher in ‘Tout Sweet’.

There is however, one key character in my latest book Toute Allure: Falling in Love in Rural France who hasn’t complained. That’s my little dog Biff, who on the contrary, is lapping up the increased attention.

I’d like to invite any lovely LLG readers based in London to join me for a glass of champagne and a (short) reading of Toute Allure at Waterstones, Kensington High Street, 7-8pm on Thursday September 9. Tickets are not required but numbers are limited so if you would like to come along, please call Waterstones Kensington, tel 0207 937 8432 or email events@kensington.waterstones.com.

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan August 27, 2010 at 18:13

Well said. It’s a difficult whether one is blogging or not (the ‘how much to reveal’ bit). But the scary part is how far/wide “the reach” can go – either way – the the webbytubes. Won’t be in UK but will absolutely check out the blog & the book. Good luck.

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pierre l August 27, 2010 at 18:23

How lovely to see you here Karen. I can certainly recommend Toute Allure which I finished last week.

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Madeleine Gallay August 28, 2010 at 11:43

A wry take on what is a dilemma and anonymity becomes semi somehow.

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Vanessa Vinos August 28, 2010 at 13:59

Great to see you here too Karen!
Wish I could join you in my old stomping ground Kensington (feeling really homesick now :-)

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Tracy August 29, 2010 at 00:48

As a fellow blogger, I too often ask myself these types of questions. Celebrities are always complaining about the paparazzi and how their lives aren’t their own, yet there are millions of people out there (myself included) voluntarily sharing personal information with strangers. I happen to be kind of shy in person and am much more at home communicating with people through writing. Maybe that’s because blogging provides a venue in which I can enjoy a one-sided conversation. Or because blogging provides a false sense of security in publishing what is essentially one’s own private journal. I guess I don’t really have any answers; I’m just saying that I feel your pain. Best of luck with blogging and your book!

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Aja August 29, 2010 at 10:21

I’m sorry, I’m still laughing at the dress shop bit. Those are some descriptive words!

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victoria October 26, 2010 at 10:49

Love your books, my husband has just lost me to you for the last day and half while I read ‘Toute allure’ which i have now sadly finished.

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Jane Brooke February 14, 2011 at 06:50

I have just finished reading both of your books and I feel as though I have lost a friend, I miss the daily fix of sharing your trial and tribulations – highs and lows. I think that is why people search you out, they feel they are your friend even though they are wrong.
Could you write a ‘slot’ on the Mail on Sunday perhaps, much like the one Michael Wright does for the Telegraph? It might help your fans and earn a penny or euro or two for you!
Please write another book! I have to know if it works out with ‘Luis’.
Yours Sincerly,
Jane Brooke.

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karen wheeler February 14, 2011 at 07:26

Dear Jane

many thanks for your message adn I’m delighted to hear that you enjoyed the books. Feedback like yours makes me think ‘what the hell? If people are happy to read about it, then I’m happy to keep over-sharing the details – and disasters – of my life.
I’m working on Tout 3 at the moment – one too many disasters to write about this time alas! – but if I get my skates on it should be out this summer. In the meantime, re the Mail on Sunday column, I’m going to give it a a go – I can only ask!
Thanks for the idea and the greatl feedback,
v best
Karen

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sarah barber April 20, 2011 at 04:45

I’m currently reading Toute Allure and while in a hurry to find out what happens next I don’t want to finish it! I love it, your books really take me away from it all and make me feel as though I’m there in France with you! I have just read your message about possibly having Tout 3 out for the summer; pleeeeease get your skates on!!!

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