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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