What's love (or most other stuff) got to do with it?

When going over the galleys for Trouble Down The Road, I found myself frowning at my biography page. It then occurred to me what the problem was, and I picked up my red marked and drew a line through three words: “with her husband,” as in “She makes her home in Southeastern Wisconsin with her husband.”

Now, before any rumors get started, my husband and I are still very much together. (I think of him not as my second husband, but as my last husband.) But, as my recently eliminated-from-my-author-biography spouse would put it, “What does that have to do with the price of tea in China?” The real question here is, "What does that have to do with my books?"

The answer, of course, is, “Nothing.” It occurred to me at that moment that my marital status really doesn’t belong in that little “About the Author” paragraph, which is usually limited to the mention of my most recent novel or what number novel this particular book is, my general geographic area, and an invitation to visit my web site or to befriend me on Facebook. If I'd made a bestseller list or won any awards, or had a book optioned for film, I'd mention that, of course. Maybe if I'd majored in creative writing or English in college I'd mention that as well, but because I was an Accounting major, what's the point in saying where I went to school?

I'll never forget reading a bio of an author whose book I enjoyed, and in that one brief paragraph she got in her husband’s full name, the name of his employer, plus his profession. I knew more about the spouse than the author, which made no sense to me. She was probably just trying to pay homage to him for his emotional support while she wrote (anyone married to a writer knows they have to give their spouse plenty of time to work), but it ended up looking like the husband had a major insecurity problem. By the way, this author is still writing but has changed her bio.

Another issue that has become popular in recent years, among black authors if no one else, is whether authors write full time, i.e., have or don't have outside jobs. I’m not sure when this originated, or even why. I personally don't understand what a writer does with the rest of their time has to do with their book. Is this some kind of code to determine if authors are making a living wage from their books when included in interviews, or a proclamation to the world that the author is doing well financially if it comes directly from the author? For the record, at least here if not in my bio, I will state that I personally don’t do anything full time, not writing and not work.

What do you think? Does anything not writing-related, aside from a geographical area, really belong in an author biography? Is this really the place to mention our spouses, children, cats, dogs, hobbies?


Carleen Brice said...

I like learning a little about the writer's personal life.

PatriciaW said...

I agree with Carleen, and think most readers like this. But you get to choose what readers are privy to.

Not uncommon for writers to mention their spouses or the number of children. Some do go too far, as in giving the names of the kids, telling details about the spouse that feel like invasion of privacy, etc.

Anonymous said...

I like knowing a few personal things about the author, too, especially if I enjoy his or her work.--Reon :-)

bettye griffin said...

Thanks for chiming in with your feelings on this, ladies! But I think I'm going to continue keeping my book bio impersonal. People who want to know more about me personally can befriend me on Facebook!