DBW Insights: Susan Orlean, Author of Rin Tin Tin: the Life and the Legend, Part 1
By Rich Fahle, Founder, Astral Road Media | @richfahle
In this exclusive interview with Susan Orlean, staff writer at The New Yorker and author of the just published Rin Tin Tin: the Life and the Legend, discusses twitter, interacting with readers, and the role of social media in creating an ambient intimacy between author and reader.
From the interview:
When I first really began to understand the feel of social media, which was definitely an adjustment, it was not like writing emails, it was not exactly like a conversation you would have, it fills this other space that I think takes some adjustment.
It is a kind of ambient intimacy, as opposed to speaking in front of an audience, where there is distance, or an actual one-on-one conversation. It’s something a little bit different that I happen to find oddly very natural and comfortable and really appealing. I loved, as I was working on my book, to be able to talk to people about the progress. One of the people who follows me on twitter sent me a tweet one day saying, “This is like watching an action painter,” because I would write each day about how many words I had written or puzzling over certain things like, “should I write out World War I as words or should I do WWI?” It was so interesting to have people respond, and I began to realize that they felt like they were seeing the inner workings of the writing process, which they really were. I mean, I ask genuine questions, I was really curious to hear. The other day, I said, “Does anyone read acknowledgements?” I was about to sit down and write them. Millions of responses saying “Yes! It’s the first thing I read in books!” I thought, “Well wow, that’s interesting. Now I am going to spend a little more time on my acknowledgements.” So there is something about the level of conversation that became natural to me.
I think writing, especially non-fiction writing, is a form of performance art. It just happens to be delivered to you in a fairly static form, either on a piece of paper or on a digital tablet. But really, it’s the performance of, “I have an interesting story to tell.” It’s an oral tradition that has been with us since civilization was founded, which is “I have a wonderful story to tell. I can tell it to you in person, or through the marvels of the Gutenberg press. I can tell a lot of you through this amazing thing called publishing.” So maybe now we’re working back, in a funny way, to that earlier form, which is this is an oral, ongoing conversation. Social media enhances the idea that it is in real time, that there’s a real person, that there is a real narrator, that maybe you want to know a little more particularly about that narrator. I think that then enriches what you are reading on the page.
A joint production of Digital Book World and Astral Road Media: http://www.astralroad.com/. Founded by Rich Fahle, Astral Road Media is a full-service digital media agency, providing content strategy, design, video production, and other creative forms of social outreach for authors and content creators of all types.