52 Pick-up 2.0, #17, 4/28/20
Carolyn McGill: “You’re pretty much a (for want of a better term) ‘celebrity’ writer now, but there must have been a time when you weren’t. Can you recall the time when you realized that you had gone from a relatively unknown writer to a celebrity, and how did that feel? Is there any weirdness in being a celebrity, or is there anything strange about being well-known that you hadn’t realized? Have things changed for you? What are the best and worse things about being successful? Have you had to learn to be better at some things (e.g. public speaking, self-promotion, speaking to strangers) – although this last question I suspect you’ve never had a problem with and you’re so self-effacing you probably won’t admit to the celebrity thing, but…? Just wondering.”
Yep, you’re right in that I’m not particularly comfortable with that kind of label simply that for me, it means the persona of the writer has become more prominent than the writing itself. There are a lot of authors who spend a great deal of time sculpting their public image into something they think the readers want to see, or someone they want to be. To be honest, I’ve never really had time for that. My focus has always been the writing and always will be. I feel lost when I’m not concentrating on the novels. I’ve never been one for the cult of personality, maybe because I just don’t think that I, personally, am all that interesting.
I get your question–things have changed. When I first started out there were events I did where only one person would show up, but as time went by and I kept my attention where it needed to be, things started happening. More people started buying the books, coming to events, and inviting me to more library and literary festivals.
I have to admit that I’ve never been too nervous about speaking in public, not because I’ve done a lot of it, but because I guess I genuinely like people. My wife says it’s because we live in a town of twenty-five and I’m just surprised to see anybody. That having been said, my life really hasn’t changed that much. I guess if I lived in a large city or something, things might be different, but the only thing that’s changed around Buffalo (our large city of 5,000) is that more people know me and surprise me by calling me by name. I blame social media for a lot of that, but I like that stuff too, because it allows me to stay in touch with readers who have become friends over the years.
I was getting feed at the co-op the other day and the man who helped me load the truck was a guy I hadn’t met and his remark as I thanked him was, “You need to get more Henry in the next book.”
I’m lucky with the advent of the TV show Longmire; it’s fun to watch the folks flock to the actors and to interact with fans who don’t even know who I am.
All during production of the TV show, the producers kept attempting to get me to do a cameo, but I told them I’d rather not. They thought it was funny in that they spent a portion of their time trying to keep the screenwriters from writing small roles for themselves attempting to get on camera. I finally succumbed in season six, but fortunately had no lines and most people didn’t even notice me.
When I’m doing writing workshops, students ask what it’s like to have a beer with Lou Diamond Phillips, or tour around the world, and I always remind them that those things only make up five percent of my time—that the other ninety-five percent is spent sitting in a room, by myself, typing about my imaginary friends.
And I’m okay with that.
See you on the trail,