Well, hi there.
Hope you’re all okay. My name is Helena, and I kill imaginary people for fun. (I have actually tried introducing myself to people like this. Generally, they look quite nervous and immediately find someone else to talk to.) This is by far the most entertaining way of saying ‘sci-fi/fantasy author’ I have yet developed; I could of course say that straight out, but because of the whole age thing, I generally have to say it several times – and have other, older-looking people back me up on it – before people actually believe me. I’ve had six months, now, to invent more interesting ways of introducing myself. I prefer the trial-and-error approach.
I’m only going to be fifteen for another week or so. This has been making me unaccountably nervous, because after half a year of being introduced as ‘the fifteen-year-old author’, you start to feel that by turning sixteen you’re selling out in some way. Because I’m an August baby, though, most of my friends have been sixteen for months now, and they assure me it’s not that different, apart from being able to register for a tractor or gun license. A girl at my school apparently actually learnt how to drive a tractor a couple of years ago, just to prove she could. I did hesitantly raise this with my parents, to admittedly little effect (‘Can I learn how to drive a tractor when I’m sixteen?’ ‘No.’ ‘Not even a little bit?’ ‘Not even a little bit. But you can learn the lyrics to the JCB song, if you want.’).
The only problem with being regularly introduced to other people as a ‘teenage author’ is that you’re expected to know about the Internet. I know nothing about the Internet. All right, fine, I know a bit, but only in the same way that I can name the members of One Direction, in that I’ve absorbed stuff (very reluctantly, in the latter case) from years of being around people who do know.
I am not, and have never been, on any kind of social medium. The original reason for this, I must admit, was that I had no friends outside of school and thus no real reason to use them, but by the time I was thirteen or fourteen, though, it had become a sort of point of principle, albeit a completely illogical one. I felt occasionally like my school’s ambassador from the 1960s (I am a massive Beatles and Doctor Who fan).
Anyway, that worked pretty well up until a few weeks ago, when a whole group of us got asked, in front of an audience, about our engagement with the social media. The rest of them (Samantha Shannon, Lucy Saxon, Taran Matharu and Alice Oseman, four of the most intimidatingly clever and funny people I’ve ever met) delivered thoughtful and inspired answers exploring the importance of the online world to the modern-day author.
‘I’m… not really on… the Internet, as such,’ I said, slightly awkwardly. ‘I think it would be too… distracting. And I’d screw up and say something stupid, and it would be immortalised for all time, and…’
And three days later I was sitting in a meeting at Hodder about how best to use the Internet to interact with people.
It was this or Tumblr.
I’m still anxious about saying stupid things, or becoming too distracted- but too be honest I say stupid things on a daily basis, and prior to writing this sentence I spent ten minutes watching my cat stare at a pigeon in the garden, so neither of these things are really avoidable. So I will try to write this blog in as un-stupid a manner as I can, as well as trying to get some actual work done. In the meantime, enjoy the summer, those of you in the northern hemisphere; and to those of you in Australia: