What Do Authors Want Us to Know About Themselves? It Depends.

By Elisabeth Egan

TELL IT LIKE IT IS What can we learn about authors from the brief biographies on the back of their book or on their website? Many of these descriptions are the literary equivalent of announcements on the subway: omnipresent but saying nothing. Why don’t authors seize the opportunity to tell us about their pets or unusual hobbies? (Or at least get real about where they live — and I say this as someone who lives in suburban New Jersey, not “outside New York City.”) So what a pleasure it was to stumble across this refreshing take on Lauren Blackwood, whose debut novel, “Within These Wicked Walls,” makes an entrance at No. 5 on the young adult hardcover list: “When not writing, she’s a physical therapy assistant who doesn’t really know how to settle on one career field.” Welcome to the club, Ms. Blackwood. “Within These Wicked Walls” is a fantasy retelling of “Jane Eyre” starring an exorcist named Andromeda and a handsome young heir named Magnus Rochester. As one exuberant Goodreads reviewer put it, “If you love kissing, creepy stuff and banter for days, PULL UP A CHAIR YOU’RE IN THE RIGHT PLACE.”

BEYOND THE MEDAL Considering the tight-lipped parsimoniousness of her most famous character (we see you rolling your eyes, Olive Kitteridge), you might expect Elizabeth Strout to go with a terse author bio. You would be wrong. Of course she mentions her Pulitzer — who wouldn’t — but the “About Elizabeth” section on Strout’s website also includes real insight into what makes her tick. For instance: “During the summer months of her childhood she played outdoors, either with her brother, or, more often, alone, and this is where she developed her deep and abiding love of the physical world: the seaweed-covered rocks of Maine, and the woods of New Hampshire with its hidden wildflowers.” Strout’s new novel, “Oh William!,” is at No. 8 on the hardcover fiction list.

KEEPING IT REAL Over on Twitter, Dave Quinn, the author of “Not All Diamonds and Rosé,” describes himself like this: “Housewives scholar, journalist, Brooklynite, Broadway lover, recovering alcoholic, & proud member of the LGBTQ+ community. BLM.” Now that his oral history of the Real Housewives franchise has elbowed its way — and possibly flipped a few tables en route — to No. 3 on the hardcover nonfiction list, Quinn can add “best-selling author” to the mix.

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