For a bit of light relief at Christmas, you could try this exercise I put together for the writers I work with. We had a lot of fun with it:
Pretend you’re writing the author bio for your first novel or short story or poem. You’ll find an author bio in every book and it’s a little known fact that, although the bio is written in the 3rd person, the writer usually has to write it themselves. It can be serious or not so serious. Naturally, I like the funny ones best and I’ve included some of my favourite examples below. Several of them are by Terry Pratchett, because he is the KING of this.
Author bios tend to follow a rough pattern:
- Write in the third person
- Be brief (70 words-ish)
- Don’t be afraid to talk yourself up
- Explain what you do (e.g. what genre you write, what you’re currently working on)
- Boast about any publications/prizes (anywhere you’ve been published, e.g. school newspaper, blog, Facebook, in biro on your friend’s maths textbook etc)
- Where you live/come from, your age, who you live with
- Your hobbies/quirky facts about you
- What you’re studying/where you work (especially if it relates to your writing)
You don’t have to include all of these, you can pick and choose.
For the purposes of the exercise, you don’t have to be strictly truthful either (we are fiction writers, after all). You could imagine you’re writing this in the future when you’re 30 or 40 or 50 and living in your private submarine while writing movie scripts for an ageing Justin Bieber.
You can also take your own author photo on your phone to go with your bio!
If possible, an author photo should show how clever and intense you are. Like this one.
It should not show that don’t know how to sit in a chair. Like this one.
Tips: Author photos should, if at all possible, involve –
Brick walls (especially if you’re a man or a crime writer, as this shows how tough you are)
Walls of books (to prove you can not only write but READ!)
Staring off into the distance (look how mysterious I am!)
Moody lighting (because you are edgy, man)
No smiling! (unless you write comedy)
Black and white (to show you’re a SERIOUS writer)
Touching your face (because you’re thinking such big thoughts you have to support the weight of your brain)
Glasses (I’ve read so much I BROKE MY EYES!)
A typewriter or other writing tools (in case anyone forgets you’re a writer)
And don’t forget to look natural!
You know you’ve made it when you have an author photo of you staring off into the distance AT A BRICK WALL!
(These seem to be disproportionately men, but honestly, they just have funnier photos.)
I’m not taking a pop at author photos. It’s an established fact that it’s impossible to take a non-cringeworthy author photo so you may as well have fun with it.
If you try this, do send me the results, I’d love to see them!
I’m off to do Christmas now, but I’ll be back in January, and I’ll be starting to arrange visits to schools in Northern Ireland so if you have a writing group you’d like me to come and chat to, please get in touch!
In the meantime here are some Author Bio Examples:
- Lemony Snicket was born in a small town where the inhabitants were suspicious and prone to riot. He now lives in the city. During his spare time he gathers evidence and is considered something of an expert by leading authorities.
- John Scalzi writes books, which, considering where you’re reading this, makes perfect sense. He’s best known for writing science fiction, including the New York Times bestseller Redshirts, which won the Hugo Award for Best Novel. He also writes non-fiction, on subjects ranging from personal finance to astronomy to film, was the Creative Consultant for the Stargate: Universe television series. He enjoys pie, as should all right thinking people. You can get to his blog by typing the word “Whatever” into Google. No, seriously, try it
- Michael Siemsen is the USA Today Bestselling author of 6 novels, including The Dig, A Warm Place to Call Home (a demon’s story), and Exigency. He lives in Northern California with “the wife,” “the kids,” “the dog,” “that cat,” and he occasionally wears pants. His latest release, RETURN, is the third book in his #1 bestselling Matt Turner series.
- APRIL WHITE has been a film producer, private investigator, bouncer, teacher and screenwriter. She has climbed in the Himalayas, survived a shipwreck, and lived on a gold mine in the Yukon. She and her husband share their home in Southern California with two extraordinary boys and a lifetime collection of books.
- “Eric Carle invented writing, the airplane, and the internet. He was also the first person to reach the North Pole. He has flown to Mars and back in one day, and was enthusiastically greeted by the Martians. “Very strange beings,” he reported on his return. He has written one thousand highly regarded books; a team of experts is presently attempting to grasp their meaning. “It might take a century,” said the chief expert. Carle is also a great teller of stories — but not all of them are true, for instance those in this book.”
- “Mindy Kaling lives in rural New Hampshire and does not own a TV.”
- Adam Silvera was born and raised in the Bronx, New York. He was a bookseller before shifting to children’s publishing where he worked at a literary development company, a creative writing website for teens, and as a book reviewer of children’s and young adult novels. He lives in New York City and is tall for no reason. MORE HAPPY THAN NOT is his debut novel.
- New York Times bestselling author Angie Fox writes sweet, fun, action-packed mysteries. Her characters are clever and fearless, but in real life, Angie is afraid of basements, bees, and going up stairs when it is dark behind her. Let’s face it. Angie wouldn’t last five minutes in one of her books. Angie is best known for her Southern Ghost Hunter mysteries and for her Accidental Demon Slayer books. Visit her at angiefox.com.
- Doug Naylor was born in Manchester and educated at Chetham’s Hospital School of Music, where he learnt to play ‘Three Blind Mice’ on the recorder without sheet music or a conductor. Thrown out of Liverpool University in the mid-seventies for drinking too slowly, he became a prawn-and-cockle salesman for twelve months until he could afford to get a dead-end job and concentrate on writing. His hobbies include reading, philosophy, shouting abuse at Merchant-Ivory films and not smelling of fish. He has never paid tax.
- Sebastian Faulks worked as a journalist for 14 years before taking up writing books full time in 1991. He is the author of A Trick of the Light, The Girl at the Lion D’Or, the celebrated Birdsong, The Fatal Englishman and Charlotte Gray. He lives with his wife and their two children in London.
- Mandy Sutter is 57 and is a freelance writer and tutor living in Ilkley, where she also makes marmalade (in season) and rustic furniture (at any time). Her publications include Stretching It, a comedy novel and Game, a poetry chapbook.
- Dave Rudden enjoys cats, adventure and being cruel to fictional children. This is his first novel.
- Neil Gaiman is the author of over thirty acclaimed books and graphic novels. He has received many literary honours. Born and raised in England, he presently lives in New England and dreams of endless libraries.
- Kelly McCaughrain lives in Belfast and is the Children’s Writing Fellow for NI. Her first YA novel, Flying Tips for Flightless Birds, won the CBI Book of the Year and NI Book Awards. When she’s not writing, she volunteers with Fighting Words Belfast, and takes long holidays in her 1967 classic campervan, Gerda, with her 1977 classic husband, Michael.
- Terry Pratchett is, on average, a sort of youngish middle-aged. He lives in Somerset with his wife and daughter, and long ago chose journalism as a career because it was indoor work with no heavy lifting. Beyond that he positively refuses to be drawn. People never read these biographies anyway, do they? They want to get on with the book, not wade through masses of prose designed to suggest that the author is really a very interesting person.
- Terry Pratchett was born in 1948 and still is not dead. He started work as a journalist one day in 1965 and saw his first corpse three hours later, work experience meaningsomething in those days. After doing just about every job it’s possible to do in provincial journalism, except of course covering Saturday afternoon football, he joined the Central Electricity Generating Board and became press officer for four nuclear power stations. He’d write a book about his experiences if he thought anyone would believe it. All this came to an end in 1987 when it became obvious that the Discworld series was much more enjoyable than real work. Since then the books have reached double figures and have a regular place in the bestseller lists. He also writes books for younger readers. Occasionally he gets accused of literature. Terry Pratchett lives in Wiltshire with his wife Lyn and daughter Rhianna. He says writing is the most fun anyone can have by themselves.
- Terry Pratchett lives in the West Country, where he tries to write books in between answering his mail. He lives in constant dread that someone will discover how enjoyable he finds writing, and stop him doing it. He thinks the world could use more orang-utans. The carnivorous plants in the greenhouse are still doing well.
- Terry Pratchett is fifty and lives behind a keyboard in Wiltshire, where he answers letters in a desperate attempt to find the time to write. He used to grow carnivorous plants, but now they’ve taken over the greenhouse and he avoids going in. He feels it may be time to get a life, since apparently they’re terrible useful.
- Terry Pratchett is Britain’s bestselling living novelist. He lives behind a (very upmarket) keyboard in Wiltshire and says he doesn’t want to get a life because it feels like he’s already trying to lead three. He has had a new conservatory built for the carnivorous plants, because they deserved it.