So I’ve been noticing a trend recently of, shall we say, somewhat overwrought author bios, in which every detail is teased into something magnificent, a picture of a life fabulously lived. I realise that there are, in fact, authors who do live wonderfully exciting lives but I also seem to remember a time when it wasn’t really important to know about it. A time when an author bio was a few lines at the end of a book, photograph optional, and usually read something like: ‘Author X was born in Wiltshire, and still lives there with her husband and three sons.’ Then, if Author X had written other books/and or won awards, these would also be listed. And that was about it. (I’m basing this on the very scientific research of spending time perusing my own bookcase and reading famous author bios, so you know, it’s totally legit).
But nowadays it seems to not be sufficient that we write stories – we have to live them as well. We have to be a ‘brand’. Okay. I understand the idea of leveraging an interesting life into the idea that you might therefore have interesting stories to tell, but there are plenty of examples that prove you don’t have to live with dragons to write about them. The Bronte sisters lived relatively sheltered lives and Emily, the author of Wuthering Heights, was apparently so shy she would turn her back on people mid-conversation, unable to speak any more. She never married, yet she was able to plumb the heights and depths of passion and create an enduring legend of romance that is still considered one of the greatest literary novels ever.
But that was then and this is now, and we are all writers trying to make our mark on a world saturated with choice. And so the bio is rewritten and inflated by agents and publishers, ostensibly to create interest, though I confess I’ve never heard anyone say, ‘Oh, I’m reading a book by X because, did you know, she wrestles alligators and has a pet monkey?’
Therefore, in the interest of giving us all a leg up in the bio-writing stakes, I’ve decided to put together an Easy Author Bio Generator.* It’s basically like Mad Libs – just insert whatever words you think will work:
(your name) was born (time, place) and grew up in (place, dimension etc) learning to (do something odd). They left (your birthplace) for (a far flung destination) where they (did something amazing). (your name) now lives in (somewhere fabulous and unusual) with their (living companions). When not writing bestselling novels, (your name) likes to (do some sort of unusual and creative hobby).
And here’s my attempt:
Helen Jones was born at the turning of the tide on a remote Scottish Island and grew up with gypsies, learning to yodel at the moon. She left the island for the bright lights of Paris, where she wrote dramatic novels in between creating coffee confections for demanding French patrons. She now lives in a yurt hidden in a Welsh valley with her husband, three children and six goats. When not writing bestselling novels, she likes to party with rock stars and dance the tango under a full moon, letting out the occasional yodel.
See? Aren’t I more interesting now? 😀 Go on, give it a try – you know you want to.
- This is just a bit of fun
- I’m sure I’m not the first person to think of doing this
- I may, or may not, change up some of my bios to see if anyone even notices
- I mean no offense to those of you out there who already have fabulous and interesting bios – well done, you.
I think it will help. You should add that to your books.
😀 I think I might do a different one for each book.
Although they might all involve yodelling, in one way or another 😀
Considering even the little I know of you already, I don’t think you need to invent a thing for your bio 🙂 But I love this. The ‘artists statement generator’ I stumbled across a while back had me in stitches…and angry at the claptrap we are sometimes expected to spout to appear more than we are instead of being enough as we are.
Oh yes, I remember when you posted that! I knew I couldn’t be the only one. I’ve been sending out submissions recently to agents, and so have been looking at their sites and authors and honestly, the author bios are getting a bit ridiculous. I read another one on Goodreads where the author had spent time in the ‘concrete and camphor wilds of Japan.’ I mean, good for them, but to me it’s all starting to feel a little like those over-inflated restaurant menus, where they say ‘artisan seeded brioche’ when all it is is a bread roll. So I thought I’d have a little fun with the idea. And thanks for the kind words, I feel the same about you 🙂
It really is just getting daft now with some of the stuff out there… I’ve come across a few that have had me spluttering coffee 🙂
Yes, and how much can they stand out if everyone’s doing the same thing?
Simplicity will be the best way to go 🙂
Awesome bio. I really respect your writing so much more now that I know you both appreciated a good cup of coffee as well as the minimalistic lifestyle only yurt living can bring.
And the yodelling. Don’t forget the yodelling 😀
Oh yes, how uncouth of me. The yodelling was the linchpin.
I thought it might be 😀
This is amazing. Do you really have six goats then? I’m going to do one but it will be twisted lies to sounds more interesting hahahaha!
No, I have three, but I thought six sounded more exciting.
Actually, I have none 😀
Can’t wait to see what you come up with – the more twisted the lies, the better!
You never know…I had a friend in San Diego that told me her goat died once…I was like, you have a goat???
This is true, you never know 😉
But I really don’t have any goats… Yet.
They are a pain and will seat on the roof of your car and eat things they shouldn’t!!!
I think I need a bigger yard too 😀
They might eat your children!
Oh well, definitely no goats then. Even if I do get a yurt 😉
I had to Google that hahaha! Awesome.
Awesome. I’m trying to talk my CompSci Student Offspring into writing me one for real, kind of like the CanLit Premise Generator (http://canlitgenerator.com/).
Awesome indeed – let me know what they come up with 🙂 I knew this wasn’t a new idea, but I’ve been having to trawl through agent and publisher sites this past little while, and it just seemed to be getting a little out of hand. So this seemed like a fun way to figure out my own – much easier than actually writing the truth!
Certainly more memorable than the usual author biog 😉
Thanks Colin – it was much more fun than writing an actual bio 😀
This is hilarious…
Hehe, thanks Suzie! I had fun writing it, that’s for sure.
This is superb, Helen! You should definitely do a different one for every book. Couldn’t that be the ‘thing’ that’s your thing?! That, and the yodelling, obviously.
Thanks Tara! Yes, I’m thinking about writing a different one for each book, and every one will feature one thing that’s true – the rest will be utter bollocks. I wonder if anyone will notice 🙂 And the yodelling will be in all of them.
And people should have to buy all your books to piece all the lies together! Talk about a marketing coup! Can’t wait 😀
It’s like a bonus story-within-a-story! I tell you, with this and the reality show, we could be raking it in 😆
I’m not into this conditional ‘could’ stuff, Helen. I’m more into words like ‘will’ ‘can’ and ‘no I couldn’t possibly imbibe a tenth bottle of Bolly’
Those are all good words, Tara 🙂 Guess, I’d better get to work then, hey? That Bolly won’t buy itself.
Hee hee. I was thinking something similar only the other day when I saw someone on my Twitter feed dramatically mourning the fact that the bio she’d just drafted for herself was, y’know, just tooooo unbelievable. It was, as it happens, all true but maybe of only marginal relevance to her current work…..
Yes – I’ve recently been trawling through agent and publisher websites as you know, and I just felt the whole thing was getting a bit out of hand. Glad I’m not the only one thinking that way – and I got to have some fun with it, too 🙂
It’s funny how that happens, cos actually, dont we hate talking and writing about ourselves? Well I do. And yet we’re expected to sell ourselves, not just our books. Agents and publishers don’t just want a great book they can sell. They want your life as well. Crazy!
Yes, I hate writing my actual author bio (not this one, of course, this one was great fun to write). My real bio actually makes me cringe, but I don’t know what else to do – other than make something up like this 😀
I wonder when it all changed, when just writing stories that people enjoyed reading wasn’t enough any more.
You’ve just upped the ante—I’ll have to give my author bio a facelift! I’ll let you know what I come up with …
Ha ha! Oh, please do – I’m working on several different versions of this one, each more ridiculous than the last. Much more fun than writing my actual author bio…
Brilliant! Would love to hear your yodelling haha
Well, it is my specialty 😀 That and writing bollocks author bios!
Reblogged this on Suzie Speaks and commented:
This post from Helen is one of the funniest I’ve read for a while – perfect for authors struggling with writing their bio… Please don’t like or comment on the reblog – hop on over to Journey to Ambeth and say hello. I promise, you’ll love this!
Aww, thanks for the reblog, Suzie, and the kind words – glad you enjoyed it! I had fun writing it, much more than when I did my actual bio 😀
On another note, will you be watching Eurovision tonight?
Ha ha!!! this is brilliant Helen, love this! I might just have a go at this….
Thanks, Marjorie! Let me know what you come up with 🙂
Reblogged this on Write Dorne – Putting life into words. and commented:
Some brilliant, amusing writing here from Helen, on Journey to Ambeth…so I’m reblogging.
If I ever get my act together and actually publish that book I will bear this in mind.
Enjoy and thanks to Helen for her great post.
Thanks so much for the reblog, Dorne – very much appreciated! Glad you enjoyed the post, and good luck with the publishing 🙂
Reblogged this on Anita Dawes & Jaye Marie.
Thank you for the reblog! Much appreciated 🙂
Thank you 🙂
Considering that I took up lion taming when I turned 60 and–well, I won’t go on. But the point is, I know perfection.
Thanks Ellen 🙂 And sounds like you’re well underway with your own author bio – lion taming is definitely exciting!
I’m tortured by an attempt to write a bio for a competition. I’m so tempted to use your model! It’s great. Got my attention 🙂
Thank you! The funny thing is, I wrote this as a bit of a laugh, but Kristin from Pursuit of A New Adventure tried it with details from her actual life, and the format still worked. So maybe I’m onto something…? Good luck with the competition, hope it goes well 🙂
Thank you, Helen. I hope it goes well too 🙂 And you are definitely onto something with this experiment.
As a writer I have to buy into this ‘brand’ thing, in order to have a profile and sell stuff – but it’s tricky. I’ve done such a huge range of disparate stuff – because it interests me – that the ‘subject-defined-brand’ idea is more like cotton wool, or mashed potatoes, or something. My author bio is here: https://mjwrightnz.wordpress.com/about/ – but it doesn’t capture everything. I keep being labelled an ‘historian’ because of my publications and affiliations with the UK academy, yet my actual passion is to write science fiction…
Hi Matthew, thanks for dropping by and for the follow 🙂
I’m a bit the same as you, in that I’ve done so many different things, and I find the whole ‘brand’ thing a bit frustrating at times (hence my post). I write mostly fantasy and speculative fiction, but I don’t live in a castle or keep a dragon or have special powers, nor do I think that if I did it would make me a better writer. Yet there seems to be this desire for authors to now present themselves as living their own stories, as if the fact that we write exciting tales yet have fairly normal lives is not enough. And why shouldn’t you write science fiction, if that’s your passion? 🙂 You have a very impressive list of published works, by the way.
Thanks! I was writing for Penguin and Random House for a while. I’m kind of glad I’m not living the character I wrote into my last sci-fi story – an alcoholic mock-minister who had to somehow redeem himself… 🙂 On matters branding, that story was utterly in contrast to the non-fiction I’m known for generally in New Zealand. It’s a problem, and labelling myself ‘writer’ (as in, I happily write lots of different things) doesn’t seem to fit the pattern of somebody having to ‘be’ a certain sort of author.
Yes, having to stick to one genre seems to fly in the face of creativity, doesn’t it? As I say, most of my work seems to end up having some sort of fantasy element, but I tend to flit between sub-genres there as well, depending on how the ideas come to me. And then I have this historical novel idea kicking around too, zero fantasy elements whatsoever. I’m going to write it, because the story is there.
And yes, I’m glad for you too that you didn’t have to live your last character 🙂
Hi Helen, this made me laugh on the inside, seriously, it was the best take on the pressure of social media to be some incredible creation of the universe (no wonder we are going mad) that I have ever read. Summed up beautifully. I could never yodel with goats in Wales but I do drink coffee albeit Nescafe (god, did I just say that?!) and occasionally become creative. Joanne Kim Catherine Reid. There we are – I have four (4) names!
Hi Jo, thanks so much, I’m really pleased you enjoyed the post. It was a bit of a laugh, really, but also came from a deeper frustration about the increasing number of hoops we authors seem to have to jump through, in order to ‘stand out.’ I certainly had more fun writing this bio than my actual one, that’s for sure! And I think your love of Nescafe (golden crystals of inspiration) and your four names (named after four ancient queens), would fit perfectly into my bio format – what do you think? 😀
Reblogged this on Teachezwell Blog and commented:
This is hilarious! I think we should all create fantastic bios. I may write one for my dearest widower, too!
Ha ha! Thanks so much for the reblog – I’m so glad you enjoyed the post 🙂 I agree – I’m thinking of doing a different bio for each book I write, each one more outrageous than the last 😀
That’s a great idea! I’ll have to look up “yurt.”
Oh yes, if you can work ‘yurt’ into at least one version, you’re well on your way to a perfect author bio 😀
Pingback: * My new special educator bio | Teachezwell Blog
Hahahaha! You’re hilarious, Helen!:)
I couldn’t agree more about the recent “creative endeavors” seen in author biographies. I mean, isn’t the basic bio enough? Like you said, I highly doubt readers are going to buy an author’s book based on some outlandish stunt, hobby, etc…
Haha! Thanks, Dustin – I’m really pleased you enjoyed the post (and think I’m hilarious!)
Yes – I mean, I wrote this as a bit of a laugh, but also from a place of frustration, where the fact that we write stories doesn’t seem to be enough any more. I’m seriously thinking of changing up the bios in each of my books to something outlandish, just to see if anyone notices!
You’re welcome. And I really do.:)
I like the way the think. I certainly felt the frustration behind the laughter. Let us know if you decide to change it up, and if anyone notices. And a wonderful, blessed day to you!
Aw, thanks, Dustin – and the very same to you! 🙂
Thank you, you’re sweet!
This is awesome! If this doesn’t suggest that you can weave a tale, I don’t know what will!
Well thank you, that’s a lovely compliment 🙂
And I think I had more fun writing this bio than I did my actual one – think I might try a few more.
I think I have achieved perfection!
Teresa was born in the 1980s in Oklahoma and grew up in a military family learning to raise stray animals. They left Oklahoma for places unknown where they won Yard of the Month for 12 straight months. Teresa now lives near the Crystal Coast of North Carolina with her strong husband and strapping young lads. When not writing bestselling novels, Teresa likes to tell corny jokes to middle school children.
‘Yard of the Month’ – I love it! Perfection indeed, Teresa 😀
This is seriously hilarious!! the goats PAHAHAHAHAH genius. I will give this a go when I get a second.
Thanks, Sacha. Yes, everyone seems to like the goats, and the yodelling. 😀 I had more fun doing this than my actual bio, that’s for sure!
Agreed, the yodeling was hilarious!
Pingback: #MondayBlogs: (Totally Not Serious) Author Bio Generator | K Y R O S M A G I C A
So unfortunate I can’t yodel. I’ll have to think of something even more fabulous 😜😋😆
Excellent! Let me know what you come up with, I bet it will be wonderful 🙂
Pingback: Pensive v Procrastination – This Pilgrim's Progress
I’ve always wanted to live in a yurt with goats. How I envy your fabulous bohemian lifestyle. 🙂
Oh yes, it is so fabulously fauxhemian – next week I shall be living in a gypsy caravan by a haunted lake… or is that the week after? ;-D I do love making up author bios.
Hahahaha! You CRACK me UP, I’m telling you!:)
😀 Thanks, Dustin
No, thank YOU.:)
Pingback: Stuck Writing Your Author Bio? Try The (Totally Not Serious) Author Bio Generator | Steve Says...
Mine has never been particularly serious and I’ve had moments of doubt when I’ve thought I should project a more professional image.
Then I think sod it, nobody reads them anyway. I might start confessing to unsolved crimes to see if anybody notices.
I’m appearing at my first Literature Festival next month so I best have another read of it just in case anybody questions me about its content. 😀
Haha, I like that idea, Alan – I’ve been thinking about writing a different outrageous bio for each of my books because, like you, I’m not sure anyone reads them anyway! Good luck at your first Literature Festival – which one are you attending?
The Sunderland Festival of Literature and Creative Writing.
I’m doing one workshop which will have to be done seriously but I have two sessions where I am talking about my books and it is very tempting to make up some outrageous lies to drop into the conversation.
Oh, if you do, please let me know how it goes! Isn’t storytelling part of what we do, after all? 😉
You’re so interesting. I now feel a deep desire to go and read one of your books – after I’ve updated my own bio.
See, my cunning plan worked! 😀 Hope it works for you too, and thanks for dropping by.
This is pretty cool! If I ever struggle when I update my bio, I may go along similar lines! Thank you 🙂
You’re very welcome, Hannah! The funny thing is, even though I made up nearly all the details in my fake bio here, the template does work for real bios too! 😀 I am tempted to write different, more outrageous ones for each book, to be honest – I do find it the most difficult thing to write.
I know, I think it’s really difficult to sum yourself up in a few words so that people actually get an idea of who you are! 😀
So difficult, especially with all the fancy bios around these days!
Pingback: Wishing Everyone A Happy New Year! | Journey To Ambeth
Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
D.G. Kaye reblogged this today and so pleased she did as you will find Helen Jones has set a very interesting challenge for you today.. A bio generator (no not a yogurt maker) but the thingy you put on the back of your book or Amazon.. Do you think I might sell more books with my version of Helen’s bio generator? Sally Cronin was born in a wigwam in Boggy Bottom in 1953 and grew up in the village of Scratchy Bottom learning to make soap bubbles. They left England for Sri Lanka where they learnt to avoid leopards in the jungle at night. Sally now lives in Katmandu with her husband David and several pack rats. When not writing best-selling novels, Sally likes to crochet swimsuits.
Haha, oh, that’s excellent, Sally! I predict sales going through the roof, especially with the combination of Scratchy Bottom and crochet swimsuits! 😀
Not something you want to walk out of the water wearing! great challenge Helen.. xxx
Haha, definitely not! Thanks, Sally xx
Brilliant Helen and have reblogged and had a go.. so pleased Debby reblogged this morning. xx
Thanks so much for sharing, Sally – I hadn’t realised Debby had reblogged the post, so this has been a nice surprise! xx
Reblogged this on All About Writing and more.
Thanks so much for sharing, Henrietta! Happy Friday to you 🙂
You are welcome!
Well why didn’t you say so to begin with!? Now I simply must add your books to my list so I can recite the fascinating bio of the author as my reason for reading.
Great post. Thanks – and thanks to Debby and Sally for bringing it to my attention on this cold and rainy early Friday middle of my night.
(Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
“It takes a village to transform a world!”
Thanks so much, Madelyn – yes, I can see my bios becoming more and more outrageous with each book at this rate! haha 😀
In my NYC days I was at the theatre with a friend and there happened to be a midnight cabaret that evening — co-written by and co-starring Christopher Durang and Sigourney Weaver (late ’79, before either became well known).
We leafed through their program during intermission for the show we’d gone to see, and bought tickets for that same night immediately — mainly on the strength of their bios, although the name of the show promised great fun too – Das Lusitania Songspiel – a musical, we figured, which turned out to be an incredibly clever parody of Brecht and Weill’s opera The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (playing at the Met). The entire audience was in stitches at every other line.
I wish I could remember their bios, but I do recall what got to us was something like, “Miss Weaver and Mr. Durang are married and living in Connecticut with their two daughters Goneril and Regan.” The show was a HOOT – and eventually became a cult hit.
Sigourney is an absolutely brilliant commediane — I was sorry that her runaway hit turned out to be Alien. I always thought she missed her true calling.
All of that to say only that one never knows what an interesting bio might yield.
That’s very true, Madelyn, definitely 🙂 I did comment to another reader that, when choosing a book, it’s the blurb that drags me in and the story that keeps me reading, but with other artforms I think the bio holds a lot more weight in terms of attracting viewers 🙂
We are similar in what appeals. I’ve skipped a few books I might have enjoyed simply because the blurb or the bio didn’t sound interesting. So many details writers must consider beyond writing the actual book!
Yes, and often more difficult to write than the book itself! 😀 x
I love this and it made me laugh out loud first thing this morning, so thank you. It’s a great idea and imagine the new brands we could generate and then….drum roll….get together to ‘share’ whilst crocheting swimsuits. The swimsuits bit is part of Sally Cronin’s and thanks to her I found your blog. x
Thanks so much, Jane – I’m glad it made you laugh. I certainly had a few giggles while writing it! And you’re right, the possibilities are endless… 😀 So glad you found me x
I admit to a few giggles when reading these author profiles who are trying sooo hard to sound cool. If you’re trying to be cool, you probably ain’t. I have a friend who does in fact buy books based on how interesting she finds the author. I’m not sure if a hippy friend is a good measurement, though.
‘If you’re trying to be cool, you probably ain’t.’ Isn’t that the truth! Thanks so much for coming by and for commenting xx
Love it! I’m saving the link so I can get back to it later 🙂
Yay! Thanks so much, so pleased you enjoyed the post. I certainly had fun writing it 😀
I hate writing bios! I don’t know who came up with the rule that you have to live a fabulous life in order to write good stories, but I wish they hadn’t bothered. I only buy a book if the blurb promises a good story – I couldn’t care less what the author does in her spare time.
While we’re on the subject, here’s mine: Annabelle Franklin was born in 1813 and grew up in Transylvania learning to make coffins. She left for South America where she experimented with ayahuasca. Annabelle now lives in Broadmoor Hospital with some other psychopaths. When not writing bestselling novels, Annabelle likes to play with human remains.
Oh I love this, especially the bit about you being born in 1813. Fabulous! Thanks for playing 😉
Exactly how I feel, too – it’s the blurb that drags me in and the story that keeps me reading. I wrote this after spending a day trawling through agent sites and reading their author bios – it was exhausting!
I followed this quite well in 2014 for my first book Modern Waste. I have since backed off of this but still pretty funny. All half true btw:
Marc D. Crepeaux is a juggernaut with the spontaneous combustion of a hopeful beast. He rubs gasoline on his thighs and biceps daily and every easy jog between friends turns out to be a race. He once parachuted into the Gulf of Mexico and punched a shark in the face that tried to get a taste of the action. He can play the spoons. He grew up next to a crick that ran into a river with a kid brother. They had two bamboo sticks and a dog. Any daughter that grows up in his household has to be able to kill a man with their bare hands, obviously. He loves to fish, sleep with beggars, and his only hope is to go back to the farm.
Wow, if it’s even half true that’s quite amazing! 🙂
I’ve read too many blogs giving the opposite advice: Remain professional (and boring). This is my latest:
Phillip T. Stephens left home at the early age of forty-five when his parents said, “Get a job.” After his two highly successful sisters refused to support him, he landed a position as a comedy writer for Esther’s Follies in Austin, Texas. That job lasted for six months, during which he failed to write a single skit that appeared on stage. Nor could he collect unemployment since they paid him sandwiches, beer and potato chips. The aliens abducted him from Austin’s Sixth Street where he sold one-liners for spare change, but returned him when they realized his brain possessed no useful knowledge—just the drafts of four novels which he already published.
His wife Carol, who rescues Siamese for austinsiameserescue.org found him sleeping in a cat shelter and adopted him as well. Since he can’t afford a divorce lawyer she lets him stay in an abandoned cat tower in her rescue room with an iPad he found in a dumpster.
Hi Phillip! Great bio – hilarious and interesting 🙂 Most writers I know find bios so difficult to write, so incorporating a bit of storytelling makes it more fun, definitely!
So funny, Helen. Totally publishable. My back of the book bio is drab drab drab – the lame one that you first mentioned. I love the new take! And why not? I think a reader would get such a kick out of it. I dare you. Ha ha.
Thanks, Diana 😀 I confess I’ve thought about writing a different bio for each of my books, haha – it seems easier than writing the real thing haha x
I would write a fantasy bio, but I’m too chicken. Great idea though.
Oh, me too, really 🙂 I did have fun writing this post, though!
This is too funny. Thanks for the entertainment. I hate pretending. Doesn’t everyone else as well. After a while, we won’t remember who we used to be with all this inflation. 😀
Isn’t that the truth! Glad you enjoyed it – I certainly had fun writing it 😀 x
It was a nice break in my day. 🙂
haha- Here’s what your generator gave me:
Rachael Ritchey was born long ago in this old ramshackle house and grew up in a locker room learning to how to swim in Jell-o. They left the old homestead for the Bermuda Triangle where they cured the local inhabitants of a terrible acne outbreak. Rachael now lives in Tahiti with her husband, kids, and dog. When not writing bestselling novels, Rachael likes to teach underwater basket-weaving.
Haha, excellent, Rachael – bonus points for the underwater basket weaving 😆😆
I couldn’t resist. hehehe
This is just great, Helen. I better hurry up and do something interesting. I did move to India with my husband 16 years ago. 😀 — Suzanne
That’s pretty interesting, definitely! I guess the thought I had was, even if we hadn’t done anything amazing and fabulous, we could write that we had in our author bio – after all, isn’t making up stories what we do? Although, it doesn’t sound as though you need to make up anything at all!
Gypsies? Really? What fun! 🙂
Well, sure… in this bio, at least ;-D They’re certainly fun to write!