I'm thrilled to be participating in my first-ever blog tour for Aimee Said's second novel, Little Sister and to welcome Aimee to My Girl Friday to share her thoughts on the growing presence of social media and it's role in her new book. You can read my review of Little Sister here.
My first novel, Finding Freia Lockhart, had no references to Facebook, YouTube or Twitter. In fact, there wasn’t even a single mobile phone in the book! This was partly a deliberate decision because Freia’s family is very low-tech (dial-up internet + sites that refresh frequently = fail), but there’s another reason: when I started writing Freia in early 2006 social media just didn’t have the impact on our everyday lives that it has now.
Back then Facebook wasn’t available outside of selected universities, Tumblr didn’t exist, YouTube was brand new, Flickr restricted free uploads to 20mb per month (and digital cameras cost a fortune) and mobile phone costs were too high for most young people to have one. So Freia’s access (or lack of it) wasn’t that unusual. In contrast, social media – in particular Facebook – is practically a character in itself in Little Sister.
By the time I started writing Little Sister in late 2009, social media was everywhere. Facebook had over 300 million users, there were over 126 million blogs and the Bureau of Statistics estimated that two-thirds of Australian households had access to broadband. In the face of those figures, I knew that, unless Al was somehow cut off from society, social media would play a big role in her and her friends’ lives. While the temptation to set the book on a deserted island/in a post-apocalyptic city/in a galaxy far, far away was strong, the fact was that Al’s story was based in the here and now, so there was no avoiding it.
Writing the Facebook posts, IM chats and text messages in the book was fun, since I’ve always enjoyed novels that use letters, diaries, emails, etc. to add an extra dimension to the story. Especially in a story that’s told only from one character’s viewpoint, using these elements is a way of allowing other characters to express themselves without being filtered through the narrator. (Of course, as in real life, we only know what characters choose to share; Al’s imagined status updates at the end of each chapter are things she would never write if other people could read them.)
The one thing I really grappled with, from a writer’s perspective, is that the technology and trends that drive social media (not to mention who owns social media entities) change rapidly, which can really date a book so that in a few years’ time it looks ‘so 2011’. (This is also why many writers, myself included, avoid references to current hot singers, TV shows, etc. – if they fade into obscurity the references will be lost on future readers.) I guess I’ll have to take my chances on Facebook and Twitter merging to form Twitbook, or text messaging becoming obsolete…fingers crossed.
Make sure you check out the other stops on the Little Sister blog tour:
Wednesday: Literary Life
Thursday: In The Good Books
Friday: The Younger Sun