Authors and social media: Rachel Edwards

Sitting in the social media hot seat today is author Rachel Edwards. I bought Rachel’s first book, Darling, after seeing it regularly shared on social media, and I’m so glad I picked it up. It encompasses so many complex themes – from blended families to race to mental health and more – while still managing to be an absolute page turner. I’m grateful that social media brought it to my attention, so thought it would be great to hear about her relationship with social!

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m an author with 4th Estate, HarperCollins, and was first published in 2018; before that I was a freelance writer for over 12 years. My debut novel, Darling, details the toxic relationship between a black British woman, Darling White and her stepdaughter Lola. It has been called ‘the first Brexit thriller’ and is as much about the corrupting nature of racism as a dark take on blended families. My second novel, Lucky is out in June this year and tells the story of Etta Oladipo, who gets drawn into online gambling as she chases the dream of marriage; this book also looks at race, migration and the risks we all take to survive.

To date, I have written novels which embrace the pace and twists of a thriller but tend to be ideas-led, not least in terms of espousing anti-racist views.

I’ve also written for the Guardian on occasion; I wrote a weekly column for the Sunday Times Magazine for an extended stint last summer and I enjoy writing for magazines such as Good Housekeeping and Red from time to time.

When did you first start using social media in a professional capacity? What made you take the leap to use it to promote your work?

According to my Twitter bio, I first joined it in October 2015, which would have been around the time I was talking to agents. Facebook aside, I only started used social media regularly when I knew that Darling was going to be published. The marketing experts at my publisher were encouraging and supportive about it, explaining that I might find Twitter and Instagram helpful, even enjoyable, as an author, but adding that not every author opts to use social media; it was my choice. I decided to dive in and see for myself. Prior to being published, I had considered myself to be someone who relished their privacy too much to ‘do’ social media. That now feels like a quaint notion!

Which is your favourite platform (and why)?

For connecting with other authors and keeping an eye on the cultural and political weather, Twitter has been the most useful. But it feels impossibly vast and I know I miss a fair bit; I’m always impressed by those who seem to notice everything that’s going down on Twitter, as if by osmosis. Instagram is more chilled and I’m pretty comfortable on there, although if I get carried away writing or reading proofs I can forget to post for a while. But I never forget that social media is there to support my life as an author, not to take it over.

‘Social media as live, drawn-out, premature A-list obituary instead of living.’ I love this line (even if it is quite dark!), which comes up as Darling is looking at her step-daughter’s Facebook feed, which she also calls ‘A cascade of photographic lies and half-truths’. How do you decide what to share and what to hold back on social media?

Great question… That line from ‘Darling’ does come from someone who enjoyed doing all that stupid, fun stuff during her teenage years at a time when no one had cameras on their phone… Since I came to wider social media (after the usual initial forays in Facebook to connect with real-life friends) as an adult, I feel equipped to monitor my use of it and judge what I put out into the public domain; moreover, as a writer, I am used to editing myself most of the time. I largely leave loved ones out of it, try not to rant too often, stay true to myself and my boundaries… and I never drink and tweet (or if I have in the past, it may well have been followed by a hasty deletion)!

If I put anything out on social media, it is because I am happy for the world to see it. This has encompassed much more personal revelation since writing my Sunday Times Magazine column where I shared details of my life with millions… so much for being too fond of my own privacy! Race, and racism, both on and offline, plays a central role in Darling and your new book, Lucky.

Do you feel that, as a Black female author, you need to take extra precautions to protect your boundaries?

Yes, I do. I am aware that my posts may not always be viewed with a universally benign gaze; deep within, I am braced for the ambush by the racist retort from the faceless stranger. But I did not reach my 40s without preparing for that potential hostility simply before walking into a room, not just online and, most of the time, I have the inner resources to deal with that as it arises.

On social media, I simply try to tread the line between being myself and not oversharing, as we all do. But as a Black female author, I also think of the younger ones coming up who might give weight to my online presence as well as my writing and feel I have a responsibility to put out posts that are considered, confident, compassionate and, I hope, reasonably intelligent. That said, sometimes it is just about having a laugh!

What is your best advice for an author who wants to promote themselves online?

If you are new to social media, start by reading the posts of those you admire and see how they manage themselves. Don’t feel any pressure to share one word or image more than you would wish. Do care about your posts and tweets as much as the words in your books – they are going out to the world, and forever. But, then again, don’t be intimidated by that – like I say to my kids ‘just stay safe and have fun!’

Where can we find out more about you and your books?

Everything about my books, news and events is on my website. You can also follow me on Twitter @RachelDEdwards, or Instagram @racheledwardsauthor. I am also pretty chatty on my Facebook Author Page, so do come and say hello.

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