The Twitterati: literary fiction writers to follow on Twitter

A blog post listing all the writers on Twitter would probably take me a lifetime to compile, and cause WordPress to explode in indignation as soon as I hit “Publish”. So I decided to cut it down a bit. The idea of this post is to highlight some big-name literary fiction writers who are on Twitter: people you might not have expected to find tweeting, like Salman Rushdie or Margaret Atwood.

I’ve tried to avoid listing Twitter accounts that are run by assistants or PR people or fans – the following are, to the best of my knowledge, the genuine thoughts issuing from the literary brains in question. You can click on the links to follow them on Twitter.

Or, if I’ve done this right, you can even talk to them right from this page. Just scroll through their timeline, pick a tweet that interests you, and click reply. Assuming you’re logged into your Twitter account, you’ll be talking to them immediately. You can also retweet or favourite, and of course follow. Give it a try, and let me know if it works!

Bret Easton Ellis on Twitter

: Yes, the author of American Psycho is on Twitter, and what I like about his account is that he tweets not as a writer but as a person. You get to see what movies he’s watching and what he thinks of them, what music he likes, etc.

There are also forays into the literary world, though, for example:

“One of the many bad David Foster Wallace ideas/daydreams: reassuring sincerity and a return to earnestness was a virtue for a prose writer.”

 

Salman Rushdie on Twitter

: Salman Rushdie has been tweeting for a year now, and has amassed more than 400,000 followers. What impresses me is that he talks to so many of them. I’m sure he can’t reply to everyone, but you often see him thanking someone for a kind comment about one of his books.

You’ll also find more generalised answers to fan questions, such as:

“To answer many of you: I wrote the #MidnightsChildren screenplay, worked very closely w/ director IamDeepaMehta, & am proud of the film.”

 

Margaret Atwood on Twitter

: Margaret Atwood is known for many things, but did you know she is a big retweeter? Well, you do now. She even trumps Sir Salman on connecting with readers – it seems she tries to keep up with everything her 345,488 followers tweet at her, if you go by her recent message:

“OK, I am falling behind on your Tweets.. will try to catch up later but may miss some…running hard…”

Also some personal tweets, and comments on current events.

 

Umberto Eco on Twitter

: Umberto Eco tweets in English and Italian, but he’s not here to chit-chat with his followers. Strictly for philosophical musings, and the occasional retweet of someone else’s philosophical musings. Sample tweet:

“as time went by in my own life I was not only able to retrieve things I had forgotten, but things I believed I had never learned”

 

 

Teju Cole on Twitter

: Nigerian-American writer Teju Cole does something interesting with his tweets. He takes snippets of news from the Nigerian papers and makes his own version of fait divers. He calls them small fates – click here for more about his approach. Sample tweet:

“There’s a thin line between resisting arrest and biting off a policeman’s ear, and Mrs Gloria Ugonnaya, of Yaba, crossed that line.”

 

Tweets by Mario Vargas Llosa

: The Nobel-winning Peruvian writer joined Twitter back in 2009, but only tweeted three times. After a three-year gap, he seems to be back permanently now. Tweets mostly in Spanish, but often retweets English-language news too. Sample tweet:

“En esto se confirma lo que me dijo Neruda hace muchos años en Londres: para cada halago, habrá dos o tres insultos.”

 

Jeanette Winterson on Twitter

: The British novelist, known for her debut novel Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit among many others, gives her views on books, culture and life in general, often with added helpings of dry humour. Sample tweet:

“Peter Bazalgette appointed head of Arts Council. The man who brought us Big Brother and Endemol. Has anyone done less for culture?”

 

Aravind Adiga on Twitter

: He’s a bit sporadic in his appearances on Twitter, but the 2008 Booker winner has been tweeting on and off for a long time and has accumulated 1,846 tweets. He’s generous in his shout-outs to fellow Indian writers who are less well-known in the rest of the world. Sample tweet:

“Chandrashekhara Kambara is one of India’s great writers. I’m glad to hear someone is translating him into English”

 

Linda Grant on Twitter

: 22,818 tweets, and still she finds time to write. In fact Linda Grant has won the Orange Prize and been shortlisted for the Booker. She tweets many times a day about everything from badgers to The Archers. Sample tweet:

“Sunday morning Bach. Central heating on. Rain. Cup of tea. Howard Jacobson.”

 

Amitav Ghosh on Twitter

: A wonderfully eclectic series of tweets from Amitav Ghosh, encompassing politics, literature, world events, quirky news stories and personal observations. Sample tweet:

“wonderful to wake up to a clear monsoon-scrubbed sky and a chorus of peacocks lapwings thrushes, babblers, koels, hawk cuckoos & chiffchaffs”

 

Jay McInerney on Twitter

: In the 1908s Jay McInerney was running with the literary brat pack, breaking ground with his second-person narrative of urban drug culture. Now he’s on Twitter.

He still seems to be quite the socialite, though, posting a lot of updates and photos about the celebrities he’s met. Sample tweet:

“Just back from Andre Balazs’ new nightclub and if I hadn’t had such a good time I could probably remember what it was called.”

 

Hari Kunzru on Twitter

: Hari Kunzru is well-known for his novel The Impressionist, but comes across as quite genuine on Twitter.

He posts several times a day, and includes quite a bit of political stuff, linking to news from around the world. Sample tweet:

“Brit producer of play about plight of gay Ugandans arrested, jailed in Kampala http://bo.st/Q67KJU 

 

Finally, here are a few other literary fiction authors who didn’t make the list, because their accounts are either inactive, on RSS autopilot, or seem to be run by someone other than the author: Will Self, Cormac McCarthy, Chuck Palahniuk, Zadie Smith and Monica Ali. I also think it’s pretty cool that Maya Angelou is on Twitter, but she’s a poet so I can’t include her.

So that’s the list! Now of course, Twitter being the huge, chaotic, wonderful mess that it is, I know that I’ve probably missed some people out. The list is probably skewed towards UK writers, since I’m British and those are the ones I tend to follow. And I also know that literary fiction is a slippery term in itself, so you may disagree with my inclusion or exclusion of certain writers.

So please tell me what you think, and what you’d change! I’d love to make the list as accurate and comprehensive as possible, so please suggest additions or changes in the comments below.

Also, please tweet about it and get more opinions from your followers on Twitter!

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20 thoughts on “The Twitterati: literary fiction writers to follow on Twitter

    1. Haha, I promise I’d written this post before I saw your comment about being the last person not on Twitter, Claire! Not trying to tempt you. In fact, you can read the thoughts of Eco and Rushdie without signing up. Of course, if you want to talk to them, you have to be a member… Go on, you know you want to…

  1. Nice to read about Margaret Atwood tweeting her followers a lot, I’ve not read her books, but it can be off-putting when an author doesn’t seem to reply to anyone at all. That tweet about the Arts Council is worrying, especially as I’m assuming it’s true. I don’t tend to follow the big names because I’ve found in the past that it means more spam followers on my account, the biggest name on my list is Elizabeth Chadwick.

    1. Yes, some famous authors can be quite aloof – I suppose it’s understandable given the number of people who must contact them, and the need to actually get some writing done as well, but Twitter is a place where you really have to engage in a conversation.

      Interesting point about spam followers – I do get them, and although I hadn’t connected it with following big names before, maybe that’s why. It doesn’t really bother me, though – I just ignore them, and they usually go away after a while if I don’t follow back!

  2. Great list and great idea. Here are a few more I follow:

    Steven Pressfield ? @SPressfield

    Paulo Coelho @paulocoelho

    John Green @realjohngreen

    James Scott Bell [email protected]

    D.T. Max ? @D_T_Max

    colson whitehead @colsonwhitehead

    William Gibson ? @GreatDismal

    I wouldn’t argue that any of these folks belong on the list instead of the authors you mentioned, but they’re other authors to consider. Thanks for this post. I added about five more people to my twitter feed.

    1. Thanks Brandon – I appreciate the suggestions. Will check them out!

      By the way, Margaret Atwood just recommended William Gibson to me on Twitter as well, so you’re in good company!

  3. Margaret Atwood is on Twitter? That just made my day. Will have to follow her.

    I love it when authors tweet like ‘normal’ people, talking about their days and what inspires them, and not just what projects their working on. The only difference is, their tweets are more interesting and have correct grammar.

    1. Great to hear that I made your day! Yes, it’s great to get an insight into their lives, and refreshing when it’s not all about their projects. I think grammar goes out of the window for anyone, though, when you have to keep to 140 characters 🙂

  4. This is wonderful! And I can’t believe I’m typing the words, but it makes me wish I used twitter more! (or as I keep mis-saying it, titter) I will have to follow some of these – particularly Margaret Atwood, Linda Grant and Jeanette Winterson.

  5. Oh no …. don’t do this to us. I had noticed Margaret Atwood on Twitter, but I didn’t know the others were. Love the sample tweet from Jeanette Winterson!

    Anyhow, thanks for this list … I think!

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