Tread carefully through cyberspace. You don’t know who you might meet

Did you ever want to cast off? Did you ever want to sail into the sunset with someone you just met; a kindred spirit, a twin soul, leaving everything behind? It is possible in the virtual world of the Internet, which can become a comfort zone you’ll never want to leave. And then you might want to meet that person with whom you have become strangely intimate. But reality is never as lovely as the dream. Be careful what you wish for…

That’s the very first paragraph of Virtual Strangers, a romantic suspense novel  I co-wrote with Ola Zaltin, an author who I met in the virtual world of a writers’ site.

At the time, I was only just dipping my toe into the deep, dark waters of the Internet, that ‘place’ that is not physical, not ‘real’ but still so much part of our existence these days. But then, when I was just discovering cyberspace, I was completely unaware of its powers or its addictive qualities. I had no idea that you can actually get to know someone and become close friends simply by chatting online. Nor did I know that you can get attacked and seriously upset by trolls and other nasty people who use the written world as a very effective weapon. All this I discovered very quickly and I experienced all of the above. As a writer, I found this fascinating and thought I would one day write a novel on this subject.

Ola and I became virtual friends very quickly, probably because we were both Swedes living abroad, even though I am a novelist and he is a very talented script writer with an impressive career. We spent something like a year chatting on this site, where Ola so elegantly dismissed the bullies that tried to virtually attack me. We also had a kind of ‘gang’ of writers who sparked off each other and spent entire evenings exchanging highly amusing repartee. Then Ola and I met in real life and he became a real person to me and a real, very close friend and collaborator. I don’t think we could have worked together had we not me in the flesh. But that was much later and we were already working together online.

As we developed the plot and connected on Facebook, I began to realise that this virtual socialising is very seductive and that it can become a kind of escape from the dreariness of one’s real life. This made me think that it would be interesting to explore the question of real versus virtual life and how some people possibly create a completely different online persona to that of their real life. My heroine, Annika, is just such a person, seeking an escape from her own horrible reality and creating an online, other ‘self’ that has a more interesting life. She gets the socialising she lacks from her virtual friends and foolishly connects with all the wrong people with frightening and disastrous results.

Cyberspace is a kind of digital sub-culture where many of us ‘live’. Ask yourself this question: Are you better looking online? Younger? Happier?  More popular? Are you better educated and have a slightly better standard of living? Of course not, you are totally honest, just like everybody else…

When Ola and I discussed the plot of the book, we felt we wanted to bring in that threat on a personal level that can often be felt on the Internet. We wanted to make the readers feel we were looking at them through their window as they sit at their computer in their underwear or pyjamas. We also wanted to create a story where virtual life spills into the real world. As it probably often does.

And… you really should get dressed. That dressing gown isn’t very becoming…

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17 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. booksandpals
    May 14, 2012 @ 22:41:41

    “Are you better looking online? Younger? Happier? More popular? Are you better educated and have a slightly better standard of living?”

    I have to answer yes to at least 4 out of these five. And what is wrong with my work pajamas? 🙂

    Reply

  2. ragsdaniels
    May 15, 2012 @ 11:57:11

    Do you have a lisp, a glass eye, a club foot, or perhaps all three? If your answer is no, join me for a drink at the next midgets convention.

    Reply

  3. susannefromsweden
    May 15, 2012 @ 12:01:35

    Only if you clean the egg off your dressing gown.

    Reply

  4. susannefromsweden
    May 15, 2012 @ 15:06:25

    No.

    Reply

  5. susannefromsweden
    May 15, 2012 @ 15:34:10

    It takes a long time to get rid of egg

    Reply

    • ragsdaniels
      May 15, 2012 @ 16:05:48

      You are now talking from experience, Susanne. As it only took me seconds to rid my lambs wool dressing gown of what appeared to be bat guano, but was in fact mustard from my square sausage sandwich, I was pleased with the result.
      Sliced sausage (also known as square sausage, lorne sausage, or slice) is a food product most often enjoyed in Scotland and North East England. Sliced sausage remains a favourite in Scottish cooked breakfasts and is often eaten in a bread roll with English mustard.

      Reply

  6. susannefromsweden
    May 15, 2012 @ 20:04:12

    I think we have moved on to dinner…

    Reply

  7. susannefromsweden
    May 15, 2012 @ 22:42:50

    brunch?

    Reply

  8. susannefromsweden
    May 15, 2012 @ 22:56:43

    I was just checking my mail before turning in and got an alert about someone eating sausages on my blog.

    Reply

  9. rubybarnes
    May 19, 2012 @ 17:21:22

    Hi Susanne. I trust Virtual Strangers is doing well! Really enjoyed it.
    My wife is scowling at me as I write this. Just can’t tear myself away from the cyber world. Please come over to Kilkenny and give me a good slap!
    Cheers
    Ruby

    Reply

    • susannefromsweden
      May 19, 2012 @ 17:42:18

      You shouldn’t have said that, Ruby. After all, I’m less that an hour’s drive from you… I might take you up on that. And yes, Virtual Strangers is doing very well at the moment. So glad yo enjoyed it.

      Reply

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