Hi, folks! My name’s Dane Cobain and I’m a British author and poet with a number of releases under my belt. Today, I’m here to talk to you about Former.ly: The Rise and Fall of a Social Network, my literary fiction novel which follows a web developer called Dan as he joins the team of a fledgling social network.
They say that you should write about what you know, which is why I decided to create a fictitious social network. I work in social media marketing, and a big part of that involves researching how social networking companies work – not just in terms of what the user sees, but also how they’re structured, how they make their money and how the company itself acts and reacts to things.
That’s how Former.ly was born – I thought that the premise was a little different, and certainly not something I’ve ever seen someone try to tackle. It also has the benefit of being something new, something that no other major author had ever been able to write about. Hemingway, for example, could never have written a book like this, because this kind of company has never really existed before.
But I didn’t want to create just any social network, a parody of Facebook or Twitter. It seemed to me that if I was going to be dedicating so much time to a fictional company, there was no point going with something that’s already out there. If I’m going to go all out, I should go all out – right?
At the same time, it was important to make it believable enough so that it seemed feasible without being already taken. That’s how I narrowed down the idea of the site to a social network for the dead, where users sign up to it while they’re alive and post updates that are only visible to themselves, and then the profile goes live to the public once the user dies.
That then led to some of the other elements of the story line, but I can’t really talk about that without ruined the story line. Suffice to say that it leads to the unusual quirk of the site having a vested interest in death, with the deaths of major celebrities causing huge surges of numbers as their profiles are released to the public.
I also had to think about the employees, and Former.ly is very much the inside story of the network as seen through its employees’ eyes. That’s why it was written in first person – the story is told by Dan, the company’s lead web developer, and that was a conscious choice to make people feel closer to the centre of the company, rather than looking in from the outside.
Creating a fictional social network takes a lot of time, but it was also immensely rewarding, more so than any of the research I’ve carried out for other books. I even reserved the Former.ly domain name, although my registration has since lapsed and now the new owners want thousands for the right to use it. But hey ho, it doesn’t always go to plan!
All in all, the book has been well-received, and it definitely seems to have caught the public’s imagination. Maybe I should create more fictitious social networks!
When Dan Roberts starts his new job at Former.ly, he has no idea what he’s getting into. The site deals in death – its users share their innermost thoughts, which are stored privately until they die. Then, their posts are shared with the world, often with unexpected consequences. But something strange is going on, and the site’s two erratic founders share a dark secret. A secret that people are willing to kill for.
Author Bio ~
Dane Cobain (High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, UK) is an independent poet, musician and storyteller with a passion for language and learning. When he’s not in front of a screen writing stories and poetry, he can be found working on his book review blog or developing his website, www.danecobain.com. His debut novella, No Rest for the Wicked, was released in the summer of 2015.
Cobain’s love of words grew from an early age, whether he was rewriting the lyrics to pop songs or teaching his elder siblings – maths and computer science students at university – how to execute commands in MS-DOS, all before he hit double digits.
He started writing at fourteen, and progressed from lyrics and music to journals, short stories and poetry before writing the first draft of an early novel whilst in lectures. He studied creative writing at London’s Roehampton University, earning a 2:1 bachelor’s degree before starting a career as a social media marketing.
It was this career in marketing, combined with his love for reading and writing, which led to the creation of SocialBookshelves.com, his book blog, which was recently ranked fifth in a list of the top literature blogs in the UK by Vuelio, an influencer database which lists details for over a million people.
Through SocialBookshelves.com, he met Jesse James Freeman, the former VP of Community Management at Booktrope Publishing. Cobain’s debut novella, a supernatural thriller called No Rest for the Wicked, was released by Booktrope’s Forsaken imprint on June 11th 2015.
Best described as a long short story or a short long story, No Rest for the Wicked takes styles and genres and plays around with them, in a novella which is influenced by everyone from Irvine Welsh to Henry Miller, via Charles Bukowski and Graham Greene
His second release, a collection of poetry called Eyes Like Lighthouses When the Boats Come Home, was released by Booktrope Editions in March 2016. Cobain performs his poetry at stand up nights, slams and open mic nights, and has memorised all of the 101 poems in the book. He can also recite the first chapter of No Rest for the Wicked from memory.
Cobain’s third book, a literary fiction novel called Former.ly, was released on June 11th 2016. It follows the story of the rise and fall of a social networking site for the dead. Users sign up to the site, create a profile that they populate with updates that only they can see, and then when they die, their profile goes live to the public. But there’s something sinister about the site – something that people are willing to kill for.
Former.ly was followed by a non-fiction book called Social Paranoia: How Consumers and Brands Can Stay Safe in a Connected World, which was released in August 2016. That’s set to be followed by Come On Up to the House, a horror novella and screenplay, at the end of 2016.
2017 is due to witness a number of new releases, including Driven – the first book in the Leipfold series of detective novels – and Subject Verb Object: An Anthology of New Writing.