HEARD the latest about Steffi McBride? She's been asked to sign up for the next series of I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, apparently. Oh and she has had a rose named after her, writes Linda Jones.
Perhaps you don't have a clue about this latest D-lister to hit the party circuit who says she's stayed up all hours with Paris and Kylie. And possibly you don't care a jot. But what, arguably, makes Steffi more interesting than your average airhead celeb is that she's the figment of an author's imagination and these tantalising - or annoying - insights into her star-studded existence come courtesy of her updates on Twitter, the social media "microblogging" site, and her Facebook page.
Steffi is the heroine of Andrew Croft's novel – The Overnight Fame of Steffi McBride - a tale of what happens when a young woman from a sink estate lands a plum role in the nation's favourite soap. Like many new books now, The Overnight Fame of Steffi McBride is being promoted by a video on YouTube but it's certainly not immediately obvious that the woman talking is an actress.
Other fictional characters are also staking their claim on social networking platforms. Jack Lancaster, star of Iain Hollingshead's comic novel Twenty Something, The Quarter Life Crisis of Jack Lancaster, has his own Facebook page, answering fans' enquiries as to how he's getting on.
Hollingshead says this was a fun way to promote the book for a while and the brainchild of a publishing intern.
Meanwhile, Luton footballer's wife Tracie Martin, from A WAG's Diary and A WAG Abroad by Alison Kervin has more than 250 friends on Facebook.
They apparently, and bizarrely, include Hazel Blears, Jim Bowen and David Brent, plus a smattering of other media types, girlband members and stand-up comedians. It's disconcerting.
The web 2.0 phenomenon is weaving a fictional web that can carry on where a book finishes - how can you tell who's real and who's made-up? I'm not convinced readers are bound to fall for it, or even have a passing interest.
It's baffling to contemplate why we would sign up for updates from someone who isn't real anyway, and whose book we may not even have heard of.
While it's now accepted that media-savvy publishers and authors are harnessing the power of online marketing, when it comes to fictional characters, surely that's going a little far.
Crofts doesn't think so. He says that seeing his teenage daughter gossiping and networking with friends inspired him to move in to the social media space: "Facebook and Twitter are just two potential outlets popular with younger potential readers, whom I thought would be the most likely to be interested in Steffi's meteoric rise."
Crofts made his name as a ghostwriter and appears to have no problem with blurring fact and fiction as a strategy to sell Steffi to his target Heat-reading audience.
"Hopefully people will be curious and eager to find out more. Who is this girl? If she is so famous how come I've never heard of her? It wouldn't be long before they realised she was a fictitious character and by then I hope they would be sufficiently interested in her to want to find out more by reading her story."
In this world, in the future social media platforms will help the fictitious characters live on, and get up to things they may never have dreamt of on the page.
But where does that leave the humble reader? We expect a book to tell the story and not that it will be continued across some latest technical wizardry on the whims of marketing people.
When we hand over our cash to pay for the latest bestseller we are investing in what is in our hands at that very moment, not some nebulous future journey plotted through cyberspace.
Or perhaps it's now inevitable that we should also expect to hook up to a character's various social media accounts, getting updates by the month, day, hour or minute. But, really, why should we care?
This article was included on the Guardian's books blog.