In a mostly successful attempt to undermine and interrogate the whole concept of author publicity, the writer as an identity, the interview process itself, Joyce Carol Oates interviews herself for the Washington Post.
One key takeaway:
Is there something frankly embarrassing or shameful about being a “writer”?
The public identification does seem just a bit self-conscious, at times. Like identifying oneself as a “poet,” “artist,” “seer,” “visionary.”
Let’s get back to the crucial question: Are you, or are you not, the “writer”?
The point of James’s remark is that the “writer” is embodied in his — or her — writing. The place to look for James, for instance, is in his books.
Points to Oates as well for referencing both Henry James and Paula Deen in the same piece without straining.