By Deborah Sharp
How can you tell if you're a serious author? The kind of author book critics wax about rapturously, and creative writing professors speak of in hushed tones of awe?
I have absolutely no idea. I can tell you how you know you're not a serious author. If the week before your new book comes out you find yourself shopping for a feather boa and rhinestone bling so you can dress up like your fictional character at a fake red carpet soiree . . . odds are you're the other kind of author. You know, the opposite of serious. You're a goofy author.
Guilty as charged.
That doesn't mean I don't work hard, or I don't take pride in what I do. It just means I keep things in perspective. I write a funny, light-hearted mystery series that's been described as Agatha Christie meets My Name is Earl. It's almost impossible to take your stuff too seriously when one reviewer calls your character ''a redneck Stephanie Plum,'' and another says your book is ''a humorous bit of fluff, perfect for the beach.''
Hey, nothing wrong with fluff!
Which brings me to Mama's Red Carpet Soiree. My fourth book, the movie-themed MAMA SEES STARS, officially came out this week. Instead of getting all literary and Capital ''A'' authorly on the folks who turn out for my booksignings, I'll be dressing up like the Mama character, who has never spotted an over-the-top outfit she didn't covet. Guests are also encouraged to come sporting their movie diva -- or divo -- duds. We'll all dodge fake paparazzi and walk a rented red carpet. There will be alcohol, which explains a lot.
It's all in good fun, because, let's face it: I'm not curing terminal diseases or negotiating world peace here. Some authors act as if they are. Once, I was on a panel at a mystery convention with one such Serious Author. What programming genius put me -- the writer of easy-reading, comic romps set in a Southern-fried slice of Florida -- together with an Author whose dark, tortured characters struggle with Important Themes?
Anyhoo, my panel mate was expounding on how important it is for him to write, how he simply must get down on paper these important things that must be said.
''Writing is more important to me than anything in life,'' he said, importantly.
I waited a beat and then leaned into the microphone. ''Anything?''
"Yes,'' he said.
"More important than breathing?'' I asked.
"More important than ice cream?''
The Serious Author cracked a smile. "Yes,'' he said.
It was good to know how his priorities ranked. Although for me, ice cream might have scored relatively higher in that equation.
The point is, what's the benefit of having a cool job like writer if you can't have a little fun? For my last book, which was set around Mama's fifth try at tying the sacred knot of matrimony, the signings played off the wedding theme. I had a tacky, towering bridal veil, similar to what Mama wore for her Wedding of the Century in little Himmarshee, Fla. This time around, I'm forgoing the elaborate headwear I donned for MAMA GETS HITCHED in favor of a movie star boa and a little bit of bling. Comparatively understated, actually.
Omigod ... do you suppose that means I'm becoming more SERIOUS? That I'll start acting like a Capital A Author? Nah, I also have sunglasses with pink leopard-spotted frames and a pomegranate-hued bath mat I plan to unfurl and stand on as my traveling red carpet.
Goofy. Guilty as charged.