Every author knows the questions he or she dreads hearing at book signings. This is one of my favorites:
Earnest Writer (EW): Could you read my 423-page novel? It's a romance between an alien and a human, it has a mystery, and there are flying dragons.
Stumped Author (SA): Uhhhh . . .
EW: And, here's the best part. It has multiple points of view because every character is equally important. All thirteen of them.
SA: Uhhhh . . .
I'm happy to say very few questions from strangers are about terrible, overlong manuscripts crowded with characters no one would want to read about. I do get many thoughtful, interesting questions from engaged readers. And the answers don't involve me crushing their dreams of publishing fame and fortune, if only I'd introduce them to my agent, write a letter of recommendation to my editor, and blurb their 423-page masterpiece.
But I have often wondered why readers rarely ask the things that authors talk about to one another. For example, here are 5 questions you'll hear around the bar or in the hotel lobby when authors get together at conferences:
1. How much weight do you gain when sitting on your butt for a year writing a book?
About 7 and 1/2 pounds.
2. What kinds of things do you do when you know you should be writing?
Watch YouTube. Check my Facebook page. Eat (see the answer to No. 1, above)
3. What Amazon review did you hate most, and why?
Luckily, I've received only a handful of the dreaded one-star reviews, but this one is my Amazon winner:
Pathetic! the review headline said. If you like ''Girlie Books,'' she writes for you.
Here's the runner-up: I eventually finished this book, but it was a laborious task.
4. What well-known author is a big jerk?
While I won't mention names here (find me at the bar), I always tell this story about one of my first appearances as a panelist at a mystery conference. A Famous Author (FA) was on the same panel. I approached FA in the hallway beforehand to introduce myself:
Me, Fan Girl: I'm thrilled we're going to be on the panel together. I really admire your work. .
FA: Oh, you''re the one who writes the funny series.
Me, beaming with pride: Yes, that's me. I write the Mace Bauer Mysteries.
FA, sneering: I HATE funny.
5. How often do people who never read and can barely write a sentence tell you they've always believed they could write a fabulous book?
Far more often than people with no mechanical aptitude tell their mechanics they could rebuild a car, or non-physicians inform their surgeons they've got the stuff to slice out an appendix. In other words, all the frickin' time.
How about you? Is there a question you've always wanted to ask, but didn't? What weird questions do people ask you?