Monday, August 4, 2008

A famous author gets on an airplane...

I was flying home from a writer's conference a couple weeks back and I was feeling pretty good.  Pretty good because I was on a panel with some truly famous authors and I held my own.  Of course, that might have all been in my mind, but self-delusion is an underrated trait in my opinion.  At any rate, it was a good conference overall.  Got to reconnect with some folks I've met out on the circuit and met a couple new folks too.  I generally feel pretty jazzed after one of these things but this one was particularly good it seemed.  That is, until I got on the plane to fly home.

Now I'm real new to this whole writing gig deal so when asked, I don't normal fess up about being a writer.  But this time I'm sitting in my luxurious exit row seat - no upgrade this leg - and across the aisle from me sits a rather sane looking gentlemen.  That's not as common as you would expect these days.  Fly as much as I do and you'll see what I mean. 

Anyway, we do the usual chatter and he asks me what I do.  In my ebullient mood I throw out that I'm a writer.

"Oh, what do you write?"

"I write thrillers."

"Oh, like Stephen King?"

"Well, yeah sorta.  Less scary than Mr. King's stuff, but yeah, in that general vicinity."

"I hate Stephen King."

"Well, he's not for everyone."

"Anyone can write that crap.  I don't see what the big deal is.'

Okay, it's turning sour real quick and I'm looking for the quick exit.  "Writing a novel isn't as easy at it seems.  But different strokes for different folks.   Sure enough people that do like his work."  In an attempt to convey that the conversation is over, I start futzing with my iPod which is something I don't have to fake.

"How many books you written?"

"Too many to count."  I don't explain to him the difference between publishing a book and writing a book.  That's seems way too advanced for this conversation.

"So you must be rich."

"Oh, far from it."  I point up toward first class.  "I'm not riding up there."

"I could write a book and be rich too."

"No, I'm not rich my friend.  No, still just plugging away."  

"Then you must not be any good."

That freezes me mid-headphone untangle.  I turn to him, mouth slightly agape.

"You got a copy of your book you could give me?"

I reach in my wallet and quickly count the five's I have for the booze cart 'cause I'm going to need a couple.  And I mutter to myself, next time I'm saying I sell insurance.


Nina Wright said...

A chatty supermarket cashier once asked me what kind of work I did. When I replied that I wrote novels, she flatly said, "Only about twenty people in the whole world make money doing that. The rest are starving artists."

After that I avoided her checkout line.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Why is it obnoxious people like that guy on the plan always ask for free books? They tell you in so many words you're worthless, then prove it by asking for a freebie. Sheesh!

Nina, I once had someone make that "starving artist" remark to me. I indicated my considerable bulk and replied: "Do I look like I'm starving to you?"

Mark Terry said...

In his book on writing, David Morrell gives an example almost exactly like that, which is why I believe he says something like accountant when people ask.

G.M. Malliet said...

I'm reading this and with every sentence out of that guy's mouth I'm thinking "ouch"!

What an absolute stinker. And after all this he wants a free copy?

Did you consider pushing him out of the plane? Completely justifiable if you did.

Mark Combes said...

Mark #1

I haven't read David's book but I have heard Stephen King mention that he had a similar experience - about his own book. He walks up to a guy on a plane who is reading his current book and asks how he likes it. The guy said it sucked. Which is why this event had so much impact on me.

Jess Lourey said...

At least it made for a funny story, Mark!

I think every profession has that sort of downside, though. My late husband worked for the DNR (Department of Natural Resources), and for the first year or two on the job, he would tell people that, and they'd either berate him for wasting tax dollars or pepper him endlessly with questions about the strange, hairless squirrel they had in their backyard (he was a stream ecologist). He started telling people he was a box maker. That'll stop a conversation.

At least we're not gynecologists.

Keith Raffel said...

Mark, thanks for reminding me why I don't talk to strangers on planes.

Anonymous said...

At least you can kill him off in a future book.

; )