Tuesday, September 10, 2013

We Have a Few Moments for Questions

By Deborah Sharp

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?


Beth Groundwater said...

The weirdest question that I've been asked, and multiple times at that, is: "Have I heard of you?"

I've learned to respond, "Why, yes, I'm sure you have."

Deborah Sharp said...

Ha, Beth! That's an excellent answer. Question is akin to the one I get, ''Are you famous?'' Sure!

Unknown said...

HA! I get asked the "Have I ever heard of you?" question a lot when I'm introduced to people at non-writing events. Once I told a man, "If you have to ask, then I guess you haven't." Another time I told 2 women sitting next to me at a play that I'm a novelist when they inquired about my work and got THE question. I shrugged and said probably not. When they asked my name, one of them gasped and said. "We just read one of your books in book club!" Then she took my photo.

Lois Winston said...

I'm often asked, "Would I like your books?" Instead of saying, "Uhm...you're a total stranger. I know nothing about you. How would I know what you like?" I smile, hand the person a copy, and say, "I'm certain you would."

Yesterday I gave a talk to a library book club. One of the women picked up two of my non-mystery titles and asked, "Which one is your favorite?" That's like asking a mother which of her children is her favorite. I told her I liked them both equally but for different reasons. Then she asked which I thought she'd like. I told her if she likes books that make her laugh, she should read TALK GERTIE TO ME. If she likes heart-tugging, emotional romantic suspense, she should read LOVE, LIES AND A DOUBLE SHOT OF DECEPTION. She chose the latter.

Deborah Sharp said...

Ha, Lois! I do the same thing whenever people ask me if I'm anything like so-and-so Fla. writer. Yes, a lot like him/her, I say.
Sue Ann: I love that story, with its happy ending!