I had the *ahem* fun of trying to explain myself as a writer yesterday.
You know that special moment when you aren’t quite sure what to say to people when they ask you about your job? No? Well, perhaps you have a nine-to-five desk job and your very own cube. That’s nice—people relate to that. But maybe you do something at your job that’s hard to explain or doesn’t fit in a neat box or is potentially embarrassing. Maybe you’ve gone to a family or class reunion with a bajillion people you haven’t seen in twenty years, and they all want to know one thing: what you do for a living. Only you have a sudden case of nerves when telling them because you have no way to gauge their potential reactions.
Yeah, it’s like that for me as a writer. Don’t get me wrong—I love, love, love telling people that I write. The magic of saying my book is due to be published has yet to wear off; I still glow just a little every time I think about it. You know what I don’t like, though? Answering people when they say,
So…what’s your book about? I’d love to read it.
My typical reaction goes something like this:
It’s kind of…
There’s this guy, see, and…
There is absolutely no good way to tell some of my friends, “No, you most definitely do not want to read this thing I wrote.” Because realistically, of course I want people to read it! I want to sell lots and lots of copies! I don’t relish the idea of explaining to my friends that perhaps it wouldn’t be their cup of tea.
My husband covered for me, which had me laughing so hard I thought I might drop off my chair. He just flat out told one person, “No, you probably don’t want to read it.” He explained it wasn’t the kind of thing he would want our kids reading. Which, no shit, Sherlock. I don’t write kids’ fic or YA, so even if it were so clean you could read it out loud in church, it probably still wouldn’t be for children.
The difficulty is in explaining to certain adults why they wouldn’t read it. That brings a new level of awkwardness when you’re sitting in a church basement, enjoying a pizza lunch, surrounded by your children and their camp counselors and your friends of varying levels of conservative Christianity—and you aren’t quite sure which ones are at which end of the spectrum.
(Taking off my hat and placing it over my heart. Please trust me when I say I have only the most love and respect for these folks, regardless of our political and theological differences. *Deep breath*.)
So I finally settled on just telling people that I write romance novels. Which in one sense is kind of true, it’s just not the whole picture. The good news is that it’s highly effective in getting men to stop asking questions; not so much with women.
I made that mistake exactly once before yesterday’s hemming and hawing. A friend at church asked; I answered, hoping she was one of those super-religious types that would just shut the hell up because she knows what’s in most romance novels (hint: the characters are not “playing tent” under the sheets). Instead, she had verbal diarrhea about some friend who writes those nauseating Amish romances. I guess the good news is that she, too, finds them crappy, but it didn’t help when I had to tell her, “That’s not what I write.”
Which brings me to the sad conclusion of this tale: I still don’t know how to answer people when they ask that question. It’s my own failing, really. I have trouble navigating the social contexts in which it would be safe to be fully open and honest about the content of my novel. It’s clearly not a great idea to explain to a room full of people with more…traditional?…values what it’s about. But there are people of a more liberal stripe who would be equally displeased with me. What’s a writer to do?
I guess all I can say is, if you bother reading my blog at all, and have done so any time in the last six months, you know damn well what my novel is about.* You know what the next one’s about, too, more or less. And if you still like me after that, well, then you are a pretty special person, and I’m lucky to have you in my life.
Also, yes. You should read my book. Even if you’re a dude or conservative or just really, really straight-laced. Even if it makes your cheeks flush or your jaw drop or your eyes pop out of your head. Even if you turn to the nearest person and mouth, What on God’s green Earth was she thinking? Even if you throw the book out a window (when you’re done, of course). Because if I haven’t put you off with the snippets I’ve shared, then you aren’t likely to be too upset with the rest of it—or with me, for that matter. Heck, you might even end up enjoying it. ♥
*If you’re still in the dark, pop some popcorn, settle into your favorite chair, and click here for all my WIPpets. They’re in reverse order, so find the oldest one and start there.