Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Things People Say

Since I've been a published author, and especially since I've been an active blogger, people have felt free to say the darnedest things to me.

When my first book came out (MAIDENSONG, w/a Diana Groe), I was so proud of it, I propped a copy up on a shelf in my office at the bank where I worked. That led one person to comment:

"Oh look! There's an author out there with the same name as you and she was nice enough to give you a copy of her book!"

I'm rarely at a loss for words, but really, what could I say that wouldn't make the other person feel two inches tall?

For those who came in to my office and realized they were looking at the 'author out there,' the question was:

"Why are you still working at the bank?"

I resisted the urge to answer "Compound interest is my passion."

The truth is "why-are-you-still-working" was the polite, thinly-veiled version of:

"How much money did you make on that book?"

Which is something I still get quite often. Especially now that I write full time.

Money is the last taboo. Normally, we'd sooner ask a person's sexual orientation than grill them on their finances, but total strangers feel perfectly comfortable asking authors for specifics about their income. I think it's because the perception is that we all get 6 & 7 figure advances and the royalties roll in like clockwork each month. The truth is publishing is like every other field. A small percentage of practitioners account for the lion's share of the income. That's just how the world works.

And because I write romance, that's opened up a whole other line of questioning. My personal favorite is:

When are you going to write a real book?

As opposed to the 8 pretend books I've sold to a NY publisher, some of which have been translated into German, Dutch, Italian, Russian and Spanish?

It's ok. I know what's behind this question too. What they're really asking is:

When are you going to write a book without all that sex?

And the answer is "When I stop writing about life." My stories are about relationships and all that entails.

Then there's the flip side of the equation. At my very first signing, a reader came by my table, picked up my book and asked:

"How's the sex in this? I like the really filthy stuff."

Well, a happy consumer knows what she wants. I told her she probably wouldn't like my book. I really try to make sure all my scenes, the sex scenes included, serve the story. They must advance the plot or deepen and reveal character. Otherwise, they become part of the never-to-be-seen collection of highlight reels left on the self-editing chopping block.

Since I've been blogging steadily, I've received some interesting questions. I try very hard to be transparent on my blog because no one can keep up an "author persona" day after day. I am who I am.

But that doesn't mean I'll share EVERYTHING!

Just this week I was asked to contribute a bit to another blog about "My Favorite Sexual Position." I am not making this up! She was very polite about the request and she's one of my Facebook friends, so I did send her something, but mostly it was just that despite the level of heat in my books, I'm really a rather shy person.

Besides, I don't write about how I have sex in my books. It's about how my characters connect. (I can hear my DH reminding me that all writers have to research their material, but as with every other bit of research, we don't share everything we uncover!)

Ok, now it's your turn. Is there anything you'd like to ask me? I will probably answer (but just remember I make things up for a living! LOL!). If you're a writer too, what's the strangest thing anyone's ever said to you?


Anonymous said...

I'd like to give a try at writing a story maybe a novel. I read enough books that I think I could. What piece of advice would you give me? I'm on Myspace blaird20

Jane L said...

Hello Emily!! When I pick myself up off the floor from laughter, I will finish writing this post!

Seriously, someone asked your sexual position preferance, I cannot imagine asking ANYONE that question! If you saw the look on my face right now, you would break out in hysterical laughter!

A few of the aspiring authors I know have published authors that are being mentors to them. Did you have a mentor of sorts? Or were you on your own?

Are you working on those buttons for RT? LOL!!!!!
Have a great day Emily!

EmilyBryan said...

Hi Blaird20,

You are exactly where I was in 2001--a voracious reader who thought she could write a book.

As far as advice goes, the 7 pages of material for aspiring writers on is a good place to start.

No one is born knowing how to write a novel. Become a student of the craft and write everyday. That's how you learn.

EmilyBryan said...

Jane L--I wasn't completely surprised by the request. Because of my books, lots of readers know a good deal about me. I like to think we've become friends of a sort.

And I know some girlfriends talk about that sort of thing (where would Sex and the City be without girltalk?) but I'ver been chatty about intimate things. It's between me and the DH.

Jane, I didn't have a mentor, but I have had some fabulous critique groups and partners. I think that's one of the best "non-writing" uses of my time I've ever invested in my career. I learned more from my group is Seattle in a few short months than the two years previously slogging away on my own.

Don't have the buttons yet. Any recommendations on where to get them?

Mary Anne Landers said...

Thank you for your post, Emily. You've got a great attitude and a sense of humor about reactions that would really anger some writers. I hope more will follow your example.

The strangest response I ever got to something I wrote happened long ago. I submitted to a sci-fi magazine editor (whose name I can't recall, which is probably just as well) a short story in which the protagonist was contemplating suicide. The editor instantly and erroneously thought I was doing just that, and tried to talk me out of it at great length.

It took me a while to assure her this piece of fiction wasn't a cry for help on my part. She rejected the story, but it wasn't because I failed the make the protagonist and her situation seem real!

Keep up the good work.

librarypat said...

I can't imagine asking anyone their favorite position. One of the hazards of being a romance writer, I guess. I certainly hope your readers haven't been asking for advice on their sex life.
Will you be going to RWA in Nashville this year? Are there any situations where you get more weird questions than others - Signings - lectures - interviews - conferences?

Mitzi H. said...

I have to laugh at this because not to long ago I read a story on someones blog about a reporter attending a romance writer convention and was amazed because the majority of writers were (grandmas).

Would you ask your grandma what position she preferred?

Hehehe...I think not.

I'm not a writer...only a reader. I'm thrilled there are writers like you and others that continue to write regardless if you do it full time or not.

And I don't care if the writer is 80 or 20, or has experienced (it) first hand or not...I just want to read a good story.

EmilyBryan said...

Mary Anne--Well, the editor can't say your prose wasn't vivid and convincing!

Obviously, it just wasn't a subject matter they were looking for and the rejection had nothing to do with the quality of the writing.

Good luck in the future.

EmilyBryan said...

LibraryPat--Yes, I'll be in Nashville for RWA and in Columbus, Ohio for the Romantic Times Convention. Oh! and in Brunswick Maine to speak to the RWA chapter there on April 17th!

At conference, writers are usually there to ask about craft or career issues. I think the internet lends itself to more unusual questions because of the sense of anonymity.

EmilyBryan said...

Mitzi--I think we'd all like to indulge the fantasy that we're supermodels, but if we were, I doubt we'd have much to share about relationships. And that's what romance is about.

And I do write full-time now, I'm happy to say. But for those with a 40 hour a week gig, don't lose heart. You can still write!

Teddyree said...

Em, I Don't have anything to ask but loved the post and just wanted to say I had a good laugh so thanks muchly :-)

After following your blog for such a long time I can see why the humour in your novels comes across so naturally. You have such a great sense of humour!

EmilyBryan said...

Thanks, Teddy. Lovely to hear from you again. Hope you had a great holiday season Down Under.