Being an author is one of those jobs that sometimes catches people’s interest, just like being a journalist, policeman, or a vet.
Most people know a writer, or a very talented one who wants to be published. Even if that isn’t the case, people understandably like to know how a book goes from that troubled first draft through to a polished, finished product. There’s no doubt it’s a wonderful thing to do something for a living that’s interesting.
But from my own experiences and from talking to other writers, I’ve identified ‘those questions’. The ones that occasionally crop up and make us want to stockpile chocolate bars, crisps and nuts, and hide away from the world. I can imagine people get this in every job, so please tell me yours too.
1) Have you read this book?
This one always makes me a little nervous, I have to admit. All my life I’ve been a keen reader, a real lover of books. Like most people I’ve read a lot, but not nearly as much as I’d like… Time just isn’t on my side with this (as well as writing books, I work full-time and I’m studying part-time towards a degree). Not only that, but when I’m writing my own drafts I sometimes avoid the work of other authors to make sure I don’t accidentally take on their tone! Sometimes I opt for memoirs or more obscure things, so it can be a bit humiliating when I’m at a party and people ask me if I’ve read X, Y or Z and I just feel my ears go hot.
I only wish I could read more!! *sighs*
2) There’s a mistake in your book… did you know?
Of course, this one’s a horror isn’t it? Just about every writer will have experienced this. When it happens all I can describe it as is a cold, sinking feeling followed by a strong desire to buy all your books from every shop in walking distance, head for the coast, hire and boat and dump them in the middle of the sea.
Unfortunately mistakes do sometimes get through… I know, it’s awful, and they often happen in the strangest ways making them look even more bizarre to the reader. Books are written and proof read by humans, sadly we make mistakes. A close friend of mine recently experienced this and told me her woes over dinner. I tried to offer words of comfort as she wiped away her tears behind a large burrito, but there was nothing I could do until a little time had passed.
But, do tell a writer if there’s an error. We can change drafts sometimes and if there’s time before release we can catch it early. Just be gentle with us… please! 😉
3) Is that character based on you?
I must admit I had a real giggle when I opened John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars and found his author’s note (if you haven’t seen it you should have a look, it’ll make you smile I promise!)
It is interesting how people sometimes connect the similarities between an author and a character and not the hugely obvious differences.
On the plus side, it’s really cool that people are not only reading the book but paying this much attention to it. You write about what you know, and a hell of a lot of your work will be inspired by your life… However, I certainly have no intention or desire to write about myself fact-for-fact in a fictional book. I can’t imagine anything more boring…
4) I’ve been looking at your reviews… how do you cope?
Yes, someone actually said this to me.
Here’s a fact. If you write a novel that will be published to a wide audience, then some people will dislike it. In fact some people will hate it, and some people will take to Amazon/Good Reads etc and spend (way too much) time composing angry, venomous reviews (one about a book of mine was really carefully done, with lots of GIFs to illustrate just how shit they thought it was). That is part of the job, and if you are a newly published writer then you need to get used to it I’m afraid. Whether you are relatively unknown or whether you are up there with the likes of Zadie Smith and J.K Rowling, people will write bad reviews about you.
That’s fine. People absolutely have the right to their opinion (and you can learn from some of them, if you want to read them that is). But please, can’t we focus on the positives? Especially when the majority of reviews are really nice? Meh, maybe it’s just me…
5) Do you ever get writers block?
Yes, I do. I procrastinate. I clean the flat when it never needed to be cleaned, I shuffle papers around, start sifting through old photographs and I paint my nails all the colours of the rainbow. (If you ever see me on Monday morning with brightly coloured and beautifully painted nails, you’ll know things didn’t go well.)
It’s awful. If you happen to be asking me when I’ve got writers block and I’m out trying to forget it then you’ve reminded me and oh God noooooo…..!!!!
So, there they are.
The top five most awkward questions to ask a writer.
If you are a writer, do you agree or disagree? If not, what’s your job and what are the most awkward questions people ask you?