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:~: Tuesday, October 03, 2006 :~:

The Word Is Out

It's official. My secret is out and, consequently, my anonymity is shot.

It's no great surprise I've kept my writing quiet the past few years as I've sought publication. Like many of you, I've told close friends and family, but in general I didn't want to deal with the plethora of questions from acquaintances and neighbors regarding my status. Have you published yet? Have you sold? What's taking so long? Why are you continuing to write when you still haven't made it? Writing is a very personal business, and it's slow, and most people (I'd say 98% of the population) doesn't understand any of this. I'm very proud of what I do, but I haven't been ready to share that yet with the world.

It seems my days of silence are over, though. In part because my family - who, in their excitement - have mentioned it in passing to neighbors and other friends. I went to pick my daughter up from school a few weeks ago and was chatting with another mom. She looked at me and said, "So I hear you've been writing. What's happening with your book?" I was taken aback for a minute, and finally found the voice to ask, "How did you know I was writing?" She responded with, "Well, when you were in Atlanta at your writer's conference, we took your daughter to the pool and she told us all about it." Not only did said daughter tell them about my conference, but she told them about my book - the fact that it was a romantic suspense and what the main character did for a living. Obviously the seven-year-old is more canny than I thought, and she's got radar ears when I've mentioned things in passing to the DH.

But I wish I could say it was just her. No, the DH has been telling people, too. For awhile I made it clear to him I didn't want to spread the word, but ever since I signed with my agent (or maybe since he read part of my book), he's been telling people all about it - neighbors, friends, guys on his softball team, people he works with. I understand he's proud of me, but I don't think he realizes it could still be a looooong time before anything happens.

So it's out there. And it's strange to have to field questions about my career, especially when those questions come from people who know zilch about the publishing industry. Case in point, last weekend I went to a friend's get-together. Women only, chatting, drinking wine, hanging out. It was fun, and after two glasses of merlot I was pretty relaxed after a stressful week. And then the questions started. I swear they came out of nowhere, and they sobered me up really fast. The mom who'd talked to me at school a few weeks back started asking about my book, and suddenly I was surrounded by women wanting to know all about it. Did it have sex in it? Was it a Harlequin romance (as if that were a bad thing), and the question I still cringe at hearing, When can we read it? I fielded questions as best I could, but I know I did a lousy job. Up until that point, I didn't realize word of my writing had spread through the neighborhood like wildfire. Now, I know some of you may be thinking, no big deal, right? It's just your neighbors. But let me give you a clear picture of my neighborhood. We are the real-life version of Desperate Housewives. My cul-de-sac - all of 20 houses or so - has a newsletter, and a website. There are activities happening ever week - whether it's poker parties or bunko or ladies-night-out or a rip-roaring party just for the heck of it. People all around the city know our neighborhood. We're legendary. And while I happen to be one of the more quiet ones on our street (locked up in my house writing), you can kind of picture why I didn't want my writing news to spread just yet. I've already had a roomful of women tell me I need to write a book about our street.

But the clincher of the night was when another woman started asking me questions about my book. She, also, has been writing. A non-fiction book, apparently, which she's trying to sell right now. Now, granted, I know very little about selling non-fiction because it's not my area of interest, but when she asked me if I'd had my book edited yet, I was a little bewildered. I said, no, that I haven't sold it yet, but that I had critique partners and that my agent had gone through and made a few comments on minor things to edit. She said, "Oh, well, yeah, okay. Then you haven't had it edited yet. I have a professional editor who's been working on my book. She's so great, she takes my words and changes them and makes them simply shine. And now that she's done with it, it's this really great book. If it doesn't sell right away, I'm going to self-publish it because it's such a great book, it needs to be out there. " I was shocked. Because in my world of fiction, that sounds like someone else is doing the writing for you. Maybe I'm naive, but I didn't know what to say.

It occurred to me later that no matter how I answer questions from people outside the publishing industry, they're never going to understand the steps it takes to get published. My DH does, simply because he watches me and listens to everything I tell him, but friends, neighbors, acquaintances, even family to some degree will never really get it. It's in my nature to try to explain things to people, to justify why it takes so long to get things done in this biz, but I'm slowly learning that's not to my advantage. Smile, say "thanks," and "No, I haven't heard anything yet." I'd prefer to not even field the questions in the first place, but it seems that's not going to happen now that my news has spread, and I guess I'm just going to have to get used to it.

So, how do you answer the questions when thrown at you? What's your best response? I'd love to hear how you deal with this issue - published or unpublished.

17Comments:

Blogger Piper Lee said...

Well, when my Holier-Than-Thou SIL found out I was at a romance writers conference a couple of years ago, (learning the basics of writing and such) her first question to my DH (her brother) was, "Will I be able to read it?" As if she was sure she would be above it and offended by a "SEX" book. I simply told my DH to tell her, "I don't know. Can you read?" Might not be the best comeback in the world, but it made me feel better.

People are often a smattering of things when they find out your an aspiring romance writer, they can be clueless, rude, curious, excited, shocked, bored, or whatever.

I'm just vague in my answers to them unless I think they are TRULY interested and asking with heartfelt sincerity. Otherwise, it just isn't worth discussing.

You know what pisses me off? The clueless ness that most people have about romance novels, so until they educate themselves and stop making ignorant remarks, I’m just going to ignore stupid people. ;)

11:32 AM  
Anonymous Michelle said...

I hate fielding those kind of questions too. At a recent party my husband told a group of people he was talking to I was a writer. They descended on me and began asking questions, but I have to admit they were all incredibly nice questions and they wished me nothing but success. But that isn't always the case. I jsut keep it vague. Very, very vague.

12:47 PM  
Blogger Lisa Pulliam said...

I'm still in the shadows, so not many have asked about it. Only my close friends know, and they've been very supportive. Insisting that they buy a copy of my book instead of me giving them one. I thought that was sweet.

I'm sure I've got some bad reactions coming though. I too keep it pretty vague. I'm not ashamed of writing romance at all, I just don't like the incorrect and negative connotation that many put with it.

Piper - I LOVE your SIL response :-)

1:03 PM  
Blogger LaDonna said...

I kept my writing secret for years. Not because I was ashamed, but looking back I think it was more wanting to experience the art, without the art critic! lol. And I agree, a non-writer has no clue how long the process can be! I got so tired of saying, "A partial is out there, or I hope to hear something soon!" Okay, nadda, nadda, nadda.

Love your response Piper. Too funny! Basically now, I assume some people know what I do. And I just hope until something "moves" in my world, they'll just smile back.

1:18 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Piper, I love your DH's response. Classic. And one I'll need to remember for future reference. ;)

Michelle, I think most people are simply curious because it's writing a novel is something many people aspire to do but never sit and finish (or even start). So while there's curiosity, there's also envy. They just don't have a clue how hard it really is to write and sell and keep on writing.

3:11 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Lisa - your friends are true gems. Add me to the list who will buy your book as soon as it comes out. ;)

Ladonna - true. Everyone's a critic. It's easier to tear something apart than build it from scratch. Good thing we have thick skin, eh?

3:13 PM  
Blogger Karmela Johnson said...

THEM: What do you write?
ME: Sex and violence.

THEM: Do you have anything out?
ME: Yes (hands bookmark)

THEM: What are you working on now?
ME: [Short synopsis]

THEM: When is it coming out?
ME: Oh, I haven't sold it to a publisher yet. We'll see. Have you see the latest episode of LOST?

THEM: When are you going to sell it?
ME: Don't jinx it!!! I don't wanna talk about it anymore!

8:00 AM  
Blogger Edie said...

I love Piper's answer too. :) I don't mind telling people I write--or what I write--it's just when I haven't seen them for a year and they ask if I sold, I cringe inside. Now, that's a good reason not to tell people.

8:23 AM  
Blogger Paty Jager said...

I told very few people at first becasue my MIL was always asking me when I'd have a book out! She couldn't understand why I wasted my time writing when I could be cleaning house or weeding the flower beds.

But since I knew I had a book coming out, I've told quite a few people and I'd say 75% have beed excited and asked intelligent questions. The others just kind of frown and don't ask any questions.

It is hard to tell people in the beginning stages especially, if you don't have much support.

I've been lucky that my husband, my SIL, and my best freind, not to mention my kids, have been behind me 100% and pushing me to write.

4:01 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

LOL, Karmela. Nice tactic there, trying to change the subject.

5:18 PM  
Blogger Karin Tabke said...

hmm, I've never considered not telling anyone I write, even from the very beginning. Selling was a goal of mine that became my family and friend's goal as well. Over the years the kid's friends would come by and ask, "Did you sell yet, Mrs. Tabke?"
I'd shake my head and answer, "Not yet, still working on it."
"Okay, good luck."
When my oldest son's friends came home for spring break last year the first thing they said when they stepped into the house was, "I heard you sold a book! I knew you would."
With that kind of pressure there was no way I could say to them when they asked me if I sold yet, "No, I gave up."
I could well imagine the disappointment in their eyes. Those kids kept me honest.

8:09 PM  
Blogger Erica Orloff said...

Elisabeth:

I tell people I am an actuary.

I tell my husband to tell people I am an actuary.

No offense to ACTUAL actuaries, but it's not a terribly cocktail party-stimulating career.

Of course, my husband blabs to anyone who will listen that I actually have published 20+ novels and have three pen names. But then I tell people he hasn't taken his medication and is delusional. Or he's taken up the crack pipe.

E

7:48 AM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

ROFL, Erica. That's a good one. I'll have to remember it.

2:33 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

That's a great story, Karin. And so cool everyone's pulling for you.

2:34 PM  
Anonymous Stephe said...

My absolute favorite one is, "Can you make me a character in your book? I want to be an FBI agent--no, a martial arts master, yeah! Real tough, but with a heart of gold. And I want to break this syndicate of bad guys in half. Yeah! And I want my name to be Donovan. Okay?? When can I read it?"

As if that's really how you form a character. Oh, man. LOL!

Great post, Elisabeth.

1:23 AM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Donovan the martial arts master. Now there's a character for ya.

Too funny, Stephe. I haven't actually had people ask that yet, but my DH is big on giving me ideas. Whenever he gets going I say, "why don't you write it?" to which I always get a frown and the response, "I don't even read novels, why would I write it?"

LOL

6:25 PM  
Blogger MaryF said...

Karin, I love that story! Ain't it the truth!

5:16 AM  

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