I’m pretty sure the worse thing you could ask a writer is what their book is about. It’s right up there with, “So what do you really do?” (As if writers didn’t have enough insecurities, they have to defend their make believe worlds, and what they’ve been doing in their basement for years that doesn’t involve illegal activity.)
“Well, after the kids go off to school, I keep myself busy eating brains and killing unicorns.”
But say that with a straight face and you’ll risk losing a book sale, so perhaps it’s a good exchange for your inner dialogue.
I say this is the worse question because as soon as it’s asked, I freeze. I picture myself in an elevator and I have exactly two minutes to pitch God until she/he reaches the floor where all books go to heaven. It’s ridiculous, of course, but welcome to my demented brain. I begin sweating, and stammering and words become 5 o’clock traffic on the interstate.
God: “What say you, Good Woman?”
Ding. Ding. Ding.
God: “Off you go now. It’s a long way down. There’s 50 shades of hell, so if you’ve hit Hitler reading Mein Kampf, you’ve gone too far.”
“Okay, God. Thanks anyway. I really like what you did with your place, by the way.”
Last night I got asked this question by a sweet women who was, in fact, just making polite conversation after I explained how I managed to throw my back out from rock climbing in the Andes sitting at a computer, which apparently is right up there with rock climbing in the Andes. No joke. Computers are the serial killers in the back world. It explains why there are a million products for asses and spines. (Bed Bath and Beyond, isle 24A is the Asses and Spineless section. I recommend the donut seat.)
“Well,” I begin stammering, my inner dialogue sent into a tale spin by this most undesirable question. You ARE a writer, I say to myself. (At least my inner dialogue is feeling generous.) You’re not making shit up. Well, technically you make shit up. But that’s what writers do. Go on, girl! Make. Some. Shit. Up!
“It’s about mountains. I mean, not mountains. It’s about a boy. Well, he’s almost 18, so man-boy. It’s about a man-boy who loses his father in the mountains. I mean, he doesn’t lose him like I lost Snuggle Bunny when I was five. That was a travesty. His father goes missing because he’s looking for gold. It’s all the rage these days. Gold. Gold diggers. Gold seekers. Sell-your-gold-for-cash parties. Ahem. And then this New Yorker comes in and is all,” I proceed to use my jazz hands like Bloomberg at a press conference. Queue: sweating. Queue: babbling. Queue: the rock slid in the Andes. Damn my back hurts.
Why is this so difficult? I wrote my pitch letter with no problem. You’d think I’d have it memorized by heart. I spent a lot of time crafting it. But here I am… a babbling monkey woman. Why? Because it took me too much time writing the damn novel to pitch it in one sentence! Why do I have only ONE sentence? Lawyers yammer on for days about their cases! I hate being that person that comes up with the perfect zinger two hours too late, but I am. Always have been. And now I know why. It’s because I am a writer! If something needs serious thought, I’ll get back to you with a well-crafted email. Two hours, and one back seizure later, sitting on my donut seat.