I recently saw a Facebook posting in one of my writing groups. The question posed to romance and chicklit authors was: are you ‘out’ to friends, family and co-workers? The overall responses from the group were mixed, with many of the authors admitting that only a few close family members knew of their literary pursuits.
My first reaction was, “Well of course!” My friends, family and co-workers are my biggest fans, my early readers. I’m proud to be an author and I love the feedback and support I get from people I know. But the more that I’m thinking about it, I have to admit that I’ve had some fairly awkward reactions to my writing over the last few years. For example…
Shortly before the end of the semester a couple of years ago, a student of mine asked if I taught summer classes. I replied that I didn’t teach in the summer, but that I was writing a book. “Oh, like a textbook?” was his response as he followed me down the hall. “No,” I told him. It’s a novel. Actually, it’s a romance novel.” I watched him struggle to hide his surprise. “Seriously? Romance?” The unspoken message was clear. Ewwww. Gross. You’re so old and you’re a teacher. Oh well, he wasn’t my target demographic anyway.
I sent a close family member a copy of JEEP TOUR when it was first published back in 2014. She acknowledged receiving it and said that she was looking forward to reading it, but then I never heard any more from her on the topic. When Guessing at Normal was published the following year, I sent her a copy. Again, silence. Living thousands of miles apart, we rarely get to spend much time together, but we did meet up later that year at a family function. I was nervously waiting for her to mention either of the books, but it wasn’t until we were saying goodbye before she brought it up. “Oh, I read Guessing at Normal,” she told me. “What did you think?” I asked all casual-like. “I loved it,” she gushed. “It was soooo much better than that first book.” How do you respond to that? I’m still trying to figure it out.
Another family member offered to post a rating on Goodreads for one of my books, but admitted that she didn’t know how. Assuming that it would be a positive review, I filled her in on the process and waited anxiously for it to post. Early in the week, I saw the rating. 1 star, yeah, a lousy single star! Trying to give her the benefit of the doubt, my husband remarked that maybe she thought that the ratings were reversed, that ‘1 star’ was excellent. Fuming, I sent her a text. I didn’t even try to be subtle. “What’s up with the crappy rating?” I asked. It didn’t take long to get her response. “I hated it. Really, hated it.” The sad-faced emoji that accompanied the text did nothing to soften the blow. Family dinners remain awkward to this day.
A co-worker once asked if I was regretting not going with a pen name to hide my real identity. Another asked me if I was going to ‘keep writing those books of yours’. A friend remarked that she was disappointed my books weren’t racier (her term). She said, “Knowing you, I thought they’d be all-Fifty Shades”. Seriously? A neighbor told me that she would buy one of my books, but probably not read it. “It would be awkward if I hated it,” she admitted. My writing has been referred to as ‘cute’ and a ‘fun hobby’. If I had a dollar for every person who has told me that they would ‘just love to write a book too’, I could buy enough of my own books to seriously improve my rankings.
And I get so many questions!
“How long does it take you to write one of these?” A lot longer than you would think
“How much money have you made?” Not nearly enough
“How many books have you sold?” None of your freaking …Not nearly enough
“Do you pay your publisher to print your books?” Um, no. They pay me. But not nearly enough
“If you’re so successful, why don’t you quit your day job?” Uh, I love my day job and when did you ever hear me brag about being so successful?
Hmmm… on second thought, is it too late to come up with a pen name?