Authors Answer 57 – Stop Asking Me That Question!

Authors are asked a lot of questions. They may have interviews, they may talk at conventions or book signings, or they may talk with friends and family. Well, sometimes, we get questions we keep hearing over and over again, or are too complex to answer briefly.

320px-Modern-ftn-pen-cursiveQuestion 57 – What is one question you hate answering about your writing that acquaintances ask you?

Tracey Lynn Tobin

There are just SO MANY questions that people ask that make writers writhe with rage. I could probably make one hell of a list if given the time. That said, I can honestly say that the one question that enrages me the most is the one people inevitably ask when they find out I have a written, published book: “Is it, like, in book stores?”

I always bite my tongue and try to answer as politely and honestly as possible, but this question makes me so mad every time I hear it because it implies that the act of writing, editing, revising, cover-designing, formatting, and self-editing is somehow less because you can’t find the book at your local Coles or Barnes and Noble. Never mind the fact that you can purchase it on literally any version of Amazon, hard copy or e-book…if it’s not on a shelf in a physical store people don’t think of it as being a “real” book, in the same way that lots of people don’t consider a self-published book to be a “real” book (i.e. “If it was really any good, a real publisher would have taken it.”) And that can be an extremely frustrating conversation to have because writer’s have a hard enough time convincing people that writing is “real” work to begin with.

Jean Davis

Why does it take you so long to finish a novel if you can write it in 30 days? Really? You want to read the crap I write during NaNoWriMo? That’s the roughest of drafts. No one wants to read that. No one.

S. R. Carrillo

“How did you get published?” Because, to anyone who isn’t a writer, the fact that I self-published it usually met with an unenthusiastic “Oh, okay. That’s pretty neat.” -_-

Elizabeth Rhodes

“What’s your book about?”  Not that it isn’t a valid question, and I’m glad people take enough of an interest to ask.  But I’m terrible at summarizing things on the spot.  I want to include every character interaction and motivation as I’m relating the plot, and next thing you know my “elevator pitch” is taking five minutes.  There’s also part of me that is still afraid of being judged, whether it’s “what, you can’t even tell me what it’s about?” or “why would you write about that?  Weirdo.

Eric Wood

So far I haven’t had to field any questions about my writing. I just write and people just read. They leave/make comments when they feel inspired to. Having not yet been published, my audience is rather small (but important).

H. Anthe Davis

I don’t really have a problem with any questions, though ‘Where do you get your ideas?’ is a bit annoying.  But I enjoy talking about my worldbuilding and writing process probably more than people appreciate hearing about it, so I immediately override any obnoxious question with my obsessively detailed answer.  Take that, person who dared be interested in my work!  Seriously though, I can’t think of any questions I’d consider ‘bad’ unless someone was purposefully trying to be offensive.

Allen Tiffany

Honestly, I don’t bring my writing up with very many people. In fact, it’s a closely guarded secret from my co-workers. It is not that I’m embarrassed about it. Rather, it would be an unneeded distraction in my workplace. As to family and friends…I’m pretty private about it. When I publish I let them know. Other than that, not sure there is much to talk about. If I need feedback and discussion about theory and technique, it is via the online workshop, CritiqueCircle.

Caren Rich

Until recently, I was a closet writer. I didn’t tell acquaintances that I was a writer. My close friends and family knew, but that’s it. So I have no funny answers to share!

Paul B. Spence

I hate to answer THIS question the way everyone does, but honestly, one of the worst has to be “Where do you come up with your ideas?” Most people don’t like it when I answer, “In the shower.” Or, if you want the Scott Pilgrim answer, “From my brain!”

Gregory S. Close

It’s always frustrating to answer the very innocent question of “how’s the book going?” if it’s not going so well.  When things are moving along, the questioning and curiosity is less awkward because I feel like things are working and I know what I’m doing.  When things aren’t going so well, the question feels like an indictment and I want to hide in a cave.

The other one that’s hard is the “when will the book be done?” question.  For most of the writing process, I have no idea when it will be done, because the story and characters are evolving around me as I write, and the plot is adapting to those new realities as well.  It’s sort of like Monty Python’s Sir Lancelot running toward the castle, over and over again, almost there, then back to the beginning, then almost there, then back, then – suddenly there’s a flashing sword and it’s all over, and I’m standing there confused saying “hey!”

Either way, the problem is really with me and not the person asking the question.  It’s my insecurities that make the answer difficult. The questions themselves are pretty innocent.

D. T. Nova

“What’s it about?”

I am terrible at summarizing, especially when I have to do it quickly.

Jay Dee Archer

I don’t really get many questions about my writing from friends and family, but the one question I find difficult to answer is “What’s your book about?” I think that’s pretty common, actually. It’s too difficult to describe a book briefly without it sounding kind of silly. I’m always worried they’ll ask more questions, like “Why are you writing about that?” or “Do you think it’ll be a bestseller?” Those are also difficult to answer.

How about you?

If you’re an author, what question do you hate to be asked? If you’re not an author, but a reader, what questions do you like to ask authors?

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The War Against Trees and Phytoplankton

People are always talking about rising carbon dioxide levels, talking about how to reduce emissions, and slow the rise in temperatures and sea levels. But what about increasing the rate of carbon dioxide being taken out of the atmosphere? That’s where trees and phytoplankton come in.

Trees in the sprawling metropolis of Tokyo, near the Imperial Palace.
Trees in the sprawling metropolis of Tokyo, near the Imperial Palace.

There’s a problem, though. It seems that with the rate of deforestation, especially in tropical regions, we’re eroding the Earth’s ability to reduce the greenhouse gas. Trees are also good at taking pollutants out of the air. It’s beneficial to have plants in your home, because they make the air cleaner and fresher. I look around where I live, and I see industrial areas surrounded by trees. But in the residential areas, people live on tiny properties with little to no plant life growing on their properties. It’s all concrete. In areas where people are living, they make them so unappealing to me. I like yards with grass and trees. It’s better for the air, too.

Trees are wonderful, but what about the plant that takes half of the job of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere? That job goes to phytoplankton, which lives in the oceans. Over the past half century, the number of phytoplankton has actually increased by ten times. Sounds wonderful, and it seems that they’re able to handle an increase in ocean temperatures by about two degrees pretty well. However, with the increase of carbon dioxide, ocean water is acidifying, and that’s bad news for the phytoplankton, as they have chalk-like shells. Those break down in more acidic water. But increase global water temperatures by six degrees, and that’s the breaking point for phytoplankton. They will cease producing oxygen. And this will result in a very quick suffocation of the world’s animal life, including humans.

Oh, that sounds lovely, doesn’t it? This is something that hasn’t really been paid attention to before. While a six degree increase is a lot, and extremely unlikely to happen within our lifetimes, it could happen if left unchecked in our descendants’ lifetimes.

I, for one, do not want our generation’s mistakes to cause suffering to our children’s children’s children. But do people care? I find that there are a lot of people I know who post things on Facebook that are anti-science and claim to refute climate change, yet they have no clue that the things they are posting are written by people who have an agenda. They post articles that are from websites that are completely biased and leave no room for any debate. They pick and choose pieces of evidence, yet they don’t look at the whole picture. It’s a dangerous way of thinking, and I will argue against what they are saying. I dislike misinformation. They do it for the sake of local jobs and the economy. I’m far more concerned about my daughter’s future in a world that has more and more extreme weather, rising sea levels, and rising temperatures.

I wish it were an easy fix, such as planting more trees. More trees would help, but not enough. At least it would help slow the increase, even if it is a small amount.

What are your thoughts about this whole debate? I’d like to hear your opinions in the comments below.