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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16 thoughts on “Authors Answer 57 – Stop Asking Me That Question!”

  1. My vote is for: How is your novel going? and Tell me about your novel?
    I find those two the most difficult to answer. If I were done and had the pitch all worked out then tell me about your novel might not be so bad, but I’m not, and I’m an organic writer so I don’t even know what my novel is about yet! And How’s it going, always–as Gregory mentioned–seems to be asked when your stuck or having a bad writing day. Likely because that’s when you don’t bring it up yourself and people begin to wonder.

    1. Definitely agree. I can’t summarise my writing in a short time. I don’t have a prepared speech or cover description. I basically fumble my way through a description.

  2. One of the questions I hate is, ‘Why do you write in THAT genre?’ It’s especially annoying because the people who ask it usually don’t want to know why I write science fiction; they’ve already decided it isn’t something “real writers” ever do, so nothing I say can justify my choice to them.

    1. I have been asked that before. They suggested writing in another genre so I could make more money. But sci-fi and fantasy are actually very popular. However, romance seems to be where the money is, and there’s no way I’d write romance.

      1. I’ve heard the “there’s more money in romances” argument, too. It goes something like this: “The majority of readers are middle-aged women, and middle-aged women only read romances, never sci-fi or fantasy or thrillers or horror or mysteries…” That line of “reasoning” is wrong on soooo many levels.

        Besides, there’s more money in a lot of things than there is in writing ANY genre. If we were only out to get rich, we’d be doing something else.

  3. I abhor the “What’s your book/story about?” It always gets me flustered because I know I can’t adequately describe what this thing I’ve poured my heart and soul into is to you in few enough words that you won’t lose interest. Then you’ll just thing I’m boring and a bad writer. Much later I’ll think of the perfect words to explain it, but it wouldn’t matter because the conversation will be long dead. I also don’t like publishing questions because I’m currently sitting on top of a mountain of rejection and I’ve given up on writing anything that would ever have to go through the rigors of that.

    1. It always happens that you think of something good to say after the fact. I’m beginning to think I should write a standard answer for anyone who asks that question and keep it in my wallet. Make sure I memorise it and use it when they ask. Must be well-written.

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