“So, what’s it all about?”
Has there ever been a question designed to strike such fear into an author? I don’t think so. Don’t get me wrong, it’s wonderful when you’re asked when cornered at a party and you’ve gone to get your wife a drink because she is parched, or dining in a restaurant and you just know that as soon as you start explaining, your main meal is going to arrive.
We authors love adulation, and desperately want people to read our books, or better yet buy them and then read them – and dream upon dream post a wonderful review. But, it all starts with: “so, what’s your latest book about?” They look expectantly, waiting for a killer sentence or two that grips them and makes them want to go out and find a late-night book store so they can buy it and get a few pages in before midnight.
No matter how many times I’ve been asked, and its lots, over the seven books I’ve had published, I think I’d rather run away and poke myself repeatedly with a sharp stick than sum up a hundred thousand work saga, in two sentences. I’ve found two sentences is just about right, by the way, any longer and I’ve noticed people tend to start yawning, and their eyes glaze over, and you just know they are regretting asking. It always reminds me of meeting a friend and asking how they are – and they spend fifteen minutes telling you about the upset tummy they had, the sprained ankle, they eyesight isn’t as good as it used to be etc……… you get the idea. But, they had to ask that particular question; they just met an author, and let’s be honest what else do you ask when that happens?
I’ve just come back from a short holiday to Adelaide (I live in Perth, Australia, about 3000miles away for my American friends) It was just five wonderful days visiting my daughters and granddaughter. While out and about we dropped in to see a dear friend who I hadn’t seen for years, and it was fantastic to catch up with her. We could only stay for half an hour as we were on our way to somewhere else, and about fifteen minutes in the conversation went something like this:
“So, Steve, I hear you are an author now, how many books have you published?”
“Yes Heather, I came to it late in life, but it’s given me so many more life experiences to write about. I’ve got seven published, with a further two contracted, one of which is in editing now.”
“How wonderful,” she finished the wine in her glass and stood up to get a refill, “what’s the latest one called?”
“Glimpse, Memoir of a Serial Killer.”
“Ohhh, sounds intriguing. So, what’s it about?”
I groaned, silently, I hoped. I mean she was already on her feet to go into the kitchen to get herself another drink. If I told her everything she possibly die of thirst – it was a warm day after all. “Well, Heather, it’s actually book one of a trilogy, called Three Deadly Glimpses.” I picked my empty glass up, hoping she would take the hint and disappear into the kitchen, then I could be involved in another conversation when she came out, but no, no such luck.
“Ohhh,” (Yes, I know she says ohhh a LOT – but she does; honestly!) “Why a trilogy, Steve?”
OK, harmless question, I thought, “Because I wanted to tell a story about desire, and its consequences on the relationships between four people, and I knew one book wouldn’t be enough, but three sounded just about right.” I emptied my glass, hoping that she would take the hint and get us both a refill. Nope, she wasn’t having a bar of that.
“Ohh, I see,” (see what I mean, she does say it a lot) “and is one of them the serial killer, and why does he write a memoir?” She changed weight from her left foot to her right, clearly getting impatient and desperate for another wine, but still wanting to know the answer to: so, what’s it all about.
“No, Heather, the desire is between a cop who is paired with a beautiful female criminal psychologist in the hunt for a serial killer, they are instantly attracted to each other, but are both married. Over the three books, they are thrust together, hunting three different serial killers, and the desire grows, and grows, hence Three Deadly Glimpses”
“Oh, I think I see,” she didn’t look like she saw though. “Why is it called Glimpse?”
“Because, when I write about a killer, I like to give the reader a glimpse into his troubled mind, and show why he became that way. Boy, it’s getting warm, isn’t it?” I said, hoping to steer the conversation back to getting a refill.
“Oh,” (seriously, she does keep saying Oh, I promise) “so, it’s not about the desire the murderer feels?” At last she reached for my wine glass and I noticed out of the corner of my eye my daughter, Tania, was yawning.
“Well, Heather, each book is about desire, in book one the killer desired fame, because all his life he has only experienced misery. In book 2, that murderer is addicted to beauty, because his life is the opposite, and in book 3, that killer desires to rid the world of people who tell lies, specifically on a dating website.”
“Why does he want to rid the world of liars?”
“Heather if I told you that, there would be no point in you buying the book. Suffice to say he suffers situational schizophrenia, and is riddled with guilt over his sister’s death.”
And then, she did it, people, she asked the second most common thing we writers get asked and dread:
“Ohhhhh, I see. So, where do you get your ideas from?”
We were late for our next appointment, and I didn’t get that refill.