Thursday, August 09, 2007

National Night... Books?

Cross-posted from my LJ

A couple of nights ago was National Night Out where neighbors get together and share pickle rolls, stale crackers and such. My family and I strolled over a few block with our M&M cookies to share, and we got to talking to some people. One of our neighbors fondly recalled the time I handed her copies of my books that I'd had stashed in my car (I do that a lot.) We joked that I should bring over a few novels and leave them as freebies next to the deserts.

Next thing you know, I'd gone home for a half dozen copies of Tate's Tall, Dark & Dead and my Archangel Protocol. Shawn, my partner, put up a note that said, "Free! Local author. Please take!"

The reaction was, as we say here in Minnesota, interesting.

By in large, people couldn't quite grok the fact that their neighbor -- a dumpy, stay-at-home lesbian mom -- was in fact a New York published author. They weren't unkind in any way, just baffled. There was a lot of the typical, "You wrote this? All of it?" And, "You got published... oh! Berkley!?" (Because they were expecting a vanity press). And, "Do you do this for a living???"

Shawn and I remarked on the fact that, before I started getting serious about writing, I'd never met an real, LIVE authors before either. I knew books were written by people, but I just never conceived that those people could be sitting next to me on the bus or standing in front of me in the grocery store.

I think, in fact, meeting a real author for the first time broke that (what is it called?) 5th wall for me. Once I met and talked to someone who'd done what I was trying to do, what I was trying to do no longer felt unattainable. If so-and-so had done it (and they were a real, normal person), then it followed that I could too.

Even so, occasionally Shawn will still have a moment like our neighbors had. The first time I went to a RWA meeting and I mentioned it was at the house of Connie Brockway, Shawn just about fell over. "Connie Brockway!" She said, "She's, like, a real author."

As opposed, you know, to the fake one she's got at home. :-)


Anonymous said...

"Ah, a writer, you must be filthy rich..."

On a tangent - I was interested to find that, in recently having to explain to a wide swath of family, coworkers, and neighbors just what 'science fiction' is, Octavia Butler's was almost 100 percent the author name that finally cued them in. (My sample is somewhat racially skewed towards African Americans, but only slightly, and quite diverse otherwise.)

The only things more recognizable than her name were movie titles. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that she was so well known, but in the context of the 'famous' names that didn't ring bells, her showing was quite impressive, and most of the people had read one or more of her books.


Anonymous said...

"Ah, a writer, you must be filthy rich..."

I've had that one. Way too often. It's either that one or "Why don't you have a real job?"

Anonymous said...

>>As opposed, you know, to the fake one she's got at home. :-)

LMAO We have moments like that too.