November 5, 2009
Authors (who are not super famous like Stephen King or Neil Gaiman) live in a strange world of being a kind of hidden celebrity. Unless people know what you do for a living (or even do part-time), they don't give you a second look. As soon as your profession is known, you become an interesting bug or a 'celebrity.'
When I go out with my husband to the store or to eat and someone asks me what I do for a living, I always have to brace myself for the response to "I'm a fulltime author."
The first response usually is, "Really? Are you, you know, published?" This is the kind of response you give a friend who's asked you to listen to their garage band CD. I'm used to this response because I understand it very well. The editor part of me always wants to know the answer to this question to anyone who tells me they are an author.
When I say, "Yes" and qualify it with something like "I have a page on Amazon" or "I have a page on DriveThruRPG" (depending on who I'm talking with), the response almost always boils down into two categories: Interesting Bug or Celebrity.
Celebrity: This response is awe and an immediate need to know what I've written and if I would talk to a friend/spouse/sibling/child about being a professional author. You know, to give them an inside tip on how to get published in the business. Sometimes it includes a request to meet my agent. But as I don't have an agent, I mention this and they become confused.
Interesting Bug: This response starts with "I've always wanted to write…" and continues with a barrage of questions on what I did to get published (ass in chair and fingers on keyboard for a start). It usually ends with a request to read something they've written or a question asking "really, how hard is it to get published?" There's the intimation that it can't be "that" hard. My answer usually is something along the lines that, yes, it is very hard to get published but it can be done.
I've thought about not answering the "what do you do" question but really, I am proud of what I've done with my career. I get paid to write. I enjoy what I do. Honestly, I get a thrill when people tell me they've read my stuff and like it. Sometimes, I really enjoy the look of awe that I get. I admit that. It's kind of cool to be a celebrity for a very short time before going back to my life of obscurity.
I suppose it's one of the reasons I really like going to conventions. There are those professionals there that you can hang out with who understand intimately what it is like to be an author. Then there are those people who hero-worship and look up to authors as a goal to become one someday. At a convention, all authors are celebrities and interesting bugs. People want to know what we did and what they can to become like us.