Fame, Hah

From Susan/Miranda:

Mary Jo’s recent post about preparing for the Romance Writers of America conference this week made a very valid point: most writers are introverts, and uneasy with any kind of celebrity. Fortunately this isn’t much of an issue, because celebrity doesn’t chase after writers. We’re not Bradgelina. No paparazzi stalk our every move. No tabloids scold us for being too thin (yeah, right). No one cares what designer we’re wearing, who we’re seeing, where we vacation. Yes, Dan Brown may have sold more books than Ronald McDonald has cheeseburgers, but would you be able to pick him out of a line-up?

And for the most part, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Writers cherish anonymity. We’re not by nature a glamorous bunch. Books may be considered part of the entertainment industry, but writing is not a performing art. Which is why when we have to “go public” –– whether at a big conference like RWA, or a small book signing at a local store –– the results can be, well, challenging.

I’m not saying that we don’t like the chance to meet readers, that rare, loyal group who can quote our dialogue back to us and are more familiar with our characters than we are ourselves. That’s a wonderful thing, and one we all cherish. I mean the other, ah, encounters.

I’m sure every writer on this blog has had her share of book signing nightmares. Those mall signings where you’re deposited at a card table across from the food court, sitting in a broken chair that’s too low and behind a stack of books that’s too high, and left to smile so widely that your face hurts. It’s a lot like being the last puppy left in the litter: like me, like me, like me, buy my book, pleeeeease!

Desperation makes a bad companion. You cling to passersby like the Ancient Mariner. You obligingly offer suggestions for the nearest rest room and the best fast food. You admit to never having met that nice R. K. Rowling, but agree that yes, she sure has made a pile of money. You stare off into the benign middle distance when that strange, black-clad guy with the shaved head and devil-worship tats shakes hand-cuffs in your face. You praise ugly babies whose strollers put them at your eye-level in your too-low chair. You gently correct the snaky morons who believe that writing a romance novel makes you a sexologist. You sell one book, a mercy-sale to a neighbor because you bought her kid’s Girl Scout cookies last month. Finally you end up scorching your MasterCard to buy a whole bunch of the leftovers because the store manager guilts you into it.

You vow you’ll never do another book signing again. Ever.

How about speaking to school groups? “Mrs. Scott writes books for mommies!” the perky second-grade teacher announces. “Boys and girls, do you have any questions for Mrs. Scott?” Only question: “Is your hair real?”

OK, let’s go with older kids. A middle school career day. I’m put on the “Creative Careers” panel. I should be pretty cool: a genuine novelist! One dad is a professional sports agent, with clients that include the biggest local sports stars, dishing plenty of juicy gossip. The next woman is in public relations: she knows movie stars, and brings cool t-shirts for the entire class. The last mom is a writer, too, but she writes screenplays for television. Her “visual aid” is her Emmy.

Have you any idea how BIG and SHINY and IMPRESSIVE a real Emmy is?

And we can’t forget those chance encounters with the public. Like many writers, I carry around a strip of “Autographed Copy” stickers to put on any of my books that I might find for sale in stores. I’d stopped into my local grocery store right before dinner. I was dressed like a writer. I was wearing an old t-shirt, sweat pants, and a baseball hat. I spotted several of my newest books near the magazine racks, and whipped out my pen and stickers. An elderly man stopped his cart beside mine, and asked what I was doing. Cheerfully I told him I’d written the book in my hand, and was autographing it. I flipped open the back flap with my author photo (the 90’s big-hair version, supported by enough make-up and hairspray to immolate a small village) and held the picture up as proof.

The old man looked at the photo, then to me, then back at the picture. He’s nobody’s fool, that old guy.

“That’s not you,” he scoffed. “That’s a picture of a beautiful woman!”

Bradgelina, I feel your pain.

45 thoughts on “Fame, Hah”

  1. Hi Susan/Miranda!
    You were reading my mind this am while I was basking in the pre-dawn light with my 22lb, 10 week old German Shepard puppy who was watering the lawn. “Royal celebrity and writers… how did that go together, exactly?” I was wondering.
    As an unpub, I practice all that positive thinking stuff… ‘see’ your book on the shelf, imagine the cover, the readers, the successful book signings. After reading your post, perhaps I should just stop daydreaming because nothing I could think of could be as funny and scary and dare I say humiliating as what you’ve described. Half of me is really hoping you are pulling my ‘littlest wenchling pigtails’ with your artfully worded post. But, if your not, consider informing the next kooky fan that you are a mind reader as well as an author and that’s where you get all of your story ides. ::G:: Bet he will either run or buy a book. Come to think of it, it might even be a good way to blackmail a better chair out of the book signing host.
    Nina, an accused (but not convicted) mindreader

    Reply
  2. Hi Susan/Miranda!
    You were reading my mind this am while I was basking in the pre-dawn light with my 22lb, 10 week old German Shepard puppy who was watering the lawn. “Royal celebrity and writers… how did that go together, exactly?” I was wondering.
    As an unpub, I practice all that positive thinking stuff… ‘see’ your book on the shelf, imagine the cover, the readers, the successful book signings. After reading your post, perhaps I should just stop daydreaming because nothing I could think of could be as funny and scary and dare I say humiliating as what you’ve described. Half of me is really hoping you are pulling my ‘littlest wenchling pigtails’ with your artfully worded post. But, if your not, consider informing the next kooky fan that you are a mind reader as well as an author and that’s where you get all of your story ides. ::G:: Bet he will either run or buy a book. Come to think of it, it might even be a good way to blackmail a better chair out of the book signing host.
    Nina, an accused (but not convicted) mindreader

    Reply
  3. Hi Susan/Miranda!
    You were reading my mind this am while I was basking in the pre-dawn light with my 22lb, 10 week old German Shepard puppy who was watering the lawn. “Royal celebrity and writers… how did that go together, exactly?” I was wondering.
    As an unpub, I practice all that positive thinking stuff… ‘see’ your book on the shelf, imagine the cover, the readers, the successful book signings. After reading your post, perhaps I should just stop daydreaming because nothing I could think of could be as funny and scary and dare I say humiliating as what you’ve described. Half of me is really hoping you are pulling my ‘littlest wenchling pigtails’ with your artfully worded post. But, if your not, consider informing the next kooky fan that you are a mind reader as well as an author and that’s where you get all of your story ides. ::G:: Bet he will either run or buy a book. Come to think of it, it might even be a good way to blackmail a better chair out of the book signing host.
    Nina, an accused (but not convicted) mindreader

    Reply
  4. Say, Susan, I encountered that shaven-head, Satanic-tattoed, crazed handcuff-shaking guy–at one of my Boston booksigning events.
    Or else he’s got a twin brother running around up here….

    Reply
  5. Say, Susan, I encountered that shaven-head, Satanic-tattoed, crazed handcuff-shaking guy–at one of my Boston booksigning events.
    Or else he’s got a twin brother running around up here….

    Reply
  6. Say, Susan, I encountered that shaven-head, Satanic-tattoed, crazed handcuff-shaking guy–at one of my Boston booksigning events.
    Or else he’s got a twin brother running around up here….

    Reply
  7. Once, when I was closer to publication than I am now, I was urged to create a website. It’s pretty much dormant. Fortunately I still look like the picture, more-or-less.
    I always thought one of the best perks of being a successful writer was the anonymity. Many writers even write with a pseudonym, further ensuring their anonymity.
    Visualization… ah, I see myself entering that grocery line, my newly published paperbacks before me on the rack. I’m wearing shorts that look like bloomers. I have ink on my thumb and forefinger, sage green paint in my hair, and my latest scene is playing out in my head in vivid detail. The woman behind me picked up my book… no, make that the handsome man behind me. Hopefully he won’t look too closely at me. :o)

    Reply
  8. Once, when I was closer to publication than I am now, I was urged to create a website. It’s pretty much dormant. Fortunately I still look like the picture, more-or-less.
    I always thought one of the best perks of being a successful writer was the anonymity. Many writers even write with a pseudonym, further ensuring their anonymity.
    Visualization… ah, I see myself entering that grocery line, my newly published paperbacks before me on the rack. I’m wearing shorts that look like bloomers. I have ink on my thumb and forefinger, sage green paint in my hair, and my latest scene is playing out in my head in vivid detail. The woman behind me picked up my book… no, make that the handsome man behind me. Hopefully he won’t look too closely at me. :o)

    Reply
  9. Once, when I was closer to publication than I am now, I was urged to create a website. It’s pretty much dormant. Fortunately I still look like the picture, more-or-less.
    I always thought one of the best perks of being a successful writer was the anonymity. Many writers even write with a pseudonym, further ensuring their anonymity.
    Visualization… ah, I see myself entering that grocery line, my newly published paperbacks before me on the rack. I’m wearing shorts that look like bloomers. I have ink on my thumb and forefinger, sage green paint in my hair, and my latest scene is playing out in my head in vivid detail. The woman behind me picked up my book… no, make that the handsome man behind me. Hopefully he won’t look too closely at me. :o)

    Reply
  10. sidetrack….
    Cathy, if you don’t mind me asking, why were you urged to create a website before you were published?
    Nina

    Reply
  11. sidetrack….
    Cathy, if you don’t mind me asking, why were you urged to create a website before you were published?
    Nina

    Reply
  12. sidetrack….
    Cathy, if you don’t mind me asking, why were you urged to create a website before you were published?
    Nina

    Reply
  13. An agent thought it was valuable for feedback with other fans of romance fiction and writers. I actually have made some friends (fans of our genre) having it tag my posts to sites. We discuss books. I’m not certain what it does, exactly, to help build my “brand” before I actually, truly, have one, but it was fun to do at the time. The downside is I should keep it more up-to-date than I do, but have little incentive to do so…

    Reply
  14. An agent thought it was valuable for feedback with other fans of romance fiction and writers. I actually have made some friends (fans of our genre) having it tag my posts to sites. We discuss books. I’m not certain what it does, exactly, to help build my “brand” before I actually, truly, have one, but it was fun to do at the time. The downside is I should keep it more up-to-date than I do, but have little incentive to do so…

    Reply
  15. An agent thought it was valuable for feedback with other fans of romance fiction and writers. I actually have made some friends (fans of our genre) having it tag my posts to sites. We discuss books. I’m not certain what it does, exactly, to help build my “brand” before I actually, truly, have one, but it was fun to do at the time. The downside is I should keep it more up-to-date than I do, but have little incentive to do so…

    Reply
  16. OMG, this piece was so funny and so scarily true that I just had to send over a round of applause. LMAO.
    Great blog, ladies. (And great books!)
    Have fun in Atlanta. Suddenly I don’t feel so bad about having to miss it… LOL
    Gaelen, MJP’s fellow Ballantiner

    Reply
  17. OMG, this piece was so funny and so scarily true that I just had to send over a round of applause. LMAO.
    Great blog, ladies. (And great books!)
    Have fun in Atlanta. Suddenly I don’t feel so bad about having to miss it… LOL
    Gaelen, MJP’s fellow Ballantiner

    Reply
  18. OMG, this piece was so funny and so scarily true that I just had to send over a round of applause. LMAO.
    Great blog, ladies. (And great books!)
    Have fun in Atlanta. Suddenly I don’t feel so bad about having to miss it… LOL
    Gaelen, MJP’s fellow Ballantiner

    Reply
  19. Pat’s fellow Ballantiner too! Sorry, Pat – I had Regency on the brain.
    Hopefully will get to see you guys next year.
    :/
    Gaelen

    Reply
  20. Pat’s fellow Ballantiner too! Sorry, Pat – I had Regency on the brain.
    Hopefully will get to see you guys next year.
    :/
    Gaelen

    Reply
  21. Pat’s fellow Ballantiner too! Sorry, Pat – I had Regency on the brain.
    Hopefully will get to see you guys next year.
    :/
    Gaelen

    Reply
  22. From Susan/Miranda,
    Margaret, the guy with the handcuffs with in Reading, PA, not far from the cooling towers of a nuclear power plant. Draw your own conclusions, but I hope there aren’t more of him in New England.
    Nina, yeah, I exaggerated, but not much. I swear everything I wrote HAS happened, just maybe not all on the same day. As for the mindreading — ooooh, that would be another whole can of worms! Instantly they’d be convinced that I’d “stolen” their great story idea, and want a piece of the advance of the next book. And alas, sadly, that’s no exaggeration, either.
    Cathy, I like your version much better than mine. 🙂 And I still don’t get tired of that first delightful shock of seeing your new book on the shelf. The beautiful stranger ‘cross the crowded room!
    Galen, I’m glad you agree that, where booksignings are concerned, the truth IS often stranger than fiction.

    Reply
  23. From Susan/Miranda,
    Margaret, the guy with the handcuffs with in Reading, PA, not far from the cooling towers of a nuclear power plant. Draw your own conclusions, but I hope there aren’t more of him in New England.
    Nina, yeah, I exaggerated, but not much. I swear everything I wrote HAS happened, just maybe not all on the same day. As for the mindreading — ooooh, that would be another whole can of worms! Instantly they’d be convinced that I’d “stolen” their great story idea, and want a piece of the advance of the next book. And alas, sadly, that’s no exaggeration, either.
    Cathy, I like your version much better than mine. 🙂 And I still don’t get tired of that first delightful shock of seeing your new book on the shelf. The beautiful stranger ‘cross the crowded room!
    Galen, I’m glad you agree that, where booksignings are concerned, the truth IS often stranger than fiction.

    Reply
  24. From Susan/Miranda,
    Margaret, the guy with the handcuffs with in Reading, PA, not far from the cooling towers of a nuclear power plant. Draw your own conclusions, but I hope there aren’t more of him in New England.
    Nina, yeah, I exaggerated, but not much. I swear everything I wrote HAS happened, just maybe not all on the same day. As for the mindreading — ooooh, that would be another whole can of worms! Instantly they’d be convinced that I’d “stolen” their great story idea, and want a piece of the advance of the next book. And alas, sadly, that’s no exaggeration, either.
    Cathy, I like your version much better than mine. 🙂 And I still don’t get tired of that first delightful shock of seeing your new book on the shelf. The beautiful stranger ‘cross the crowded room!
    Galen, I’m glad you agree that, where booksignings are concerned, the truth IS often stranger than fiction.

    Reply
  25. I am here to say that Susan/Miranda is not exaggerating. I have done the mall thing. I have met that scary guy–in different guises–on several occasions. At nearly every signing there is, absolutely, the guy who wants to know where you get your ideas (nudge, nudge, wink, wink). And there’s the guy who wants to tell you all about his idea for a great book based on his life. Sometimes he suggests you write the book and share the profits. Then there is always a woman who feels compelled to go out of her way to stop by and tell you she doesn’t read “those sorts of books”–her tone implying that only serial killers and pedophiles do. This is why I now only do book signings with groups of authors. It’s not only moral support but protection.

    Reply
  26. I am here to say that Susan/Miranda is not exaggerating. I have done the mall thing. I have met that scary guy–in different guises–on several occasions. At nearly every signing there is, absolutely, the guy who wants to know where you get your ideas (nudge, nudge, wink, wink). And there’s the guy who wants to tell you all about his idea for a great book based on his life. Sometimes he suggests you write the book and share the profits. Then there is always a woman who feels compelled to go out of her way to stop by and tell you she doesn’t read “those sorts of books”–her tone implying that only serial killers and pedophiles do. This is why I now only do book signings with groups of authors. It’s not only moral support but protection.

    Reply
  27. I am here to say that Susan/Miranda is not exaggerating. I have done the mall thing. I have met that scary guy–in different guises–on several occasions. At nearly every signing there is, absolutely, the guy who wants to know where you get your ideas (nudge, nudge, wink, wink). And there’s the guy who wants to tell you all about his idea for a great book based on his life. Sometimes he suggests you write the book and share the profits. Then there is always a woman who feels compelled to go out of her way to stop by and tell you she doesn’t read “those sorts of books”–her tone implying that only serial killers and pedophiles do. This is why I now only do book signings with groups of authors. It’s not only moral support but protection.

    Reply
  28. Ok, another sidetrack… sorry Susan/Maranda.
    I thought only women read romance. What are guys doing at the signing tables harassing beautiful romance authors? I would think being seen in line with a romance novel in your manly hand would be akin to buying Kotex at the grocer.
    But, whoever these men are, they certainly aren’t ‘getting it.’ They should know we want gentle, passionate heros that will take on the world with us not brash, insensitive rakes.
    Now there’s an idea… a line of romance novels targeted to confused men who can’t seem to figure out what women really want in a life partner. I wonder…
    Nina, who whishes she really could read minds.

    Reply
  29. Ok, another sidetrack… sorry Susan/Maranda.
    I thought only women read romance. What are guys doing at the signing tables harassing beautiful romance authors? I would think being seen in line with a romance novel in your manly hand would be akin to buying Kotex at the grocer.
    But, whoever these men are, they certainly aren’t ‘getting it.’ They should know we want gentle, passionate heros that will take on the world with us not brash, insensitive rakes.
    Now there’s an idea… a line of romance novels targeted to confused men who can’t seem to figure out what women really want in a life partner. I wonder…
    Nina, who whishes she really could read minds.

    Reply
  30. Ok, another sidetrack… sorry Susan/Maranda.
    I thought only women read romance. What are guys doing at the signing tables harassing beautiful romance authors? I would think being seen in line with a romance novel in your manly hand would be akin to buying Kotex at the grocer.
    But, whoever these men are, they certainly aren’t ‘getting it.’ They should know we want gentle, passionate heros that will take on the world with us not brash, insensitive rakes.
    Now there’s an idea… a line of romance novels targeted to confused men who can’t seem to figure out what women really want in a life partner. I wonder…
    Nina, who whishes she really could read minds.

    Reply
  31. Nina,
    Once in a while you’ll get a genuinely nice guy who’ll buy a romance for his sweetie, or even his mother. Those guys are the best!
    But for the most part, the ones that saunter up the table don’t know from romance, and they sure don’t know from gentle, passionate heros. All they DO know is that you’re a woman who is sitting there, captive, and you have to talk to them, or at least listen in pained silence. It’s major yuck-o time…

    Reply
  32. Nina,
    Once in a while you’ll get a genuinely nice guy who’ll buy a romance for his sweetie, or even his mother. Those guys are the best!
    But for the most part, the ones that saunter up the table don’t know from romance, and they sure don’t know from gentle, passionate heros. All they DO know is that you’re a woman who is sitting there, captive, and you have to talk to them, or at least listen in pained silence. It’s major yuck-o time…

    Reply
  33. Nina,
    Once in a while you’ll get a genuinely nice guy who’ll buy a romance for his sweetie, or even his mother. Those guys are the best!
    But for the most part, the ones that saunter up the table don’t know from romance, and they sure don’t know from gentle, passionate heros. All they DO know is that you’re a woman who is sitting there, captive, and you have to talk to them, or at least listen in pained silence. It’s major yuck-o time…

    Reply
  34. Funny post, Susan/Miranda!
    I’ve had a few booksigning moments myself… the very first one I ever did, scheduled with a Famous Author, we showed up at the mall bookstore and the security gates were down. We were locked out, because the mechanism was jammed. While the manager called a locksmith, the people who had showed up (many of them friends and family for my first signing!) ran down the escalator to the -other- bookstore and brought the copies for us to sign.
    And I haven’t seen the tattooed guy, but I’ve seen the guy who wants someone to write his life story. Oh yeah, just because I know how to type is a really good reason….
    >>So–IS your hair real?
    I’ll answer this one for Susan: Yes.
    ~Susan

    Reply
  35. Funny post, Susan/Miranda!
    I’ve had a few booksigning moments myself… the very first one I ever did, scheduled with a Famous Author, we showed up at the mall bookstore and the security gates were down. We were locked out, because the mechanism was jammed. While the manager called a locksmith, the people who had showed up (many of them friends and family for my first signing!) ran down the escalator to the -other- bookstore and brought the copies for us to sign.
    And I haven’t seen the tattooed guy, but I’ve seen the guy who wants someone to write his life story. Oh yeah, just because I know how to type is a really good reason….
    >>So–IS your hair real?
    I’ll answer this one for Susan: Yes.
    ~Susan

    Reply
  36. Funny post, Susan/Miranda!
    I’ve had a few booksigning moments myself… the very first one I ever did, scheduled with a Famous Author, we showed up at the mall bookstore and the security gates were down. We were locked out, because the mechanism was jammed. While the manager called a locksmith, the people who had showed up (many of them friends and family for my first signing!) ran down the escalator to the -other- bookstore and brought the copies for us to sign.
    And I haven’t seen the tattooed guy, but I’ve seen the guy who wants someone to write his life story. Oh yeah, just because I know how to type is a really good reason….
    >>So–IS your hair real?
    I’ll answer this one for Susan: Yes.
    ~Susan

    Reply
  37. Oh yeah, S/M (I love those initials!), been there, done that, stole the book. But you’re living in the wrong place if you want to be the star of Career Day and your opposition is talent scouts and screenwriters! Try the rural midwest when it’s the local hogfarmer and shoestore owner. The kids are far more interested in hogs and shoes.
    Hey Gaelen, we’ll miss you at RWA! But let’s find a better place to meet than that mob scene where I’ll be hiding behind palm trees again. We’ll talk…
    Pat

    Reply
  38. Oh yeah, S/M (I love those initials!), been there, done that, stole the book. But you’re living in the wrong place if you want to be the star of Career Day and your opposition is talent scouts and screenwriters! Try the rural midwest when it’s the local hogfarmer and shoestore owner. The kids are far more interested in hogs and shoes.
    Hey Gaelen, we’ll miss you at RWA! But let’s find a better place to meet than that mob scene where I’ll be hiding behind palm trees again. We’ll talk…
    Pat

    Reply
  39. Oh yeah, S/M (I love those initials!), been there, done that, stole the book. But you’re living in the wrong place if you want to be the star of Career Day and your opposition is talent scouts and screenwriters! Try the rural midwest when it’s the local hogfarmer and shoestore owner. The kids are far more interested in hogs and shoes.
    Hey Gaelen, we’ll miss you at RWA! But let’s find a better place to meet than that mob scene where I’ll be hiding behind palm trees again. We’ll talk…
    Pat

    Reply

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