The conversation usually starts with our names. Then someone asks my husband what he does for a living. Then I fume because they don’t ask me, and I never get the chance to say I’m an author. Of course, that may be for the best. After all, how will I answer the questions that come next?
“Oh really. What do you write?”
“Novels, short stories, children’s books…” I’ve learned not to fumble for specifics at this stage.
“Anything I’d have heard of?”
The honest answer is probably not. After all, have you seen how many books are stocked on Amazon? But I’ll go for something more neutral: “My first novel was re-released last year, and the second in the series should come out soon.”
Too vague, do you think? And not answering the question comes with its own mis-steps. Eyes narrow with suspicion as the speaker asks, “Do you have a publisher?”
“Yes,” I’m proud to reply. “I’ve signed with Second Wind Publishing. Have you heard of them?” Answer a question with a question: that’s supposed to help isn’t it? And all should be well.
Meanwhile the stranger takes a bite of carrot cake, or whatever social food it is we’re eating. No, they’ve not heard of Second Wind. They never look at who publishes the books they read. So they ask, to keep the conversation going. “A series, you said? What’s it about?”
And I realize I learned one-sentence replies for each book, not for the set. “It’s about people in a small American town, and how their lives intersect?” It’s not a question, but I make it sound like one.
“How do you mean?”
“Well, there’s a crime in the first book, that might split the neighborhood apart.” Will that garner some attention?
The speaker frowns. The world’s too full of suspicion these days, I guess. “Is this one of those series where you have to buy the next book to find out how the story finishes?”
No, it’s not! But I mustn’t sound too defensive, so I take a slow, deep breath. “No. The crime’s resolved in the first novel. The second book’s about a woman who was abused; she paints pictures and they might help her make sense of her past. And the third’s about is a teacher who goes looking for a missing student and finds himself.”
I bite and chew, figuratively still looking for myself. But what do you think? Would you be interested? It’s all a stream of unconscious dreaming, of course, and the real conversation has strayed to what we did in England on holiday. We went to lots of bookstores. “I’m an author!” but I don’t say it. I’m wishing I could answer, “Yes, you’ve heard of me,” and Second Wind, and Divide by Zero, and Infinite Sum as well. Since I can’t, my husband’s talking about flights and tickets instead. He’s so much better at this conversation thing than I am.
Sheila Deeth is the author of Divide by Zero, published by Second Wind Publishing. Her second novel, Infinite Sum, will be released soon, and she’s working on the third and fourth in the series: Subtraction, and Imaginary Numbers.