Monday, May 10, 2010

I'm Really a Normal Person

What I'm reading: Winter and Night by S.J. Rozan

I feel like a normal person. I mean, I don't have two heads, and although I have my quirks, I don't think they put me outside the box of what "everyday" people do. Yet the reaction when I tell people I'm a writer is always one of surprise and amazement.

While at Barbara O'Neal's discussion group at the library last week, Barbara pointed out that in addition to book club members, and some 'off the street' attendees, there were also a couple of writers present, and she pointed us out. Jaws dropped.

While I was getting my library card last week, I was chatting with the librarian, who remembered me from the discussion group. I mentioned my interest in doing programs for their library, and as we chatted, a woman standing in line waiting to return her books spoke up. She said, "Am I in the presence of a real author?" My response was, "Yes," although I didn't continue with, "and it's not really such a big deal."

I never got that reaction when I said I was a teacher, which I think is a much more difficult and honorable profession. And certainly not when I was a part time assistant to a non-profit scientific organization (although when I mentioned it was a group involved in marine mammal science, I got a few questions—mostly about dolphins, about which I know very little. I was the person who entered membership data into a computer.)

We've started things rolling on fixing up the house. Our first projects include window treatments and closet systems. Through a deal with Costco, we had representatives of both companies come give us estimates. When the topic of my writing came up, both were way too impressed. Each bought a copy of WHEN DANGER CALLS, and the window lady stuck around an extra twenty minutes asking me questions about the writing process. (She didn't seem miffed that I didn't ask her what it was like to measure windows.)

Trust me. I'm not amazing. (Although, thanks, hubby, for the Mother's Day card that said I was. Somehow, I don't think you meant it in the same way.)

I hardly feel successful. I get rejection letters. I haven't sold that big 3-book deal to a major publisher. My books aren't easy to find, so unless someone is looking for me, they're not going to stumble across one of my books at the grocery store, or even at the bookstore.

It's a slow-moving, tough, and often depressing business for someone who's not even in the mid-list hierarchy. It's certainly not making me enough money to live on. For every plus, there seems to be a minus. For example, shortly after I sold WHERE DANGER HIDES (a plus), the sequel to WHEN DANGER CALLS, I got a notice from the publisher saying that When Danger Calls was being remaindered (a minus). Bottom line: they don't have room to warehouse the unsold copies, and unless I want the books, they'll be destroyed.

As the author, it's frustrating, because now, should new readers find the second book, they won't be able to pick up the first—at least not through normal channels. The print run on the book wasn't large to begin with, so I bought all the remaining copies, which are now in my garage.

But people still tell me they envy me for being able to write a book.

And those reactions are part of the reason I continue to write. Of course, the biggie is that if I'm not writing, I'm no fun to be around. Writing is like breathing, and if I've been away from it, I might not notice that I'm tense and irritable, but as soon as I get going on a story, things mellow.

And the other reason is hearing from someone who bought and read one of my books. The woman who had designed our closet system emailed me the next day. I expected it to be some detail we'd left out, or a problem with the installation schedule. However, this is what it said:

Hi Terry,

I'm just starting chapter 4 and wish I had more time to read. I got hooked right from the beginning. I'm sure I'll be calling to get more books from you when I finish this one!! Love it!

So, if you'd like your own, autographed copy, the plus on this one is for you. I'll sell them at 50% off the cover price, and that will include shipping. So, if you're looking for a top-quality, autographed hard cover romantic suspense, I've got 'em. Check out the first chapter, read the reviews on my website. If it looks like something you'd like, drop me an email telling me you saw the offer at Terry's Place for the special price. I even take Paypal.

Writers - do you think you're normal? Do people think you're special? Readers: What's your feeling about writers as opposed to other professionals?

Tomorrow, I'm proud to introduce debut paranormal suspense author, Karin Harlow. She's got a fantastic series coming out soon – L.O.S.T. – The Lost Option Special Team. You'll want to come back—especially since she's going to be giving away a special prize. Tell your friends! I'm going to be busy--my editor just sent me the first round of edits for WHERE DANGER HIDES.


Mason Canyon said...

I think one reason people react the way the do when you tell them you're a writer is because as a reader you never image actually meeting an author. It's not that the other professions are wonderful, they are. It's just we see those people daily. But an author, you don't.

Thoughts in Progress

Terry Odell said...

Mason - interesting point.

Hart Johnson said...

I love this little window in... you are years ahead of me in process (having two out)--I am still at the place where people ask "what have you published?" and I have to say, 'well I'm trying...'

People DO though, seem impressed (some less so, once they hear the not published yet, part--they assume THAT is easier than it is).

I think though, I recommend against thinking of yourself as normal... normal is boring--you're exceptional!

Angela Giles Klocke said...

Normal? No, but not special. ;) I know, I saw the look too when Barbara mentioned us. The one lady was like, "Where, who?"

When I got Barbara's book, I told her I'm not really into having books signed, but because I feel like she's a new friend, I wanted her to do so. Normally, I'm just not start-struck, but not just because I'm also a writer. I'm like that with stars, too. We're all just people.

Terry Odell said...

Angela -- I grew up just outside of Beverly Hills. The first autographs I ever got were for cookbooks, not celebrities.

Terry Odell said...

WT - I prefer to think that everyone is special, especially "normal" people. Getting through the day is special enough. I don't feel any different now that I write than I did being a stay-at-home mom.

Susan Macatee said...

I never thought of myself as normal, Terry, even when I was a kid. And I get the same reaction when people I know learn I'm now not only writing, but finally have a few published books out there. Although I'm not with a traditional publisher, but an e-book publisher who also puts out POD copies for authors.

To be truthful, I don't exactly know what normal is. I spent years working as a bookkeeper for a big company, a very normal job, and more years as a stay-at-home mom doing all those volunteer things like PTA, bake sales, scouts and little league baseball games with my boys. All those typical mom things.

Maybe people think all writers are eccentric creatures they should be in awe of. LOL.

Carol Kilgore said...

Have you noticed that people tell you all sorts of things when they learn you're a writer? That was the most amazing thing I learned.

Mary Ricksen said...

U love it if someone gives me a heads up for being an author. It's awesome that people are happy to meet you!

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I'm not sure exactly *why* being a writer gets that kind of reaction, but it definitely does. Which is one reason I'm always reluctant to say anything about it!

Terry Odell said...

Susan- ah, yes. The "amazing" reaction totally changes, and they say, "Oh. Well tell me when you write a REAL book." Been there many times.

Susan - I always figured everyone else was half a bubble off center, not me.

Carol - yeah, I've had people ask if I'll ghost write their stories.

Mary - Now, if more of them would say, "You're an author? Let me buy a book of yours. Now." THAT would be cool. :-)

Elizabeth - if I don't say I'm a writer, I fear I might just quit before reaching my goals.

Wynter said...

I often get the jaw drops, too. Part of why people are amazed IMO, is that so many people say they should write a book, yet few follow through and even fewer are published.

Terry Stonecrop said...

Since I'm not published, I don't tell people, except for a few close friends and relatives, that I'm writing fiction.

But I can understand the reaction. To non-writers, I think published authors have a certain mystique. To unpublished writers, you have our respect and admiration, as we see how tough it all is.

Terry Odell said...

Wynter - yes, there are countless people who say, "When I have time, I'll write a book." But only those dedicated ones actually MAKE the time.

TerryS - Author Kresley Cole said that if you're committed to being a writer, you should tell everyone, even your mother-in-law, because it will keep you at the keyboard. (At the time, she'd just published her first book)

Maryannwrites said...

The funniest reaction I ever had was when my kids got old enough to realize I did more that simply "type" when I was busy in my office. LOL

Patricia Stoltey said...

I get a kick out of that interest, but it's usually followed by questions about my sales and how much I make. I hate to admit the truth. :)

Terry Odell said...

Maryann -- my husband asks me if I'm "wording"

Pat - I just laugh and say, not enough to live on.

Debra St. John said...

It is fun to take in people's reactions when I tell them I'm an author. And for sure, they really think it's a lot more glamourous than the usual everyday business side of things.

Terry Odell said...

Debra -- you mean you don't lounge around with a tiny dog on your lap and eat bon-bons?

Terry Odell said...

I'm glad you found me, and thanks for following. I'll have to check out your blog.

Liana Laverentz said...

Terry, that's a cat on my lap and Dove Dark bites in my hand :) Since I posted a blog about the women's series at our church last month, and sent it to the coordinator and she sent it to all sorts of people, all sorts of people are now coming up to me at church and saying are you the....writer? There's a definate semi-reverent pause there, and I'm thinking, yep, that's me, and I'm just as normal as you. Well, sort of...:)

Terry Odell said...

Liana - I'm allergic to cats, but I'll take a few of your Dove bites ... and who knows... you might garner a few sales. People do seem to think it's cool to have met the person who wrote the book.

Anonymous said...

I love this blog! I think writers and voracious readers are a breed apart. Now I can't find my car in the parking lot-- but as a kid I walked and read books seemingly having a GPS system built in. My first RWA and RT convention I knew I had found my people! Even though I will always love the anticipation and the fragrance of new paper, I think e-books and e-book reading devices are going to grow in popularity. For instance, when Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1873, President Hays said, "that is an amazing invention, but who would ever want to use one?"

Anonymous said...

Hey Terry,
I love Gina Ardito, too! Thanks for commenting on my blog. I appreciate it!

Terry Odell said...

Gwyn - glad you like it here. Hope to see you often. I know what you mean -- I always had my nose in a book as a kid. It's amazing I didn't walk out into the middle of traffic.