Friday, September 4, 2009

Frequently Asked Questions 3

Oh, you’re an author? Would I know any of your books?

Well, that depends. My audience is primarily children. Do you have any children? If you don’t have children then chances are the only kids’ books you can name are Where the Wild Things Are (didn’t write it) and a few by Dr. Seuss (not him). In fact, I dread this question because even if you have children chances are good that you’ve never heard of any of my books, so you’re not going to recognize their titles, and then you’re going to get that embarrassed look on your face like you’ve caught me in a lie, like I’ve just claimed to be an actor when what I really am is a tour guide at Old Tucson and second understudy to Rum Tum Tugger in a community theater production of Cats.

But that’s fine, go ahead and insist that I tell you some of my book titles. Preface this by telling me that you’ll probably know them because you “read everything.” What you undoubtedly mean is that you read a lot, or possibly that you read a significant portion of the bestseller list. I’m pretty sure you don’t actually “read everything” because even if you restricted yourself to mass-market American adult fiction you’d still have to read a novel every thirty-five minutes.

I swear I’m going to start doing this to other people: “Oh wow, you’re an accounts manager for a medical equipment manufacturer? I love medquip manfac! I know all the companies–which one’s yours?


Brian Biggs said...

Dude I am so with you. I need to write or illustrate a picture book called "War & Peas" just so I can say "why yes, I wrote 'War & Peas'!"
However, there are the odd times where the person from Spokane next to you on a boat in Hawaii says "you're kidding! You illustrates Shredderman?! That's my son's favorite book!" and they really mean it and you feel like Bob Hope or Johnny Depp or something.

Brian Floca said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brian Floca said...

Long time listener, first time caller.

This happened to me (again) just last night. The question is always asked with the best of intentions, but it’s awkward on multiple levels, for all the reasons you describe. Plus, once I render a title unto the questioner, and watch their expression freeze into a sort of polite blankness, with undercurrents of regret, then I feel that I have to describe the book I’ve just named, and the description always makes the book sound like the most banal thing ever printed and bound. Then I have to try to find some way to convey that the book is not really as asinine and obvious as I am, at that moment, making it sound. Really, it’s not. (Is it?) Then I move onto the next book and try again, and it goes on from there.

When you find a good dodge for this situation, I’m trusting that you’ll post it.

Adam Rex said...

Brian Biggs: you realize, I'm sure, that you actually SHOULD write War and Peas. I'd pre-order it right now if I could.

Hi Brian Floca! After reviewing your particular situation I feel like the best "dodge" would be for you to tell the questioner "I WROTE FREAKING MOONSHOT, that's what I wrote. Do you see all those stars on the cover? Each one of those corresponds to a starred review in a major publication. I'm BRIAN FLOCA, now get me a drink."

Suzanne Young said...

Ha ha. This is a great post! Only thing better, "Oh, you're an author? I've always wanted to write a book."

Peter Underhill said...

Again, Adam, nicely observed.
I often get conversations that go:
"So, what do you do?"
"Err, I'm an illustrator"
"Oh yeah, what do you illustrate?"
"Hmm, a couple of children's books, but bears mostly"
"Oh, What kind of bears?"
(at this point I get that rollercoaster feeling of "Here we go again")
"Well, have you ever seen The Bad Taste Bears?"
"What, those little teddies that do, kind of, adult stuff?"
"Yeah, that's me" - trying to play it down.
"Wow, I know someone with one of those, my cousin has hundreds of them"
Yep. my fault"
"Have you ever done a bear with....(fill in lame suggestion of something I covered eight or nine years ago)?"
"That's a good idea. I'll add it to my list of things to do. Thanks" (me being polite)
"If you make it into a figurine, do I get royalties?"
"Because it's my idea"
"I tell you what, when you've worked your gonads off on a concept for fifteen years, produced thousands of drawings and paintings, attended Lord knows how many signings and events and signed parts of people you'd not see on a beach and pressed more palms than a politician, and listened to a gazillion identical suggestions on what absurd situation a bear could get involved in, then I'll see to it that you get your percentage."

Am I being ungrateful?

Adam Rex said...

Hey, Suzanne!

Peter, sorry to hear about your gonads. Hey, that would be a good idea for one of your bears. He could be working his gonads off.

Jennifer Kearney said...

I'm sure you've gotten this one, too: "Oh, so you're an illustrator? Can you draw something for me?" ...or: "Can you draw me real quick?"


Adam, a possible response to the dreaded question may be, "Well, the last one I had on the NY Times Best Seller list was....." At which point your interrogator will feel like schmo for not knowing any of your books.

thanks for the posts.

Lane Smith said...

Ha! You nailed it! Even worse is when you get to be as old as me:
"Name some of your books."
"John, Paul, George & Ben?"
"Never heard of it."
"Madam President?"
"I illustrated 'The Stinky Cheese Man?'"
"Wait-a-minute... yes!.. Stinky Cheese! I think I had that book in, like, the second grade!"

Adam Rex said...

Jennifer–what gets me is that they'll often seem to try to comfort you–"Can you draw me something, just real quick? It'll be really easy for you, it'll take you like, ten minutes."

dwilson, I don't think I could say that with a straight face. My last book on the NYT list would also be my ONLY book on the NYT list.

Hey Lane, if it makes you feel any better, I was in college when Stinky Cheese Man came out. Of course, having said that, now I feel old.

Z-Kids said...

I bring Gracie with me everywhere. She does all my PR.

Chandra said...

Ha! This is great! I always wonder what I'm supposed to do when someone tells me they're an author. I worry that I seem uninterested if I don't ask more! Ack - sometimes social situations boggle the mind!

Just have to let you know that we recently discovered Frankenstein Makes A Sandwich and it is my favorite new book - insanely hysterical with some of the best illustrations I've ever seen! Oh, and my daughter likes it too ;-) As a new devoted fan I've been keeping an eye out for all your work. We just purchased Pssst on Sunday and it's already gotten three nighttime readings since then! I'm looking so forward to reading Billy Twitters! Thanks for all of your amazing work!

Adam Rex said...

Aaron–what are her rates?

Chandra–You've made me realize I'm probably scaring people away from speaking to authors. But my real point was to sort of highlight this zero-sum attitude many people seem to have toward creative endeavors. "Oh, you're an author/musician/singer/actor/etc.? And I've never heard of you? Well, then you must be a failure. How embarrassing for you."

chris said...

I think I will actually like it when people don't know my book. Because then when they inevitably ask what it's about, I can just make up a new, crazier plot each time when I get bored with the real one. And they'll never know the difference.

Hmm, now I'm even more excited for my book to come out. Thanks Adam!

Robin said...

Brian, Shredderman is in fact one of my son's favorite books! (or book series, I should say) He read all of them, and after each one couldn't wait to get to the next.

Brian, I love Adam's Moonshot answer, complete with "now get me a drink," but if they have a toddler (especially if a boy), they either know "Five Trucks" or will desperately cling to your jacket saying, "You have a truck book? A good, non-sleep-inducing truck book? Where". Adam, all the third-graders I know love Smekday and/or Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich. Lane, my son loved John, Paul, George and Ben (especially the Beatles-riffing title).

And I will try hard not to ask an author this question if I don't recognize his/her name.

Unknown said...

Adam, I've heard of you, in fact "Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich" is usually the first book I reach for when a kid tells me he (or she) "doesn't like" poetry.
I guess it is due to working in a public library, but I've heard of everything mentioned in these comments....that's good, right?
Thanks for all the fun!