Outside of literary circles, I don’t talk a lot about my own writing. I never mention to my parents what I’m working on. I don’t bring up key points of my novel to my friends. Even here, most of my posts are about the general writing life as opposed to specifics about my work. Even with that reticence, questions about my writing comes up. So I thought this post about how to deal with questions about your novel over at Writerly Life was helpful and hilarious. My favorite:
Is it about your life? Am I in it?
Inevitably, this question is going to come up in varying forms — and I find it the most irritating. I don’t really want to go into how the novel relates to my most personal inner life, and I especially don’t want to flatter you by telling you you’re in it, uncle Fred, or offend you, Aunt Alice, by telling you that that cold, cruel character is you!
How to deal
Most non-writers simply don’t know that novels don’t have a one-to-one relationship with reality. It’s difficult to characterize the complex, blurry way fictional worlds tend to overlap with our real lives. Again, the invasiveness of the question is unintentional, but I’ve found questions to be surprisingly pushy. For example, because I’m writing about Buddhism, I get asked point-blank whether I’m a Buddhist, and then I have to succinctly explain my feelings about religion. In cases like these, I think it’s fine to note (politely) that the question is a little more than you’d like to answer. Or else settle for “it’s complicated.” Sometimes it just none of the questioner’s business, and you’ve got to use your writerly verbal skills to find a tactful way of saying so.
That one is the worst! Even if I take bits and pieces from my real life, it’s called fiction for a real–it’s not real. It’s a novel, not a fun quiz about which character you’re most like. I’m sure lots of other writers base their characters/plot in real people and experiences, but I tend to stray far away from anyone I know in reality.
For the most part, people are very nice and just curious about the writing process. But I did get a good laugh out of this list.
Other questions I’ve been asked: Is it part of a series? Have you ever thought about writing about ___? Is it available on Amazon? Are you going to be like JK Rowling? (Um, I WISH.)
What novel questions are you asked and how do you deal?