Seriously though, if anyone – ANYONE – should know what my novel’s about, it should be me.
Apparently not, though, as I discovered when some MONSTER casually said ‘oh, so what’s it about?’
WHAT KIND OF A QUESTION IS THAT??
Ok, I do actually have a title now, which is a great start. Unfortunately, if I tell people the title and that it’s a (hopefully) comic fantasy, they pry. Probs because it’s a single that gives absolutely no clue to the storyline whatsoever.
Maybe I should have gone with the whole ‘a blank of blank (and blank)’ or similar, so people would have a reference.
All the good ones of those have been taken though.
Also, those books tend to feature assassins and cool people and I’m not cool enough to write cool people. I’m also not assassin-y to write about assassins either. Also, I secretly think they’re rather overdone atm, like vampires were in 2008.
But I mean, what if my book’s not finished yet??? Which mine isn’t! I’m on the second draft, which is actually so far removed from the first draft that I’m pretty sure this is just the second draft of the first draft. When I’ve finished this one, then I’ll be on the second draft.
You what reaaally hammered home how unfinished my book is? BEING ASKED ABOUT IT. Especially the magical aspects, which I just kind of slotted in where convenient. I currently don’t really know where it came from, what it does or why only one person seems to be able to use it (but generally chooses not to).
Writing is hard.
How many drafts am I even allowed? Stephen King says two, but I’m suspicious – he’s written a lot of books so he probs has his technique down pat.
I, on the other hand, er, don’t.
Anyway, how does one answer that age-old question What The Hell Is Your Book About?
The traditional approach
This is what I would recommend: some variation of saying ‘Oh, nothing’, ‘You know…stuff’ or something similar. Whilst also turning bright red, giggling/retching and trying to fit into your own pocket.
It’s a winner – you’re embarrassed, they’re embarrassed. Both of you are immediately comforted by the knowledge that you’ll never ever have that interaction again.
Hopefully, they’ve learned their lesson and won’t ask some poor innocent bunny what their books about.
You, however, will be asked all the time by everyone for the rest of your miserable life.
The terrible, terrible approach
(which obvs is the one I chose)
I.e. the one where you accidentally word vomit weird aspects of the plot at your poor victim but in a really incohesive yet weirdly detailed way.
You’ll downplay really important characters because you’re worried your friend won’t like your baby. Instead, you’ll put all the spotlight on Tim, pub landlord, who has one line and then disappears off the face of the earth because you accidentally renamed him Bob in the next chapter.
All is not lost
I assume anyway, because of Things I Seen on the Telly.
Whenever I’ve seen authors interviewed about their books on TV they’re very succinct and witty re. plot etc. They don’t go all blotchy and try to hide behind their increasingly sweaty hair. They look, y’know, v profesh.
I have a few thoughts as to why this may be:
1 – By the time you’re at a place where you’re on the telly discussing your book, you’ll have read/rewritten/edited it so many times. You could probs regurgitate the whole thing on demand. Key themes, ideas, and characters are at the forefront of your brain.
2 – You get a casual month or so to prep for your interview so you can spend all of your spare time crying and trying to condense your precious creature into a paragraph or so.
3 – (Fingers crossed for this one, kids) Some poor, overworked intern is given 24 hours to read your book and give a synopsis that they will give to the actual author of the book (that’s us) to read out live on air EVEN THOUGH the lazy-ass author WROTE THE FUCKING BOOK IN THE FIRST PLACE.
Now the takeaway from this is strange because what I really want people to know is not to ask writers what their book’s about. But my blog is for the writers, not their rude friends.
Ok, so the takeaway isn’t strange, per se, it’s more that there is no takeaway.
EXCEPT (dramatic music)
If you don’t fancy either embarrassed stammering or verbal diarrhea I can thoroughly recommend super-secret response #3 – simply reply that you don’t know in hushed tones with your eyes as wide as they’ll go. This gives the impression that you’re being haunted/possessed by some supernatural being with a story to tell.