Monday, June 6, 2011

what do you write about?

I get this question a lot (see also: 'what kind of books do you write?'). This comes almost exclusively from people who are not writers is asked, I'm certain, without malice. For the purposes of my writing for the Gloss or this bog, it's easy to answer. I'd assume for any non-fiction it'd be simple enough because you're writing about civil war reenactors or deranged lepidopterists or what have you; that is to say, concrete things. But for fiction? It's difficult to answer without a) rambling off your entire plot or b) sounding ridiculous. Examples below:

Q: 'You're a writer? Cool! What is you book about?'

A: 'Um, so it's about this girl who moves to New York. But it's not chick lit or whatever, it's literary. I'm not saying literary in a self-congratulatory way, I just mean it's not genre fiction you know? (they don't) Anyway so she rents an apartment from this one guy and she falls in love with him even though he lives in Paris and then in the meantime she start sleeping with a gay guy. And um, she has a sassy best friend. And also a crazy rich friend. And they talk about life and love, and um, being in your twenties.'


--'You should write about my life, it would make a great novel.'


Q: 'Oh, you're a writer. I bet I'd be a great writer but I can never find the time with my investment banking job. What do you write about?'

A: 'I write about unrequited love and longing and how it makes us act unlike ourselves.

--'So like, romance?'

--'No, not romance. There's other stuff--like the bonds between women. How they flex and fray and how they can be even more powerful than the other loves in our lives.'

--'So...lesbian stuff?'

--(resigned sigh) 'yes, I write lesbian romances. Tell me about your job!'

I long to be able to answer this question in one sentence the way I do with my non-fiction.

Fellow fiction writers, how do you respond?

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