The Top 10 Seriously Awkward Conversations I’ve Had When People Hear I’m a Writer

Two announcements before I share my awkward conversations:

The book trailer for Seconds Before Sunrise released. Check it out on YouTube by clicking here. Remember: the eBook releases June 12th! AEC Stellar Publishing, Inc. is throwing a VIRTUAL launch party on June 12th from 7 – 9 p.m. (CDT) to celebrate, and you can win a Kindle as well as many other prizes. You can also interview me live 😀 Click here to join.

Also, you’ll notice that my progress bar has been updated on the right side of my website. The black marks on the “Death Before Daylight” bar represents 10,000 word marks. We’re officially past the first 10,000 words! And we continue into the future with high hopes.

Being an author can be a crazy, fun, and maddening adventure. As Robert De Niro once said:

From lorelle.wordpress.com

That’s what I was thinking about the other day when I fell into conversation with someone about my writing career. They asked something I haven’t been asked before, “What are the strangest questions you’ve been asked during interviews?” I had to think for a bit because I haven’t really been asked strange or awkward questions in interviews. (I think this is because interviewers are prepared to ask an author questions.) But I have been asked strange, downright bizarre questions – mainly by strangers in passing who find out I’m a writer, and I thought it would be fun to share some of my moments today.

Disclaimer: in the defense of the interrogators, I rejoice in awkward moments. I’ve enjoyed every little second of these conversations – even when they didn’t. Let’s start with the obvious one first:

1. “You’re a writer?”


“Cool.” Unnecessarily long pause as the speaker (normally) glances up at the ceiling for no particular reason. “So what do you do all day?”

…I write.

2. “Do you write those dirty books?”

There’s nothing quite as dirty as being asked if you write “those dirty books.” What an unsexy synonym for erotica. Even worse is what people say after you reply no. I did not need to know how your sister, mother, and aunt read Fifty Shades of Grey during Christmas dinner. And I definitely didn’t need to know that you let your current girlfriend borrow your mother’s copy. Without your mother’s permission. Stop your anecdote now. Please. Before you say the word “dirty” again.

 3. “Did you write Twilight?”

“Is that a real question?”

“Oh….uh, I guess not.” (Another long pause that causes me to wonder why everyone pause so much) “Do you write books like Twilight? Like with sparkly vampires and shit?”

“I write in the same genre, but no vampires.”

“Wait. There’s an entire section for that?”

“Genre, yes. There is.”

“Is it titled Vampire Fiction?”

“No.” This is when I start questioning whether or not I already mentioned that I don’t write about vampires and why everyone brings up Twilight every day when they supposedly hate it.

4. But why would a twenty-year-old want to write about teens?

Because high school was the best time of my life.

(It was unbelievably painful to write that sentence down.)

I don’t know why a twenty-some-year-old enjoys writing about young adults. Why would a sixty-five-year-old want to write about dragons and direwolves? Because I like to. And my characters’ ages don’t define them or their readers. Hence why Harry Potter was read by pretty much everyone and their cousin.

5. Can you put me in your book?

Sure. But you might not like it. (You probably won’t like it. You’ll also wind up dead.)

6. Did you base that character off of me?

Normally, this is asked by friend or some other kind of close relative that shares the love of reading with you. Depending on the character in question, you might be tempted to say yes, even if it isn’t true. Your lover might even ask if you based the protagonist’s love interest on them. This could be a trap. This is probably a trap.

7. Why are you pro/con (insert controversial political or religious topic here)?

I’m sorry – what? Just because my character carries a gun on his right hip or gets an abortion or believes God isn’t real, doesn’t mean that I do these things, let alone believe in them. In fact, I don’t have a lot in common with many of my characters.

Exhibit A (The Timely Death Trilogy): Eric is a boy. I am not. Jessica can paint. I cannot. Pierce is funny. I am not.

Exhibit B (November Snow): Calhoun lost his arm in a POW accident. I did, too. Wait. No. No, I didn’t.

Forget about exhibit B.

8. Who’s the bad guy? Also known as, please tell me the biggest spoiler in your story before the story is even close to released.

Sure. But make sure your cell phone is ready. I want to make sure you Tweet about it before you post it on your Facebook wall and share your screenshot to your Instagram. #spoiler #Iknowtheauthor #forreals

9. Can you publish my book?

“It isn’t written yet, and I have no idea who the main character is, but there’s a girl in it, and she falls in love with a boy, but he doesn’t like her back, and then she finds another boy, and the boy (the first boy) comes back and realizes he loves her, and he confesses to her, and she leaves the boy (the second boy) to be with the first boy only for the first boy to change her mind before she goes back to the second guy and the first guy regrets it forever until they meet up again in the future and she’s still with the second guy but the second guy isn’t really interested anymore so she wants to start over with the first guy and he wants to try to but he feels too guilty about the second guy still being there so the girl starts to think that she should leave the second guy first before she gets with the first guy but she’s also afraid she will lose her last chance if she does, so—“

Email me. Please. Seriously. I actually like to help writers. But…standing by my table in a coffee shop as I finish up my editing is not the way to go about it. I’m a chatterbox. I am. But the one time I don’t talk is when I’m writing. I’m sorry, but I can’t just help the second you appear. I’m not the fairy godmother of publishing. I wish I was. If I was – trust me – more of my novels would be out. Your novels would be out, too. But – alas – the fairy godmother of publishing was not my destiny. However, I do like to help when I am available, so feel free to email me at shannonathompson@aol.com. I will help you as much as I can.

10. Is your protagonist a brunette because you’re a brunette?

You caught me. That’s why my female protagonist in November Snow was blond. I used to be blond, and there’s nothing like having the same hair color that screams, “Team work!”

…Oh, wait. I wasn’t blond? Really? Not even once?

Hmm, I have to reevaluate.

Those are the top 10 awkward (interesting?) questions I’ve been asked. They may not be completely awkward, but I did find myself enjoying every moment of them. If you’ve ever been asked questions you never expected to hear, share them below!


57 thoughts on “The Top 10 Seriously Awkward Conversations I’ve Had When People Hear I’m a Writer

  1. Those are hilarious! I’ve been asked 9 before. My favorite *insert sarcasm* is when they ask what my real job is since writing will never work out according to them. Also…. “Do you even have a social life?” Yes, I had coffee with my characters last week…. wait a minute.
    Great post!

    1. What a coincidence! I just had coffee with my characters last week, too. We’re planning on going to the pool tomorrow to…what’s that word?…socialize or something like that. :]
      Thanks for reading and sharing your story! Loved it.

  2. Too funny. I can relate to the awkward conversations. I may use certain “parts” of the people I know in my stories, but I will never admit it to them. 😉
    Love your voice, btw. Very witty. Write on. 🙂

    1. Never confess. It’s always a trap.
      Example, “Hey, I based character A off of person A in my life.” Person B is now going to question your relationship with them and forever compare themselves to person A because person B isn’t a character in a novel.
      The torturous life of a writer. How we must harbor all of our secrets. ;]
      Glad you enjoyed the post! Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts,

  3. There haven’t been too many yet for me, but this one was weird “So why are you writing a book if you already have a degree?” “Writing is my passion, and I want to write.” “But aren’t you too young? Don’t you have to be at least 35 to publish?” What? Where do people get their information from?

    In any case, those were the worst so far for me. I absolutely loved your post, as always. You manage to make every post really fun, and it makes me want to read them all the time.

    1. Oh, you’re breaking my writer’s heart! Those questions – like nails on a chalkboard. I’ve been asked the age thing myself. Publishing a book isn’t like becoming a president. There is, in fact, no minimum (or maximum) age. Crazy? Apparently. Why? I haven’t the slightest idea – but I have assigned Bogart the cat to the case. He left in his mystery van yesterday.
      Glad you enjoyed this post and my other posts. 😀 After my heart broke from the questions you’ve been asked, your kind words sealed it back together.
      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  4. What’s it about? What’s it about?

    That’s the common question I hear. Then I wonder if they want to know what happens, is there some sort of message. How should I know? I’m writing because I have a story to tell. If I wanted to deliver a message, I’d write a letter. Better, I’d become a public speaker… Then there is the whole “I’m a writer” thing. 🙂

    1. Oh! The “what is the message” question. How delightful. Let me see…every story has a different message for every reader. Because of this phenomenon, we will have to psychoanalyze every emotional response you have toward certain topics, scenes, and people. Once we do that, we should have a 50% chance at guessing what you MIGHT think about one or two scenes. You may have to do an overnight stay for two weeks, aside from Sundays. And no caffeine.
      …Or you can read the book. You could try to read it.
      Thanks for reading and commenting! If you ever become a public speaker, let me know. ;]

  5. I haven’t really had awkward questions I haven’t published, either. I get asked what I write about, and the response is usually “cool.” The one thing that I do get a lot of that irritates me is when people say I’ll never make a lot of money or that I couldn’t support myself on writing. That’s not the point, though. I do it because I enjoy it. If I make a living off of it, then that’s wonderful. However, I’m not expecting that will ever happen. I get this from my wife.

    1. It might be a fun experiment to ask anyone you tells you about your future finances what they do for a living. When they tell you their job, you should say you’re psychic, too, and they’ll never make a lot of money either.
      …Just kidding, of course. Step on their shoe. ;]
      Thank you for reading, commenting, and sharing your story! I’ll be looking out for your future works. 😀

  6. This was fun to read. 🙂 The question I am occasionally asked (which puzzles me) is “have you written anything I’ve read?” I always assume that the person believes that I have the magical ability to assess every short story, book, or article he/she has ever read so that I can reply to this.

  7. My absolute favorite part: I’m sorry – what? Just because my character carries a gun on his right hip or gets an abortion or believes God isn’t real…. Freeing stuff!

  8. My absolute favorite part: I’m sorry – what? Just because my character carries a gun on his right hip or gets an abortion or believes God isn’t real…. Freeing stuff!

  9. This cracked me up. Especially the quote – because it’s completely and utterly true. Most folks don’t bother asking me questions like that… the most common one I get is “are you sure you wrote this?” (Often delivered secondhand; I assume this is due to my not using my actual name on my writing.) My typical response is usually along the lines of “Nope. Not at all. I just posed for the picture and claim to have written some schlocky horror with poor sales to get the girls. 😉 (Often, the asker then exclaims “I knew it!” and stalks away. *sigh*)

  10. Since I haven’t published a novel yet, many ask about the financial situation of a writer. It’s awkward trying to explain that I’m still building a portfolio and that there’s a big chance I won’t be the next J. K. Rowling even when My novel in out. Yet, everyone seems puzzled when I tell them that I don’t do it for the money. The photo says is all… Thanks for sharing.

  11. Too funny! I haven’t had many interviews but my family drives me bonkers. My step-mom asked if I had any interest in real estate and I said, “No, I have a job I like. Besides, I want to write, not sell real estate.” looonnggg paaauuseee (you’re right about those!) and awkward smile, then, “Well, I talked to a medium and she said she sees you making a lot of money in real estate.”

    ….uh….what?? And they think I’m the crazy one! Lol!

    Great post, as always!

  12. Wow. Those are some doozies. I get the Twilight, dirty story, and ‘am I in your book?’ questions before. Here are some cringe-worthy ones:

    1. “Oh, you write fantasy? That’s great. I don’t like fantasy, but good for you.” (I always expect a pat on the head with this comment.)

    2. “You know dragons aren’t real, right?” (I’ve actually pretended to break down crying and act like my world has been destroyed due to this one.)

    3. “It’s nice that you write, but when are you going to get a real job?” (Thank you, various family members.)

    4. “I got the free sample of your book on Smashwords. You’re welcome.” (This ended a friendship.)

    5. “Authors are known to drink a lot. Are you drunk right now?” (What I wish I said: No, but the night’s still young and you’re still talking.)

    6. “Is there a lot of sex, death, and violence like Game of Thrones? Did you read Game of Thrones? Do you watch Game of Thrones? You should make your books exactly like Game of Thrones. Nyx should have dragons like Daernys in Game of Thrones. Game of Thrones is the greatest fantasy series ever. Do you think you’ll get an HBO show like Game of Thrones?” (I actually sat there listening to this person ramble on about GoT for a few minutes. Mostly, I wanted to see when they would slip up and not mention the series in a sentence.)

    There are others, but those are the first 6 that came to mind.

    1. I get number one a lot. “You mean like… magic? Dragons? That’s nice.”

      They usually do a good job of hiding the eye-rolling until they turn away.

      1. I got the ‘scrunched nose of disdain’ a few times. Nothing boosts my self-esteem like my career choice getting the same reaction you would use when entering a public restroom.

  13. Ahhahahah. OMG that blond comment. Now I’m happy. I actually love putting people in my book – that way I don’t have to think of the dragon fodder and the guys that die in the sidelines as the MC steps over their body. (OK too graphic.)

    Bdw that person who tried selling you the story about the boy and girls and shit IS A TOTAL RIP OFF.
    1. That’s the plot of Gilmore Girls, One Three Hill and to some extent Buffy
    2. That’s the plot of my next novel. Oh the soapy soapy soaps.

  14. These made me laugh and want to cry all at the same time 😀 I’ve definitely had a few of these with people. One of the most awkward was when someone asked what I do, I said I was a writer and they told me that would be a nice thing to put on my CV when I applied for a *real* job. Yeah, that one hurt! 😀

  15. Wow, that “can you publish my book” person was chatty! My favourites are the people who say, “I’ve always wanted to write a book! I have the best idea. If I could just find time to write it, I’d be rich.”

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! *wipes tears away* Yeah. It’s JUST THAT EASY!

    I wonder what my husband will think when he finds out that the love interest in my book is pretty much the complete opposite of him. Hmm.

  16. Number 7 actually has me somewhat frozen right now. It’s pretty much my worse nightmare since my characters don’t have the same beliefs as I do. How many people actually believe that Stephen King is secretly a murderer? It’s those crazy eyes! Jk SK! But seriously, how far can someone expect to get from their characters and their world? Still working on that one.

  17. Love all this! It’s nice to see you can find amusement in these situations. Usually I can but there has been times I’ve been upset/angry by people. Sometimes I write in cafes’. One time a stranger told me my writing goal to become a published author was unrealistic. He said something like I shouldn’t expect to coast through life and I either had to get a job or married and pregnant because I’m not getting any younger.

  18. I’m a self hating writer, so I almost never bring it up to anyone… So I haven’t been asked any of thse questions. Actually I think it’s because I’m afraid of these questions that I keep my writing to myself…

  19. The strangest one I’d had so far and I’m sure there will be others, is. “So when will it be a movie?” A. My people are already talking to Mel Gibson and Bea Arthur.”
    “No, not really, Mel already said no.”.
    No comment on the fact that Bea Arthur is no longer with us. I don’t generally point that, out. No sense coming off like an ass.

  20. I don’t tell people I write anymore because the conversation is basically:
    “Oh, you write?”
    “So, like, Harry Potter fan fiction and stuff?”
    “No…. not even close….”

  21. I work as a marketing writer. Before I had my novel accepted by AEC Stellar Publishing, I was asked to do a Career Day at a local high school. The students showed up expecting that I wrote novels, and I had to tell them that I was a marketing writer (not wanting to mention my then-unpublished novel). Almost all of them looked at me like I was growing antlers and walked away, usually without another word.

  22. I get a lot of grief over writing true crime.

    (While working on research for the next historic true crime book, this roughly remembered conversation happened:)
    Genealogy Room Guy: Are you working on your genealogy?
    Me: No. I’m doing research for a book.
    Genealogy Room Guy: What kind of book? A book about the family? Like genealogy?
    Me: No, I’m writing about the murder that happened in 1909.
    Genealogy Room Guy: You’re writing about CRIME?
    Me: Yes.
    Genealogy Room Guy: I didn’t know there were girls who wrote true crime. That’s so…unusual.

    Picking up my taxes from my accountant:
    Receptionist: Oh! I see you’re a writer! What do you write? Oh, let me guess. Children’s books, right?
    Me: Historic true crime, actually.
    Receptionist: (look of horror) Oh.

    Conversation with a librarian:
    Me: I write historic true crime.
    Librarian: You seemed like such a nice girl.

  23. People have asked me, “So, how do you get your ideas?” I usually answer, “Well, I ask my characters what they want to do, and then we go do it.” At least one person has looked at me cautiously and said, “You do know they’re characters, right? Like, not real?” I really enjoyed grinning back and saying, “Yep, they’re characters, my characters. And I talk to them!”

  24. Yeah, I get a variation on #9 that goes “I have this great idea, you should write it.” To which I say, “No. I can’t write your story for you. First, your idea is personal and precious. It belongs to you. I would never steal another writer’s idea. Second, if I did write it, it would no longer be your idea. In fact, you would hardly recognize your idea by the time I got done with it.”

    The most painful instance was when my mentally ill brother was all manic and ready to make a movie and performing art, if I would only write his story for him. He was very hurt that I turned him down, but I still believe this. His idea was his idea. I could not write his story for him.

  25. Reblogged this on ronovanwrites and commented:
    I love this article. Great humor. Nice writing. Jealous one so young can write so great. I would hate her if she weren’t so entertaining an awesome.

  26. I actually left my 6-figure job as an accountant so I could work full time on my writing and my art. I took my life-savings and decided this is what I wanted to use my hard-earned income on; supporting myself until my art could.
    At first people said, “Oh, I’d love to be that brave” – that lasted about 4-6 weeks.
    Then it became “So, how’s it going? Published yet?” – like you get a MS written, edited, proof-read, re-edited, BETA read, accepted by an agent & publisher… and published all in 6-8 weeks.
    After 3 months, the comments became, “So how long are you planning on living like a bohemian” (that one was my favourite because I answered; forever and always if I can).

    After a year the general response became (mostly in whisper;s even when talking to me directly) “Are you going through some sort of pre-mid-life-crisis?” and the best one, “Aren’t your parents worried?”
    In the past few months several of those people no longer even respond to my emails/calls 🙂

    1. Seventeen days ago I quit medicine (pathology) for personal reasons, the main one being stress, both job and home-related. During interrogations, one of my bosses asked me with an angry sarcastic tone, “Are you going to try to write a book?” She already knew I’ve been working on a novel for years. It was as if she were implying that there is something morally deficient in leaving a profession that’s killing you and trying to do something else that you love. Nikolavukoja, I support you in what you’re doing and admire your courageous moral character. Congratulations on making the right decision! 🙂

  27. There are obviously a lot of people out there who, like me, really struggle to put together a conversation. I like to think I come off sounding more articulate than that in real life but unfortunately I don’t think I do.
    On the upside, you’re amused by awkwardness! That’s a relief to me.

  28. Very funny. Confession, yes I do use people I know, I take them an mould them into something new. Would I tell them? I don’t think so! I like to be a bit secretive!

  29. ARRGGGHHH!!!!! I have had number 7 so many times!!!!!! *** 7. Why are you pro/con (insert controversial political or religious topic here)? ***

    I’ve been told the stuff I write encourages women to show their breasts and that they shouldn’t because it is written that they shouldn’t in the holy book.

    I have also had girlfriends accuse me of putting them in a story and then have been questioned why my other ex’s appear in the story. They are just characters cooked up in my mind. Truth is that most of my characters are based on what I think certain celebrities are like in real life.

    Just because I write something in a fictional piece, it doesn’t mean it is true to life or that I even believe what I am writing.

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