Tuesday, May 22, 2012
What does it mean to be an author?
There is a question sticking in my head today--it has been there for a while now, actually. I hate it when that happens because I always have to think extra hard when I really just want to not think. I know. Makes no sense, but I was catching up with an old friend from high school and they inevitably asked me what I do. A million things went through my head and we'd already discussed having all kinds of kids (I have four), so I replied, "I'm an Indie Author."
Her response was golden. I loved the all caps she decided to use in the chat box on facebook.
"What do you mean, you're an AUTHOR?" I can imagine that, in her head, she was picturing something totally opposite from the truth. In her head, she probably pictured Stephen King sitting at a type writer, staring out a window into a foggy storm and writing like a mad person. She probably pictured eight figure royalty checks and a celebrity status.
If so, she was so far from the truth! It's not her fault, though. There is sort of a stereotype that writers get branded with.
So, what does it mean to be an author or an indie author? We all know that there's a few small differences between the two, so we'll get that out of the way. An indie author is an author who writes for independent presses, like KnightWatch Press. I'm an Indie Author. Other authors have books published by bigger, more mainstream presses such as Simon & Schuster. Stephen King is a way more mainstream author. Or just an author. Whatever. Sadly, the biggest differences are the size of the audience that you reach and the ending payout. I know...life is sometimes not so very pretty, is it.
Whether you're a mainstream author or an indie author, I'm willing to bet your lifestyle is similar to mine in a few ways, though. I'm willing to bet that, no matter what you write, we have a few things in common--probably a lot of things.
*For one thing, I'm willing to put money on the fact that you have bags under your eyes quite often because sometimes a story (or comic) just won't shut up until you sit down with your computer and write. Sometimes it takes hours when this happens and other times, you just have to write down a few sentences to make yourself feel better and get it all out. The bags under our eyes should be worn with pride, though. Those bags say, "Yup. I was chosen to be an author and I spoke to the voices in my head...all night long."
*Also, if you're an author, I'm betting that your fingers move faster than the rest of your body. Gone are the days of writing everything in a notebook first--although there are some who still do.
*If you're an author like me, I'll bet you buy ten times the amount of books that you can actually read in a month's time. I'll bet that your to-be-read pile is more like a mountain that the rest of your family sneers at in passing because it takes up too much space in your house and while you love your books, everyone else wants to move them (or at least some of them) to the attic or basement and put a new big screen television in their place. Or maybe you've put all the books that won't fit elsewhere into the china cabinet because you've run out of space and now everyone else wants you to put the dishes back in it (don't know WHO would do such a thing...*blushes*). But, that won't do for you. You want your books and bookshelves where you can see them because that's one of the smaller (or bigger lol) things in life that you enjoy and ENJOY IT YOU WILL!
*You're an author when you want to play games on your computer and, when you settle down to defeat medieval war lords, you suddenly see a plot in your head and have to drop everything to write it down. Sorry, war lords. We shall meet again...
*Regardless of which genre you lean toward, I'll bet you've read at least a few how-to books about writing and I bet that you either follow that advice to the last dirty detail or you've totally disregarded the how-to advice for being total bollocks. There usually isn't a gray area here because by the time a writer has decided to be a writer, he/she already has developed their own style and those preferences are hard to break away from.
And I should add that following a book to the last detail and taking advice from articles and other writer friends is totally not the same.
*When an author hears a certain song, they think to themselves or burst out loud that the song lyrics would make a really great story plot...and then the writer disappears to his or her work space and isn't heard from for three days because they're working now...do not disturb or you will quite possibly have one of your limbs torn off and handed to you in a basket.
*I'll bet that every single author out there can remember the first they read that made them want to write--we all have at least one of them burned into memory.
*Can't speak for every genre, here, but I can say that if you write books and stories that have anything to do with vampires, even in the most remote, vague ways, you've formulated a response in your head to use each time that someone asks you if your story is like Twilight.
Here's my formulated response--
"No. Not at all. My books have vampire characters, but they have fangs and do not sparkle. Also they like to drink blood. It's fun for them. Oh yeah and my vampires have balls. Big ones."
Usually my response is followed by a sneer from whoever asked the question. Sometimes that sneer is followed by a look of absolute relief, or a look of absolute disgust. You'd think vampires never actually drank blood or anything...geesh.
In closing, I want to say that writers are all different people from every walk of life. We each have our differences and each writer has his or her own voice. BUT, we all have ONE clear thing in common.
We were all chosen to write. We didn't just wake up one morning and sit at our desks and write a novel and decide that we're good at the whole author thing. Something magical--albeit very weird--happened to us all and we were chosen. We didn't choose this lifestyle. It chose us. We're very special and blessed in that way.
In my head I see it like this...
One night, I was sleeping snug in my bed and, at that exact moment, the author fairy was crash landing from the planet Write-On. He burst through my window, shook the glass shards from his uniform and picked little pieces of glass out of his beard, and looked at me. He snuffed out his cigar and then whacked me over the head with a club. Fairy dust flew everywhere and from that point on, I was a writer, well on my way to becoming an author.