Book Tour Debrief III: Adventures in Audience Q & A

(Photo: me with Scott Montgomery of Book People in Austin.)

On a book tour, if things go well, readers show up. If things go really well, not all of them are your cousins, or process servers, or a guy clutching the unpublished novel he wants you to deliver to JK Rowling/Anne Rice/James Cameron/The President.

But I digress. At a truly good book tour event, a big part of the fun is answering questions from the audience. It’s great to hear what readers actually want to know — about writing, research, storytelling, character; the whole gamut. And I enjoy conversation more than I enjoy lecturing.

But over the years, across many events, I’ve heard some unusual questions.

Q: Does your editor give you a sheet of paper with a list of words and phrases you’re required use in a thriller?
A: Never. I can’t conceive of such a thing.

Q: To get the love scenes right, did you sleep with a ____ a) fighter pilot? b) paraplegic? c) pararescueman?
A: No, no, and no. It’s called imagination.

Q: Are you sleeping with Stephen King?
A: No. And by the way, my husband is sitting directly behind you.

Woman frowning at The Liar’s Lullaby: “Does it contain dialogue?”
Me: Yes.
Woman (putting the book down): “Ugh. I hate hearing voices in my head.”

Q: “You write novels? Too bad. I can’t read fiction.”
A: I’m so sorry. Is there anything they can do?

And some questions, I simply have no answer to.

Man: “I want to write, but I hear writers have to be unbalanced geniuses. I’m a genius but perfectly balanced. How unbalanced are you?”
Me: blank stare.
Man (turning to my husband): “Is she unbalanced?”
Husband: blank stare, followed by sprint out the door and across the parking lot.

Woman skimming the jacket copy on China Lake: “Wyoming? No thanks. I have no interest in traveling there.”

Woman at a group signing, confronting me and a fellow author: “I’m not going to fork out for two books. Each of you, convince me why I should buy yours and not the other’s.”

Woman looking slightly baffled: “I heard the FAA was shut down. How’d you fly here? Is there rioting at the airport?”

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