by Tess Gerritsen
(I’m staring into the jaws of a deadline — my book’s due TODAY!!! — so this will be a short entry. And if you’re wondering how my adventure in Hollywood went, check out the photos from the set of “Rizzoli”, over on my own website, to see what it’s like hanging out with the film crew.)
Like many authors, I get asked a lot of questions. Sometimes it’s an emailed interview. Sometimes it’s at a bookstore or library presentation, when I invite the audience to ask me anything. For the most part, I enjoy answering those questions. But there are a few that I’d be happy to never hear again. And here they are:
What’s your normal writing day like?
I know that everyone probably thinks this is a perfectly straightforward, inoffensive little question, and it is. But I often get the feeling that people ask it only because they feel that someone should ask it, if only out of politeness. Like so many questions asked for that reason, the answer is seldom interesting. At least, my answer is. Does anyone really want to know that I start off my day with breakfast and coffee? That I sit down at my desk and turn out four pages? That I break for lunch and end at dinner? The truth is, a writer’s job, for the most part, pretty much involves just sitting in a chair. And when you ask me that question, you force me to confess just how boring my day really is.
Who’s your favorite writer?
This question makes me squirm every time, because I never know how to answer it. If I name specific names, it means leaving someone out and possibly hurting feelings. My favorite authors change, depending on whose books I’ve read lately. And after a lifetime of being a reader, I find that my favorite-favorite books, the ones that forever hold a cherished place in my heart, are books from my youth It’s the same phenomenon that makes us remember childhood fruits as the sweetest and childhood winters the coldest. But it feels so dorky to admit that, no matter how many glorious new novels I’ve read this year, nothing will ever beat The Hobbit.
Do your children read your books?
Again, another seemingly unobtrusive question. But ah, it’s one that makes me wince just a little. Because no, my grown sons do not read my books. They’re really not interested in reading my books — a sad fact of life that I suspect may be true for other writers as well. Because let’s face it, we’re just Mom or Dad. What could we possibly do that would make us cool? I remember reading an interview with Billy Joel, who sighed that his own kid doesn’t bother to listen to his music. Because it’s just Dad’s stuff, so it can’t be a big deal, can it?
Which of your own books is your favorite?
I can tell you which of my books sold the most copies. I can tell you which ones got starred reviews. But which one do I love the most? That question ties me in knots, because it means choosing from among my twenty one titles. I have heard authors say that the books that gave them the most trouble often turn out to be their favorites, and there’s some truth to that. I sweated hardest over Gravity and The Bone Garden — and both would be among my favorites. But they weren’t my biggest bestsellers. They’re just the books that stuck with me the longest. Probably because they caused me the most agony.
Do you know Stephen King?
Everyone who lives in Maine gets asked that question. Because only about seventeen people live in this entire state, so of course we all know each other.
I’m sure other authors have heard questions that made them sigh inwardly. How about it, writers? Are there any questions you’d like never to be asked again?