When I was just out of college, my mother used to proudly tell people I was a writer, unless I first managed to stop her. I tried to stop her because I knew what would come next, the dread question, "So what has she published?"
The answer at that time was one humiliating word: "Nothing."
The conversation would then wither up in shame.
I lived a double life. Inwardly, I considered myself professional writer, who would one day be published. Outwardly, I hid this identity from all but close friends and family. It's perhaps not surprising that the heroine of my fantasy series, Dindi, leads a similar double life, practicing her magic art in secret.
However, I became so adept at concealing my passion that once my novels were actually published, I found it difficult to switch from secrecy to publicity.
I belonged to several writing communities online, that helped me bridge my shyness. After all, it's okay to tell friends who are sharing my journey toward publication that my books are out there--yay! And from there, I learned to spread into the whole Social Networking Stuff. Facebook. Twitter. This blog. You know the drill.
But even after I had hundreds of followers on Twitter and Facebook, in Real Life, I was like a different person. Or rather, the same old person...shy, introverted, not likely to tell a stranger I'd published a book in a thousand years.
If someone who met me face to face found out, it was usually not thanks to me. For instance, my banker found out, because she was helping me with my account.
"So what kind of business is it?" she asked me in that polite-but-brusk Banker Voice.
"I'm a writer."
"A tech writer?"
Ha. Doesn't my husband wish. "No, I write novels."
Her eyes lit up. "REALLY? You write NOVELS? Oh, WOW! That's so exciting! I've never met anyone famous before! So what have you published?"
So there it was, the Dread Question, but I no longer had to dread it. I had an answer. I told her that I write fantasy, epic but with strong romantic elements, and the name of the series and where she could buy it.
And then she went and told the entire bank that I was a famous novelist ("I'm really not famous," I kept saying, but they didn't care) and they should all buy my books. I was blushing like crazy, but also totally loving it.
I had read advice that one should get in the habit of simply letting everyone you met know that you're a writer and what your book is. Not in an obnoxious way, not pinning them against the wall and giving a two-hour summery of your plot and the fishing trip with your step-uncle that inspired it, but just a line or a business card.
Today, for the first time, I took that advice. The plumber came over to fix the bathtub. After he finished everything, I handed him my business card and said, "I'm a writer. If you or anyone in your family likes fantasy, and if you don't mind ebooks, email me and I'll send you or them free books."
"Thanks!" He looked at the card. "My stepdaughter really likes books about vampires. She reads constantly. I think she'd like this."
My gosh. That was so simple and painless. No one was offended, no one was humiliated. I didn't die on the spot from embarrassment. Maybe I could even do it again.