There are precious few satisfying answers to the question above. I have gone to the trouble to list them for you here.

“Oh, I dabble in literary fiction, you may have heard my address at the Nobel Prize acceptance ceremony?”

“Joanne Rowling. Lovely to meet you.”

“Mainly plays.  Probably nothing you know.  Ah, you’ve read King Lear, have you?”

Or even: “Very few, actually. I’ve barely put pen to paper since dashing off Catcher in the Rye back in the 50s.”

What you don’t want to say is this:

“Well, I’m technically speaking a children’s writer, but not entirely, I mean, older children, some not children at all, many perfectly sentient adults, in fact, seem to like my books, which do, of course, feature adolescents, but often incorporate quite difficult themes, say, on the subject of life and death, and funnily enough I’m published for adults in the US, though possibly not for long, and many of my Finnish readers are over 50…”

You really don’t.


16 thoughts on “And what sort of books do you write?

  1. Claire 8 years ago

    Would never have guessed about the Finnish readers though… do keep going!

  2. Cathy cassidy 8 years ago

    Meg, the only possible answer for YOU to give is: ‘Brilliant ones.’ Sorted.

    1. Meg 8 years ago

      Aw gosh. Cathy. Blushing elf.

  3. Kathryn Evans 8 years ago

    ‘What have you written that I’ll know?’ , ‘ I’m not actually published yet,’ ‘Oh.’
    Honestly, my mother. ( Think Cathy’s got it)

  4. Tiny 8 years ago

    Or this one:
    ‘Ah, you’re a writer. Which book did you write?’
    ‘Which one of the 25 do you mean?’

  5. Vivian Oldaker 8 years ago

    Meg, this made me laugh so much as my reply to such questions is so similar to your: “What you don’t want to say..” Except sadly, as yet, I don’t have a notable Finnish following. I often add that my publisher has classified my book as Young Adult….I can almost see the lip begin to curl.

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  7. Lucy Coats 8 years ago

    Oh, how this made me laugh, and my answer too is mostly along the lines of ‘what you don’t want to say’. I think I shall borrow Tiny’s answer, though, for future questioners.

  8. Jane Lovering 8 years ago

    I’m okay here, this is where being a ‘genre’ writer really helps. “I write romantic comedy”. And proud of it! Although, of course, I’d really like to say “What kind of book do I write? Long ones, you’ve probably never read any…”

  9. Rhubarb 8 years ago

    Ha! good ones!!

    I often get:

    “oh – you do children’s books, would I know your name?”

    This is usually followed by me saying mine, an awkward silence, and then they say something along the lines of “well, of course I haven’t looked at a kid’s book in years anyway”

    This is why I sometimes say “my last name is Suess”

  10. C 8 years ago

    > “Joanne Rowling. Lovely to meet you.”

    That was my line.

    (I love the “oh” that inevitably follows the response “not published yet”. Makes me feel like a melted Caramello Koala.)

  11. Judy Astley 8 years ago

    On telling A Questioner that mine are contemp women’s fiction I’ve been asked sneerily, “And are any of them best-sellers?” I’ve ruthlessly replied “Yes, all of them.” That wiped the smirk from AQ’s face. Ha. (And, really, Best Seller can be quite a flexible term when required to be, can’t it? Yes?)

  12. kokorako 8 years ago

    A note to C – what is a Caramello Koala? Is it a bad thing to feel like a Caramello Koala as it sounds delicious? And a question to Meg – I’ve just done the WICKED thing of putting a book that no agent would take into the self published ebook world of Kindle and smashwords. I want reassurance that this isn’t wicked or fast-tracking failure, it’s a practical solution to the difficulties of getting work into print. What do you think?

    1. Meg 8 years ago

      A very dear friend of mine self-published a wonderful wonderful short novel that would have had a very hard time being published in this market. It just had a fantastic review in the TLS. So there! ( — My Life With Belle)

    2. C 8 years ago

      kokorako — it’s bad to feel like a melted one specifically because it ruins the deliciousness. Unless of course it’s melted in your mouth. But I was thinking more along the lines of it melting underneath someone’s backside in a car with no air conditioning, while searing UV rays laser through the windscreen.
      Meg — you and your friend have renewed my hope that All Is Not Lost. Thank you.

  13. Philip Ardagh 8 years ago

    The most inane follow-up question is, surely, “Will I have heard of you?” to which the only reply can be, “I said I was a writer, not a s*dding mind reader.”

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