We have discussed my awkwardness (many times) in the past, as well as discussing it with regards to talking about my books. Today, I’d like to discuss just how awkward I am when confronted, face-to-face, with people who claim to have loved my books.
You see, in the past, when actually being placed in a situation where I’m talking to people about my books, the conversation usually doesn’t get much further than a disingenuous “I’m going to have to pick up a copy and read that”. (Side note: I know you’re not…and it’s really truly honestly okay). In fact, the only times I’ve talked to people about my books with regards to them having actually read them has been through electronic communication, or with my wife or dad, both of which I expect to be (somewhat) honest with me on their thoughts about the things.
So, when I found out that the book club at my childhood church would be finishing up their reading of The Agora Files right before I would be returning to my homeland for a visit…well, I was a little anxious, even with the fact that the rumor claimed I was getting relatively positive reviews.
Now, I should add that I was already aware that they (were at least going to pretend that they) loved it. I received a text message from my cousin, whom had to get my phone number from elsewhere, early in the morning one day just to tell me of her love for the book (but mostly, I think, to get the goods on when the sequel would come out since the book leaves on a bit of a cliffhanger). But that cynical side of myself still questioned the truth…
Fast forward to arriving in South Carolina, a place where I believe I feel my most awkward, due to the fact that when I lived there, I was most definitely at my most awkward. Social ineptitude was my adolescent years… My first day in town I receive a warning from an old friend, a warning about, well, let’s call her “Fred” (it’s a girl’s name, you know, like Winnifred…). You see, the word is, she dug the book, but that she was, well, livid seems to be the appropriate term, regarding how the book just kinda ends. I’ve been since told that she normally only reads non-fiction where all the answers about what may have happened are readily available.
It sounds, however, like she was quite the fan of the rest of the book, appreciating the non-stop thrill ride that is Cyrus’ run across the country. But that was not my first warning…
No, in fact, throughout the few days before the day I knew I would see “Fred” I kept getting these little notes, generally things like “Have you seen ‘Fred’ yet?”
I was already aware of why I was to be concerned about my confrontation with “Fred”, and I’m not going to pretend that I had any fear that I was going to be verbally abused because of how the book ended or any such thing. Of course…later information that I received has told me that maybe I should have been more afraid… Anyways, my fear was regarding nothing more than my awkwardness when talking about my books. How does one sound cool and collected when trying to explain why a book ends where it does? How does one even talk about artistic choices in general, not to mention doing so to someone he still has trouble calling “Fred” instead of “Mrs. Fred”. I’m bad enough talking about my books to people who haven’t read them, I had no clue how bad I would be with the other option.
Anyways, the day finally came, and to be honest, the conversation (about the book) was rather mundane, outside of a rather forceful indication that I would be in severe trouble if the book wasn’t out before the end of the year and some rather accusing eyes about the fact that I’m working on a different book at the moment, instead of the sequel. I’m not actually all that certain how awkward I was during the conversation itself. In fact, I rather enjoyed it, but maybe that’s because I enjoy hearing people’s thoughts about my work, whether good or bad.
I actually ended up having a number of conversations with people who had read The Agora Files over the course of the week back home and I didn’t feel too awkward with any of them, although possibly a little over-excited that people enjoyed the book (or at least claimed to rather excitedly, as opposed to those few people who have read Buddy and didn’t get it, but tell me they liked it while looking down at their toes and whatnot).
There were even more conversations, of course, with people who said they were going to have to read the book now that it was so well received down there (which I know you won’t, but like I said before, it is completely okay, I promise. Very few people owe me favors and you definitely don’t). Those were all pretty awkward as I wanted to assure them of my guilt-free friendship where they can go on enjoying their lives without knowing much about the characters I make up in my sleep, but really have no clue how to do so without coming off as though I’m guilting them even further into reading.
However, in the end, I actually felt as though my writing was being appreciated. That warmed my heart. So, if “Fred” and the others are reading this, thanks for letting me know how you felt about the book. And I promise I won’t make you wait too long before I get the second one out.
Which, I suppose, means I should get back to writing…
Have fun out there!
p.s. who knew people read books at book club? I’ve always been under the impression it was for wine and appetizers…