Monday, April 25, 2011

What do authors look like?

So Stephen King's recommendation has caught me, hook, line, and stinker.  I read everywhere.  It's been a while since I've really read a lot for fun, but now that I've given myself permission to do so and even accepted that it's an important thing to do, once again it's become a drug to me.  A good drug, I'd say, but still...I read everywhere.  I have audiobooks in the car.  I have books piled so high in my "library" at home (my privy...toilet...whatever polite term you wish to call the john) that they're a bit of a falling hazard.  I have several by the bed, though that pile at least I manage to find ways to avoid when I get there.

It's no surprise, then, that I was reading this weekend while waiting for my car's oil to be changed...and, right after that, for the tires to be rotated, since the service man at the dealership made a solid enough argument that it was needed.  I found myself in the foreword of Anne McCaffrey's book containing one novella and several short stories about dragons.  Yes, I'm sure there's more than one book meeting that description, but that's all I remember about it right now.  In any event, the topic at hand was her dealing with others' recognition, or not, of her as she does her author-y stuff: stuff like appearing at conferences, riding airplanes to and from book signings in such strange places as Fairbanks, AK (just kidding, my frozen friends up there!), and going shopping in bookstores for her son's first published novel.

"You don't look like Anne McCaffrey."  She's reportedly heard this line an awful lot.  Probably more, in fact, than I've been told that I don't look like Stephen King.  Which is absolutely true in my case, assuming you're talking about the same Stephen King I'm talking about.  But she IS Anne McCaffrey, and as far as I am aware, the only one on the whole planet. 

So what exactly do we, the reading public, expect Anne McCaffrey to look like?  I mean, I've seen pictures of her, and...well, she didn't look like I expected, either.  But I also happened across the web site of Alex Kava, whose detective mystery I'd just finished.  Boy, she looked EXACTLY like what I didn't expect.  So what did I expect, you ask?  Honestly, I have no idea what I expected these folks to look like.  I just remember looking at the picture and thinking, "That can't be her."  It's not a gender-specific thing, either; neither Robert Jordan nor that other Stephen King looked one iota like I thought they would.

This, of course, led me to two separate questions, one of which I can answer now.  The first question was "does anybody know what an author is supposed to look like?  A quick and quasi-scientific Google search tells me that the answer to that is "absolutely not."  I couldn't even find a site addressing the question, honestly, and heck, I went two whole search screens back.  It appears, then, that the problem of not knowing what we expect an author to look like, followed closely by the problem of authors not looking like we would have expected them to if we had known what to expect in the first place, is a nearly universal problem.  Or perhaps I should say problems.  I'm just too tired after a long day of work to care.  Or grammar, for that matter. 

The deeper and more engaging question--to me, anyway--is whether I'll look like what I'm expected to look like once (OK, fine...if) I become famous.  When people read my work, what picture will they get in their mind when they think of the guy who hammered it out on a keyboard?  And will it be a different picture for Evan Koenig than it is for Bob, the Grumpy Dean?

Can't wait to find out, which means I better get to hammering, right? 

Word Count: 24,773 and climbing

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