On being cool.

First, the title of this post is kind of a joke. I don’t know anything about being cool. Seriously, I was the girl in high school who wore glasses, came in early, and spent her free time in the library.

I’m the same person as an adult. I just have a healthy dose of cynicism and apathy.

So I’m not talking about the type of “cool” that people associate with James Dean or Colin Farrell. Or, for you kids out there, I’m not talking about the type of “cool” associated with Justin Bieber. (Though that right there will get me a little bit of flack from my husband.)

I’m talking about the type of “cool” that means treating other people with respect, no matter who you are.

I asked my husband a very basic question about politics the other day. I’m not even going to tell you what the question was, but most people would know the answer. I’ve never followed politics, but because my husband is fascinated by politics, I’ve spent the last year trying to understand it, follow it, and speak intelligently about it. (I’m still working up my nerve on that last one.)

My husband could have pulled the A-hole move and talked down to me. He could have patted me on the head and told me to go back to my little YA books. He also could have done the thing where you answer the question, then keep expanding on it to show how much you know about something. My husband didn’t do any of those things. He just answered the question and we moved on with the discussion.

This sounds like a little thing. It’s not.

I even remarked on it to him. It’s one of my favorite things about him, that he’ll never be arrogant or nasty about anything.

He said it’s a matter of respect.

I remember once I went out with this guy when I was around 22. My mom set us up, and that should have been a warning sign right there. I mean, the guy drove a Buick. Now look: there is nothing wrong with driving a Buick.

Unless you’re 22.

It was a new Buick, with leather seats and all the bells and whistles. I remember he had a button on the middle dash, something about traction control.

Now, I’m a bit of a dork, and I love knowing how cars work. I’ve been known to read the manual. (Yes, really.) I said to him, “Hey, I’ve never seen a car with a button for traction control. How does that work?”

He said, really snootily, “It controls the car’s traction.”

Well, gee.

Not one to be put off, I said, “But how? What does it do?”

I needed an answer. I mean, does it slow the wheels down? Change something about the pull from the engine? I was fascinated by the fact that something like traction could be controlled by pushing a button.

He kept trying to make things up, and I kept asking more questions, and finally he got really flustered and snapped, “Just stop asking questions about the car, okay?”

I think you can all deduce that the first date was also the last.

I mean, he could have just said he didn’t know.

We totally could have looked it up in the manual.

But really, I didn’t start this post to talk about old boyfriends. I actually started it to talk about writers.

A few years ago, I read a post on a very popular agent’s blog about one of that agent’s authors coming out with a book. I loved, loved, LOVED the concept of the book, and I was really excited about it. Here’s the kicker: the book was coming out eighteen months later.

Every now and again, the agent would mention the book on the blog. Around the time I thought the book was due to be released, I couldn’t remember the title. I actually emailed the agent and said, “I’ve been looking forward to this book for a long time, but I can’t remember the title.”

The agent wrote back. The book was coming out soon. I followed the author on Twitter.

On the day I ordered the book, I sent a tweet to the author (a debut author), that essentially said, “Just ordered your book! Been looking forward to it since I first heard about it on [agent’s] blog! Can’t wait.”

I didn’t expect a response. She didn’t know me from anyone. Really, no response would have been fine.

Here’s what I got back:

yeah thanks

That’s it.

Now, look. I’m not going to judge anyone’s Twitter style. Like I said, she didn’t need to write back. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions of the interaction right there.

I will tell you that I was kind of turned off.

Her Ladyship's Companion (Berkley Sensation)A few years ago, I read the debut novel of Evangeline Collins, Her Ladyship’s Companion, and it was frigging awesome. It also has a stunning cover. (It’s totally a romance novel, so if that’s not your thing, it won’t be for you.) 

I wrote an email to Evangeline Collins, telling her how much I loved her book. Again, no  response would have been fine. I know people have lives, and some people get boatloads of emails from readers. Besides, the purpose of my email was to say, “YAY! I loved your work so much that I wanted you to know!” Not to say, “Please engage me in conversation.”

But Ms. Collins wrote back. To thank me. That’s class.   And when her next book came out, I immediately pre-ordered it. And loved it.

I had another one of these today. A friend asked for some book recommendations on Twitter. Here’s  the conversation:

@BrigidKemmerer oh any book recommendations? im running low. and we need to finally pick a date for a playdate for the boys

BrigidKemmerer:
@
LesRhodes
Yes, we do!! I just read Boy Toy by @barrylyga and LOVED it. Also The Iron King by @Jkagawa. Good stuff.

If I know they’re on Twitter, I always mention the author when I recommend their books. Not only do they know I liked their stuff, but it usually links back to their website in case people want to find their stuff easily.
Boy Toy
I didn’t expect either of those authors to respond.

Barry Lyga did, to say thanks. I almost went all fangirl, because seriously Boy Toy is one of the best books I’ve ever read. It’s tough to make a book moving and gripping and un-put-down-able while still making it funny enough to make me laugh out loud in places. Incredible book. I almost want to stop writing this post to go read it again.

And the author, the author, took time out of his day and thanked ME.

I mean, come on.

That’s pretty cool.

11 thoughts on “On being cool.

  1. Hey Brig! This is a great post to illustrate How To and How NOT To interact with people when you’re an author. I’m very finicky about my patronage be it restaurants, shopping, books/authors, etc. If I have a bad dining experience, I won’t raise a ruckus, I just won’t go back. Ever. I know lots of people like that, so why would you risk that as an author?

    I’d never by a another book from the, “Yeah thanks.” author. Too many great books out there, and way too little time. To be clear, I’m totally with you in that it would have been better to just no reply. I totally get people are busy and don’t always have time to respond every fan comment.

    I’m done ranting now! 🙂 Again, a very good example you’ve laid out here.

    EJ

  2. You think us kids think Justin Bieber is COOOL? *dies in horror* And the only way i know who James Dean is because Hilary Duff has a song called “Mr. James Dean”. Also, I’m the girl with glasses, comes in early and hangs out in the library. 0_o

    I think it’s super cool that you like to know how cars work! But that dude was obviously a jerk. I think authors should know better than 22-year-old guys who drive Buicks. Like seriously: someone tells you your work is fantabulous. I would start gushing over THEM, never mind them fangirling over me. And you’re totally right in that a no-response is better than a terse one.

  3. Authors who have had the class to thank me for telling them I liked their books include Ellen Potter (very classy woman who even offered to Skype with my classes), Erin Dionne, Pat Walsh, and Terry Deary. Just thought I’d give a shout-out to them as well. 🙂

    Oh yeah — and Paige Shelton, too. I e-mail her often enough now that I feel like she’s an old friend, but it all started when I simply read and reviewed her book and she thanked me for it (note: I’d never heard of her before; she didn’t ASK me to review the book).

  4. “yeah thanks”? That’s just so…”eh, I’ll take time out of my busy schedule to give you two words, but that’s all you’re worth you little ant of a person.” I mean, even if you’re having a crappy day, surely getting an email from someone who’s just ordered your book and is EXCITED about it can cheer you up? 😛

    *hides from the Justin Bieber ref*

    Yes, I had to repost as I had a grammatical error and I just COULDN’T let that stand… hehe

  5. John Irving is one of my favorite authors. Idol status easily. I named my second son after the main character in “A Prayer for Owen Meany.” So when my Owen had major surgery a few years ago to correct a problem that had been misdiagnosed for seven years, I wanted to give him an autographed copy of “A Prayer…” Granted, Owen still isn’t old enough to read it, but I wanted it to be a reminder for him in the future of those hellish years and how he survived them and came out stronger for them.

    So I looked up info on how to get an autograph from John Irving. I mailed a bookplate to a P.O. box in New Hampshire, and I included a letter telling him how much I love his work and how I’d named my son after Owen Meany. I got a handwritten note and the signed bookplate back from him in less than two weeks. He was kind and humble and encouraging and just completely blew me away.

    So if John Irving can show that kind of grace, there’s no excuse for Twitter-happy new authors not to at least give a genuine “thank you” . . . or not respond at all.

  6. Just had to add to the “good experiences with great authors” thread. One of my favorite authors is Mary Doria Russell. I have loved every one of her books, even though they are completely different. I sent an e-mail to the address listed on her official website just to tell her how much I enjoyed her work, expecting an employee of her agent to read it. Instead, I got back a long e-mail straight from Mary. We ended up corresponding back and forth, discussing some of my favorite scenes and some of her favorite characters, for a couple of weeks. After a couple of e-mails, she asked for my address so that she could send me signed bookplates for my copies of her books. When they arrived, they were very personalized based on our conversations and the specific books. Following her on Facebook, it’s clear that I am not an anomaly – she has obviously corresponded very personally with lots of her fans.

    I agree with E.J. – there are too many good books out there to waste your time on an author with no respect for the readers! And don’t forget us little people when Elemental hits the bestseller lists!

  7. I just have to comment on the 22-year-old with the Buick. My husband has a Buick, a tan Buick, and we met at 25. My 70-year-old parents make fun of it and said they thought they were too young for a Buick.

    He is not a jerk like the guy you met though, and I enjoy being the one with the ‘cool’ car, which has traction control, and I don’t know how it works either. But I’ve noticed that the wheels sort of re-align themselves after I hit a bump.

  8. Ron Rash has visited my campus a few times (he lives nearby). He is always super-nice and takes the time to speak to any students who want to meet him. After his visits, we usually have a “run” on his books here at the library and in the bookstore. I doubt that would happen if he brushed off his fans with a “Yeah, thanks.”

    And Bobbie–what a moving story! Now that’s an example of a very “cool” author!!

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