So far what we’ve learned is that no one knows where ideas come from, and that writers don’t enjoy talking about how much money they make (and it’s a rude question). This week, in part three of the writer’s FAQ, we get to explore a better question.

When I tell people I’m a writer, I typically get a slew of questions. Aside from “are you published?” (yes) and “where can I buy your books” (here), I’m tackling the most common ones that people seem to like to ask me, how I feel about those questions, and which ones you should never ask of any writer.

  1. Where do you get your ideas?
  2. How much money do you make?
  3. What’s your writing/book/short story about?
  4. What is your writing process like?
  5. I want to write a book about [x]. How do I do it?
  6. Do you ever get writer’s block?
  7. Why do you write horror? What’s wrong with you?
  8. Why don’t you write like Harry Potter novels or something? Those make lots of money.

What’s your writing about? What’s your story about? What’s your book about? This is your basic interview question, and for interviews, it’s fairly general. For the public, it’s a question of curiosity that people ask to be polite, or if they’re a reader, to find out if it’s something they’d be interested in reading.

While it’s not a terribly intense question, it’s one I don’t mind answering. If someone asks me this in the course of an interview, I know that it’s my opportunity to catch new readers who would be interested in the horror and weird fiction genre. If an individual asks me this once they find out that I’m a writer, I know they’re either just trying to make polite conversation, or they like to read and want to find out if what I write would be interesting to them.

With an avid reader, I can tell. Their eyes light up and they lean in, wanting to know more. With a polite question, they do neither and put on their polite chit-chat faces. I can tell you it’s far more interesting to talk to an avid reader, so I tend to give them details they might find appealing. With polite chit-chat, I’ll tell them the genre and a one-sentence summary.

Either way, this isn’t a question I mind, but I have to make sure my answers don’t sound well-rehearsed. I prefer to change up how I answer so it doesn’t sound like it’s coming from an automaton. Generally, my answers go something like this:

I write about horror and weird fiction. Think about H.P. Lovecraft and then take away the flowery prose, add influences of Shirley Jackson and Stephen King, and a dash of The Twilight Zone, and there you have it. Exit 1042 is about two people trapped in a diner. Now Entering Silver Hollow is about a town facing cosmic horrors.

There are better questions for interviews, I think, than this generic question. When you’re interviewing an author, questions about specific characters and the milieu of the story are far more engaging to answer, and avid readers often prefer those questions.

So while this is a question I enjoy answering because I love to talk about my work, it’s a bit on the bland side insofar as interviews go.

Next week, I’ll tackle one of the more uncommonly common questions, and maybe even answer that one, too.