Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Authors As Characters

Kris Fletcher

As Joanne Rock mentioned in her excellent post, last week was the annual Romance Writers of America conference in San Diego. As always, it was a wonderful week filled with workshops and parties, learning and camaraderie.

It was also, I realize, the chance for our characters to exact their revenge on us.

Let me explain. Our job as authors is to take our characters - often perfectly lovely people muddling on as best as they can in lives they think are good, if not always fulfilling - and shove them into situations that are uncomfortable at best, terrifying at worst. We take these people and make them confront their deepest fears. Make them do the one thing they always swore they would never do. Make them find the giddy depths of love and then yank it away from them, just to make sure they truly prove that they are worthy of it. This would all seem incredibly sadistic if not for the fact that in the end, we reward them with the ultimate prize - a secure and loving relationship, one filled with shared laughter and hot sex and the delicious thrill of knowing that out of the billions of people on this planet, they managed to find the one other person who truly understands them.

Conference is a lot like that. (Minus the hot sex, of course, at least for most of us. Unless there's things happening that I've never heard about.) As Joanne pointed out, writing is a very isolating, often lonely occupation. While that can be difficult at times, it's often part of the appeal. Many writers are introverts. We like people. We just don't do well around a lot of them for an extended time. We like staying home with our cats and our yoga pants, making up worlds where we get to call the shots. We know this world. It isn't always the most thrilling, but it's safe and secure and ours.

Then comes conference. We have to leave home. We have to put on makeup and dress professionally. We have to be with LOTS of other people all the time, even in the bathroom (the conference hotel was excellent but even so, there are always lines for the ladies rooms between workshops). We have to talk to people - in lines, at workshops, at meals.  We have to venture out into new cities and master new transportation. (My roommate and I had our first Uber experience this year. We were so giddy over figuring it out that we were bragging to people in the elevator.) And let's not forget that all of this costs a big chunk of change.

Is it any wonder that our characters watch this and rub their hands together gleefully while muttering stuff about turnabout being fair play?

But just as in our stories, we get a payoff. Just as for our story people, our reward for yanking ourselves out of our comfort zone and venturing into strange new worlds is ... relationships. Connections. Shared laughter. Shared knowledge. Planning for joint ventures. Building support systems. And the thrill of realizing that we have found the place where not one, but dozens or even hundreds of people really and truly understand us.

Conference can be an intimidating place at times, but it leads us to a new, richer, more fulfilling writer life. That's a mighty fine payoff. Even without the hot sex.

Super Authors bonding at the Harlequin party: brand new Super author Heatherly Bell, Pamela Hearon, Lisa Dyson, Sharon Hartley, Jeannie Watt, Senior Editor Victoria Curran, Janet Lee Nye, Joanne Rock (in back) Nan Dixon (in front), Kris Fletcher.

So, readers, my question to you is this: where is the place or situation that led you through tests but brought you new relationships?


JanetLee said...

This was, by far, the best experience I've had at conference. I first attended in 2012 and I knew a grand total of three people from Twitter. This year was full of old friends, new friends, exciting plans, good times, celebration of successes.

Just awesome!

Tammy Y said...

My first job at Sears in the paint department. I met so many life long friends and learned so much too.

Mary Preston said...

When I was nursing, whichever hospital, I always lived in the 'Nurses Home'. It was cheap & in the hospital grounds. It felt kind of like boarding school for grown-ups. We always had so much fun.

kris said...

Janet, I agree - conference just keeps getting better and better.

Tammy, how cool! I love it when work friends become lifelong friends.

Mary, as soon as you said Nurses Home I flashed on the old Cherry Ames series. Did you ever read those? And oh, I can just imagine the hijinks that went on in that place!

Unknown said...

For me, national conference is always a challenge as I must put on my big girl panties and try to act comfortable on social situations. I know, I probably look completely comfortable. Have I ever told you about my background in theatre? :)

Tammy, that's wonderful that you have been able to maintain those relationships

Mary, I bet that was great being around other nurses. It would be great to have something like that for writers.

kris said...

Dana, I would NEVER believe that you're uncomfortable. That theater background is definitely working for you!

Kristina Mathews said...

Conference was the best. I got to meet Jeannie, Pamela, and Nan. I got to know my publisher better, made dozens of new friends, hopefully helped an author or two who is newer than me. I cried at every single RITA and Golden Heart speech. And I have a huge pile of Supers on my TBR list.

Unknown said...

Y'all know that editors are usually as much introverts as authors, right??? I love to go to conference and I also love to leave conference! It was so great getting to know you Supers guys better. Amazing people I get to work with. That's the best part.

Unknown said...

I would have to say going to conferences... I am super nervous when I go and I always find someone new to talk with that is in the same boat as me. This leads me to having friends with the same likes and the ability to connect on a more personal level. Plus it is always nice to see book friends in person and the best part is I get to go back to my day job at a bookstore and talk to my customers about all books and suggest books based on what they buy.

Only downside is my TBR pile gets bigger because between work and going to conferences two to three times a year I come home with so many books :)

kris said...

Kristina, I am so sorry that our paths didn't connect :-( Would have loved to meet you in person!

Victoria, totally hear you on loving to go and loving to leave. And that thing about working with amazing people? It goes both ways.

Jeannette, yes, conferences can be a real test, but I have to ask - how can SO MANY BOOKS be a downside? :-)

dstoutholcomb said...

jobs and college


kris said...

Denise, oh yeah!

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