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May 4, 2010


Posted by Dana

In today's post, guest blogger Karen White, author of ON FOLLY BEACH shares a very human side of being a writer and talks about her first experience being recognized in public.

OnFollyBeach.jpgLast month I was followed out of the dressing room at my favorite store, Anthropologie, by a woman who seemed very excited to talk to me.  She wanted to know if I was the author Karen White because she thought she’d recognized me from my author photo on my website.  She seemed really nervous and apologized for bothering me—so I hugged her!  It was the first time I’d ever been “spotted” in a public place, and doubly rewarding because I was with my eighteen-year-old daughter.  Finally I had proof that some people actually think I’m cool.

I will admit that when I started writing my first book, the thought of me ever becoming a “celebrity” was the last thing on my mind.  I can’t say I ever imagined wearing feather boas ala Barbara Cartland or lolling in the back of a limousine like Britney Spears (avec panties, thank you very much).  Still, it was pretty cool having those five minutes of fame in the Anthropologie fitting rooms.  Because so much of what I do—the long hours at the computer, the pressures of making deadlines, the book signings where two people show up—is far short of glamorous.

This year marks the tenth year of me being a published author—ten years and twelve books published.  When I was a baby writer trying to peddle that first book I was mortified with embarrassment to go talk with booksellers about hosting a book signing.  I was with a much smaller publisher then and I had to do all of my own marketing.  I think I might have preferred to stick knitting needles in my eyeballs than hawk my book.

When I had to contact people during my research phase of writing, I would nearly die of embarrassment explaining that I was an author writing a book in their field of expertise.  I felt I really had to justify wasting their time to talk with me.  I was pretty pathetic.  I blame it on the fact that I was raised with older brothers who tortured me constantly.  But I digress.

And then an amazing thing happened.  I sold another book.  And then another.  I started growing my reader base.  I even got fan mail!  Lots of fan mail!  I almost began to believe that I wasn’t an intruder when I walked into bookstores.  Even more amazing, booksellers started contacting me about hosting signings.  I’d even have lines of people at my signing table, and readers showing up with my entire backlist for me to sign.  And they weren’t all just friends or family members that I’d bribed to show up like I’d done for my first signings.

For my May 2010 book, ON FOLLY BEACH, I visited City Hall at Folly Beach, South Carolina to talk with the city clerk (who’s worked there for over forty years!) and to do some research.  I showed up with still some of my trepidation (I will always think I’m bothering people—I can’t help it) and was surprised to find that she was already a fan of mine, as were her co-workers.  They were more than helpful answering my questions, and were thrilled when I gave them signed copies of some of my backlist.  They even wanted to throw me a big party when the book comes out (which is currently being scheduled).  How cool is that?

So what motivates me to continue to write?  I do write for my readers.  I’ve begun to accept that there really are people out there waiting for the next book, especially now that I’ve started writing a series.  I get emails from people that are very specific about what they’d like in the next book.  I got started writing because I wanted to share my stories with other people; I’m just not one of those writers who is content to write just for herself.  I’m very lucky that I have an editor who lets me write the stories I want to write, and that I’ve found a group of very astute readers who want to read it.

So do I write for the “celebrity” of it?  Nah.  That’s too arbitrary—and fleeting—to make it a goal.  But it sure is a nice side effect—especially if it can impress one of my teenagers.

-- Karen White, Author