As you probably all know by now, R.J. Keller isn’t my real name. I chose to use a pseudonym for my writing career so I could retain a modicum of anonymity in the unlikely event my work ever becomes traditionally published. I’ve got two kids, both of whom are hovering close to high school age, and the prospect of having one or both them accosted in the corridor with a question like, “Hey, didn’t your mom write the blowjob-in-the-shower book?” is a frightening one. The teenage years are difficult enough without throwing that into the mix.
Imagine my discomfort, then, when a woman I’ve known for years siddled up to me in the produce aisle of the grocery store yesterday and said, “Hey, Kel…I really liked Waiting For Spring.”
I managed a noise that sounded like “Wha…?” combined with what I think was a squeak. And I became suddenly aware that a small handful of customers was hovering within earshot.
“The sex scenes were awesome,” she continued, oblivious to my discomfort…and without bothering to lower her voice.
I took another furtive glance around me. The crowd of customers seemed to have grown exponentially with each passing moment, and I was quite certain everyone was listening in while they pretended to examine corn on the cob and new potatoes…
“Especially when Brian’s in the shower and–“
Obviously, I had to steer the direction of the conversation away from Brian and showers. Some topics just aren’t appropriate for family-friendly aisles of the supermarket. Health and beauty…maybe. Feminine hygiene, sure. Fruits and veggies…nope. So I asked what she thought about Rachel, Brian’s sister, which led to safer topics like the horrors of teenage drug abuse, abortion, and vigilante justice. The crowd dissipated before my very eyes, and my heart rate dropped from about 315 beats per minute to a healthier 140. Finally I asked her an important question:
“How’d you know about my book?”
She smiled and gave me the rundown. Person A, who’d let her borrow it, bought it online about a month ago on the advice of Person B, who’d heard about it from my coworker “E” (aka, The Cute One). That’s when it all began to make sense. You see, a few months ago, “E” caught me editing my personal copy of the book (I can’t just read the damned thing, even after all this time). Intrigued, she asked to borrow it and I reluctantly handed it over. (Reluctantly because it wasn’t edited to my satisfaction). Apparently, she spent the next week reading it at work in between customers…and read certain sections aloud to customers as they came into the store. Those customers told their friends, and they told their friends, and–like the old commercial goes–so on and so on…
This was news to me. I knew E had read WFS, and liked it. I knew she’d let another co-worker borrow it. And I knew she’d bought a [properly edited] copy for her mother, because she asked me to sign it (which, I’ll admit, was one of the most exciting moments of my life). But I had no idea she’d been spreading the news that Kel–mild-mannered* convenience store clerk–and R.J. Keller–renegade author of angsty, semi-violent, sexually charged novels–were one and the same. I wasn’t sure this was a good thing. I couldn’t say that to this woman in the produce aisle (or any aisle, for that matter) without sounding like a bitch, instead of like the unsure, unpublished author I really am. So I just smiled back and thanked her for the kind words. And as I continued my shopping I mulled the situation over.
Three aisles later I realized that being recongnized for my work in public was a good thing. That’s what this writing thing is about, after all…entertaining people, moving them, inspiring them. I can honestly say I’ve done that which, in my opinion, is more important than seeing a book of mine in a bookstore.
So when I saw her in the checkout line a few minutes later I thanked her again for the kind words. Then I gave her the address to my website so she could buy a copy of Waiting For Spring for herself if she so desired. And I didn’t bother to lower my voice.
* This is a lie. I don’t have a mild-mannered bone in my body. I did once–in my right arm–but I broke it when I was a kid, and it didn’t set properly.
Chapters 32 and 33 of Waiting for Spring, in which Rachel’s situation goes from bad to as bad as they can get, are up at Readers and Writers Blog today. (Don’t say I didn’t warn you). Also posted are chapters 8 and 9 of Steal Tomorrow, by Ann M. Pino. According to her blog, she and her family made it through the hurricane, but there’s quite a bit of clean up to do, as I’m sure you can imagine. So big, big hugs to her…