Monday, September 8, 2014


When backed into a corner at a party do you find people asking a lot of questions once they find out you’re a writer, a real writer? A real published writer? In print!

 Should we get snarky, serious, or informative when bombarded?

I incline toward informative. Treat them with compassion. They’re about to enter one of the most frustrating businesses in the world. For some reason, people think writers make money, lots of money. Maybe they believe it’s an easy, fun way to make a living. If we confess that we’re not well paid at the midlist level, we lose their respect. Instead, mention how much attention to detail and hard work goes into writing….

One of the traits of a good writer is that we’re good listeners. (That’s where the characters and their voices come from.) We must consider their questions no matter how much we’d like to snap back, “I’m writing about you and your dysfunctional family!”

I’m especially sensitive to that “cocktail conversation question”. My grandmother (born in 1876) wrote a wonderful memoir spanning her life from 1879 until she was about 25. Historical times. At age 78 she was still taking her treasure, Virgin Timber, to parties my family attended among their New York interior design clients, many of whom were in advertising and journalism. Where was the ghost writer for The Last Confederate Widow then? Although Grandmother spent numerous hours, sober and selling, she couldn’t make a dent in their jaded conversations.

After her death, I sent her original manuscript along with a big color picture of her at her 103rd birthday party, to the town about which she had written. The picture shows a regal woman with a long straight neck and intelligent eyes. I kept copies of her story for the family and used her remembrances for research. She had documented the lumber business in the 1800’s before the Shay Engine moved the trees to their next destination. A detailed account of lumberjacking appears in my book, The World, the flesh and the Devil.

Answers to: What do you write? Where do you get your ideas? Do you write about people you know? How long did it take to get published? And nowadays questions about self-publishing are on the tips of my lips as the party heats up.

 Julie Eberhart Painter, is the Champagne Books author of Mortal Coil, Tangled Web, and the 2011 Book of the Year, Kill Fee and the sequel, Medium Rare. Daughters of the Sea, new this year are a paranormal and a southern drama from http://www.MuseItUp
Visit Julie’s Web site at


Liz Fountain said...

Now I want to read your grandmother's book, too!


Big Mike said...

Nice reference to you legacy JP. Love it.


Victoria Roder said...

Love your line, I'm writing about you and your dysfunctional family! I might try that answer.

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Thanks, everybody. Liz, if I print up my copy of my grandmother's book, I'll make it available online. I used her 'voice' in my one historical.