I Promise You Won't Learn A Thing From This Blog

The official blog for author Ashley Chappell. Check back every week for a few laughs at my expense or, if you know the love-hate process that is writing, commiseration.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

What's It All About, When You Get Right Down To It?

Today's title is an homage to Sir Terry Pratchett, my favorite author, greatest inspiration, and liege lord should he ever need my services in battle. This is a question he likes to toss (albeit comically and always brilliantly) from a character's perspective when that character is forced to really stop and evaluate themselves, their routines, the world... But it is also one of my worst nightmares, leaving me quaking, nervous, and speechless in front of children, adults, and puppies alike.

The Question, so innocently posed: "So, you wrote a book. What's it about?"

Scaredy Cat
This is how I picture myself scared.
What's it about?? I sweated, I cried, I struggled, I warred with editors, I went sleepless for months to write this 90,000 word novel that spans my dreams, flights of fancy, innermost conflicts and struggles, and you want me to tell you in a quick couple of sentences what it's about?  ACK!!! *This is about the point where I develop a nervous ocular twitch*

It is times like these that I realize how much I love writing and how much I hate marketing (read: detest, abhor, loathe, anathematize, scorn, curse). And, of course, this is the natural first question everyone wants to ask you as soon as they learn you're an author. I knew this was a risk when I became a writer and made the conscious decision to not use a pseudonym (and it was tempting, I'm not a public sort of gal), but despite my best efforts, I still have not been able to do more than babble off the nearly memorized text from the book jacket.

You see, I hear the question 'what's it about' and I want to tell you the story. The whole story. I can't separate an incident/person from the story as being primary any more than I can tell you that I have a duprass-mate in Steven without explaining to you the long background of the word 'duprass' (see: Kurt Vonnegut), the way our relationship developed, AND how we came to apply the word to ourselves. I suck at summarizing, I'm sick of synopsizing, and the fact that I'm resorting to alliteration should tell you how serious I am about it.

Sleazy Sales Guy
This is how I picture all salesmen.
HOWEVER, like any new author, I have to make that effort for Alice Will and figure out how to answer this question without letting my skin crawl away. That is, unless I like the idea of remaining Ashley Who the rest of my life (not so cool as the good Dr.). I've come up with a few starts so far...

The Tagline Despite her out-of-control magic, teenage demi-goddess Trotter takes on dark gods and chatty demons while fending off the very apocalypse that everyone thinks she caused.

The Audience-Oriented Pitch "Alice Will is a novel for every person who’s struggled with how they identify themselves and learned to define their own niche in a world that doesn't seem to have a place for them."

The Conversation Starter Pitch - “Trotter isn't your average demi-god and these aren’t your average Olympian gods. The gods of Aevum are exactly what we would be if  forced to live forever with no sense of meaning, reason, or even Prozac.”

The Dramatic Voice-over Pitch - "The lives of a demigoddess and a tiny orphan girl collide when one of them accidentally begins remaking the world according to her wild imagination."

And finally:

The What-I-Want-My-Readers-To-Take-Away-Pitch - "Alice Will is about laughing at ourselves and the empty traditions we value without knowing why. It’s about taking stock in our instincts before we let our fickle brains over-rationalize us out of the right choice. It’s about learning the hard way that maturity, at any age, is no match for experience. And finally, it’s about remembering that the right thing to do is still the right thing to do when no one is looking."

So what do you think? And for all of you writers out there, how do you go about answering this question? I'd love some advice!


  1. A good question, Ashley. I get that question and I'm not evening finished writing it! LOL

    My answer has always been, "I'll let you know when it comes out and you can read it and find out." :D

  2. LOL! Maybe I need to follow that idea - it would save me a whole bunch of 'Well, um...' :-)

  3. Oh I can SO relate!! When I finished my first draft, I announced it on Facebook. And them came the question, "What it's about?" eek, I gave a brief summary but really I don't know how to handle that question! I feel like anything I say sounds so lame like, "Well...it's a story. And...it's also a fantasy. And some cool stuff happens that involve magic. Umm...and ah....the main character is a girl. But it isn't a romance. She...um...feels threatened."

    I'm working on that tag line though! :)

  4. It's terrible, isn't it? That moment of 'Oh gods, I wrote the danged book, shouldn't I be able to tell them what it's about?' And wondering if damages your credibility as an author if you can't discuss it easily... THAT'S why I'm liking Diane's idea more and more :-)

  5. I think the book sounds great!

  6. Hello Ashley!

    Appreciate your recent visit and comment, and just want to wish you much literary success--cheers!

  7. Thanks, Alan! It's nice to meet you :-)

  8. Wish I had the answer and a good thing I wasted plenty of years pretending to be that salesperson in your picture. Just imagine him with a long curly wig and some tits. Anyway, it paid the bills and my writing is well not quite there yet.

  9. Ha! You made me giggle - I have a very literal imagination ;-) I've had a few jobs in which marketing/sale was supposed to figure to varying degrees, but even when it was the brunt of my job I hated it. I don't know what it is about it, but even as a kid doing fundraisers for school I couldn't bring myself to do it. I'm missing the gene!

  10. Hi! Thanks for visiting my blog and the follow. I'm excited about your book. I'm following you now too :)

  11. Hi Anne, and thanks for coming by! It's so nice to meet you :-)

  12. Wow. Who knew? You mean to tell me that I'm not the only one who hates answering that question? lol I usually ramble off something that does not do me or my book justice, all because I'm not so good at keeping things short. I write novels for goodness sakes! Of course, I have a problem keeping things short and simple. I average 80,000 - 100,000 words to get my point across. lol Great post, Ashley, as always. :)

  13. Vanessa, EXACTLY! This is why we have publishers and publicists, right?


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