What Would You Say?

So after this discussion about the Washington Post’s desire to see your red hot romantic boudoir, I have a question for those who read our site who are also writers and published authors of romance: What are some of your most ridiculous press questions, and what did you say?

And readers of romance, though we are not as much in the attentive eye of the media, have you ever been asked a stupid or offensive question? How did you answer?

I’m forever fending off the, “But you’re smart- how come you read Those Books?” question. Depending on the asking party, and whether I have to sit with them several times a year at large family gatherings like Seder or Thanksgiving, I most often say, “Because they’re awesome – what do you like to read?” I turn the question back on the asker because (a) as Valerie Plame noted in an interview, there are few things more wonderously conducive to one-sided conversation than saying, ‘REALLY? Tell me more!’ and (b) it’s kind of funny to watch the asker think hard for a title to mention that isn’t remotely open for criticism and is ubiquitously liked and respected.

But the press? If you’re an author being interviewed, you can’t ask the interviewer’s opinions or preferences. So what would you say?

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Marjorie Liu says:

    Oh, man.  The most offensive press question I’ve been asked (so far) was, “Is it true that Asian women are uniquely skilled in the bedroom?”


  2. 2
    Gennita Low says:

    Marjorie babe,
    I hope you demurely replied, “yes.”  Are you back from China yet?  Me miss you.

  3. 3
    Marjorie Liu says:

    Oh, and here’s how I answered (more or less):

    Asking if all Asian women are good in bed is like asking if all Native Americans are spiritualists who wear feathers in their hair, or if all African-Americans are gangsters or basketball players.  It’s the worst kind of stereotype, and there isn’t some gene that Asian women have that makes them utterly bootylicious in the sack.  Stereotypes like the above dehumanize the individual and lump people into categories that are outdated and ignorant.

  4. 4
    Marjorie Liu says:

    Gennita – HA!  I should have.  I totally should have.  My sense of humor wasn’t great that day, though.

    Me not back from China.  Me miss you, too!  Me need to update blog with more pictures.

  5. 5
    closetcrafter says:

    I am not asked as many ridiculous questions as I am the recipient of comments on my person whether it is the way I look or how I act.

    I’m not a tall person and I am just starting to look my age now. So when I graduated from dental school, no one I would meet regardless of sex,age,etc., believed that I was a dentist.  They always thought I was mistaken when I told them and tried to correct me and tell me that I was a hygienist. Fun.

      I also at the time had very short hair and I had a male patient tell me in front of his long blond- haired girlfriend that even tough he hates short hair on women, it looked cute on me.

    We wear scrubs of course in the office and I often get the comment ” I didn’t realize how small/skinny/pick a term you are when you aren’t wearing scrubs”  So flattering.

    It’s as if I’m free game for judgement for some reason.

    So due to my perversity as a person in general, I decided what the hell and just started to dress and style my hair any way I want. Its very freeing. I was that way in high school too. To me, its not worth trying to maintain some kind of “professional demeanor” about town. Dentistry is what I do on a part time basis not who I am.

  6. 6
    closetcrafter says:

    Oh yeah, and I take my trashy novels with me, out in the open, everywhere I go.

  7. 7
    Lorelie says:

    It’s as if I’m free game for judgement for some reason.

    Darlin’ we all are.  It has nothing to do with looking young for your age or whatever.  If we went looking for someone who’s your polar opposite they’d get comments like “I hadn’t realised how tall/big you are out of scrubs”.  Or “You’re 30?  Wow, I never would have guessed.” With the implication being they really looked fifteen years older.

    And re: Sarah’s post – I get comments all the time in the elevator of my office building.  A lot of them are kinda admiring, “Wow, you read a lot” or “How many books do you go through?”  A couple times I’ve gotten “Why do you read that stuff?”  I smiled and said “Because it’s better written than that awful Tom Clancy stuff.”  (I work in a military environment.  Clancy’s big.  Real big.)

  8. 8
    Poison Ivy says:

    When I was very pregnant and sitting in a hospital waiting room (not to give birth, just for a test) and reading a manuscript, some guy asked me the “Is it real life research?” question about sex scenes. I decided he was an obnoxious jerk and so I smothered him in explanations that I am sure convinced him that romance writers were as serious as neurosurgeons. And as humorless. It wasn’t a very pleasant test and I and baby were not in a good mood.

    But what I should have done was pat my protruding belly and said sadly, “Yes, and here is the result of my research.”

  9. 9
    Gemiwing says:

    I’m a housewife and I always get the “Can I talk to your husband about this?” anytime money is brought up. It drives me a bit nuts because I handle the money. lol I think next time I’ll just say yes and point to a random guy in the store for them to talk to.

    I have really short hair by choice because I have seborrhea (a skin condition). Once a woman came up to me in a bookstore and loudly pronounced “I know Just What Will Cure You!” She then proceeded to tell me all about the marvels of hydrocortizone cream… of which I had already been using for five years. Eeesh.

  10. 10
    Tina says:

    The most stupid or offensive question I was ever asked, though, was by a girl from Michigan.  She was active-duty Air Force and I was working at the NCO Club, waiting tables in the bar part-time.  She was there with one of my “regulars”, a guy from Alabama.  As I came over to deliver their beers, he told her, “Tina’s from Kentucky.  Why don’t you ask her?”

    “Ask me what?”

    After a little more urging, she asked me the question that she’d apparently asked him first….

    “Is it true that all girls from the South are stupid?”

  11. 11
    Kit says:

    I get a lot of the “But can’t you just get over it?” questions when it comes to my social phobia.  Well, of course!  Why didn’t I think of that?  Just…get over it!  Thank you, random person.  Had you not suggested that I might have been trapped in this house for YEARS.

  12. 12

    This isn’t a press question, but it’s still my hands down favorite offensive author question—and I’ve gotten it over and over and over: 

    “So, when are you going to write a real book?” 

    Riiiiiight.  Those papery things I thought I had written are just remarkably realistic hallucinations.

    The other, which usually happens at cocktail parties once the gin and tonic has been flowing a little too freely, is generally:  “How do you write the love scenes?”  This is usually pronounced with a slight leer and a puff of booze in the face.  Fortunately, my brilliant college roommate provided me with the perfect response.  With folded hands and a demure smile, I say, “I just lie back and think of England.”

  13. 13
    Strategerie says:

    I’m an unpublished romance author, so I don’t get press questions yet. I get plenty from people we know, though. They all revolve around the same themes.

    1. Why do you “write porn”?

    I usually respond with, “If I did, I’d make more money.” I also mention that sexuality is present in MOST genres of modern fiction.

    2. Does your husband enjoy the research?

    “He’s tired but happy,” usually leaves them speechless.

    3. When are you going to write a “real” book?

    When I mention that the books I write are typically 100,000 words, this tends to shut people up as well. Then again, that brings me to:

    4. I have a great idea for a book. Would you write it for me?

    Our grandma is currently trying to lobby me into writing a screenplay for her. I’m hoping she’ll forget about it…


  14. 14
    Brianna says:

    I have red hair, and I’ve been asked if my carpet matched my curtains.

  15. 15
    Inez Kelly says:

    Once while attending a conference for school, I got asked if it was true that we did not have to wear shoes in school in West Virginia.

    Without thinking, I replied that shoes were mandatory but panties were optional.

    Got in trouble for that one.

  16. 16
    Nora Roberts says:

    I was once asked by a reader if I would buy her a pair of red silk pants (good ones, not cheap) for Christmas, or failing that, just send her 100 USD so she could buy her own. The same reader regularly requested I find her a nice Muslem boy.

    I’m often asked by reporters if I’ve done everything I write about. Yes, of course! I’ve solved crimes and committed same, roped cattle, danced on Broadway, am an accomplished artist in various mediums, cast spells, fought vampires, raised horses, given birth to triplets and many other feats—and still have time for crazy, wild sex.

  17. 17
    Rosemary says:

    As a librarian, a majority of the questions/comments I get are about the Dewey Decimal System.

    The problem is that I’m an academic librarian at a medical school and Dewey is the biggest fucking joke in the universe when it comes to actually organizing a large collection over very specific topics.  (And, Melville Dewey was an insane, misogynisic, racist ass-fuck who thought that there were too many letters in the alphabet, but that’s a topic for another day.)  So, when I say, “I don’t use Dewey, I use NLM.” most people think that I’m lying and making it up.

  18. 18
    Angelina says:

    LOL, damn Ms. Nora when do you sleep?

    Once I was visiting my brother who was station at Fort Benning in Georgia. I met some people who proceeded to ask me what it was like to grow up in Indiana. I told them it was, you know, quiet but nice. Then they asked me if it’s true that we eat opossum and marry our cousins. WTF? So, being the bi-atch I am, I looked at them and said “As far as I know, that only happens in Georgia.”

  19. 19

    Several times, when people (male people) have asked me what I do for a living, their response when I answer “MSc in Engineering Cybernetics” have been condescending laughs and various versions of “Of course not”. Fun.

  20. 20
    Barb Ferrer says:

    Despite the fact that every bio on me mentions that I was born in New York, more than once I’ve had, “Your English is excellent—how old were you when you learned?”

  21. 21
    SandyW says:

    I work at a library system headquarters. In the building with us is a Talking Book Center, which provides audio books to people who can’t read printed books for various reasons. They do a lot of phone consulting with their patrons, recommending books based on what the patron likes, what they’ve already read, etc. So my assumption was that the folks in the center should be open to all sorts of books and nonjudgmental about people’s choice of reading material, right?

    I was sitting in the break room one day, when the director of the Talking Book Center comes by and asks me what I’m reading. Actually she says, “Oh is that literary fiction? I just love literary fiction!”

    I glanced at my book. Pam Rosenthal, ‘Bookseller’s Daughter.’ Trade sized, nice wallpaper cover. Educated, well-reviewed author. I’m on solid ground here. So I smiled and said, “Actually, it’s a romance.”

    She was literally speechless. She just gave me this bug-eyed look of absolute horror. Like I had said I was eating boiled babies for lunch. She didn’t even attempt to make conversation with me for months afterward.

    The best part? What I usually see Miss Literary Fiction reading is People magazine. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it isn’t exactly intellectually challenging.

  22. 22

    Loved all these stories! 
    I’ve never had any interviewer insult me, thank gawd.  I’ve been prepared, though, with a response like Nora’s if I ever got that “research”

    question.  Why, yes, I’ve murdered people just to get the details right.

    My mom had some clients who offered to give me “the story of a lifetime” if I took them out to dinner and plied them with drinks.  I told her to tell them they’d have to ply ME with drinks for me to listen to their story.

    I don’t think she told them.

    Tina Wainscott

  23. 23
    Alyssa Day says:

    My husband is an officer in the Navy and it seems that high-ranking Navy folk are fascinated with sex scenes.  At formal functions I’ve had all sorts of variations of “how do you research your sex scenes?”
    After years of murmuring something polite, I’d finally had it one time and said “Well, it’s kind of tough when the laptop keeps slipping off Judd’s back.  And did you know that chocolate sauce voids Dell’s warranty?”  Gave a bright “I’m so blonde” smile, and moved on.

  24. 24
    Lorelie says:

    Were we going for most offensive in general?

    Upon starting at a new high school—
    Blond girl sits in front of me:  “Do you speak English?”
    Me: (Astonished, there’s silent jaw dropping.)
    BG:  “Hablas engles?”
    Me:  “Very well, thank you.”

    At the same school:
    “Are you an Oreo?”

    But my very favorite-est of all, upon finding out my mom was gay:
    “Do you have AIDs?”

  25. 25
    Leeann Burke says:

    Marjorie Liu I love your answer. I probably would have stumbled my way through an answer that is nowher near the way you handled it.

  26. 26

    I was a vegetarian for several years, and the most annoying questions I’d get were about that.  I especially loved the: “You don’t eat any meat?  What about fish?”  But the most annoying part were co-workers who would ask (over and over everytime we had a work potluck): “So what do you eat?”

    The most offensive comments I get are about my ass (it is a rather prominent feature…and now that I have a partner whose appreciative, I’ve found peace with this).  It’s amazing how people do feel the right to make comments or ask questions about such intimate things.

  27. 27
    Liz C. says:

    I only really recall 1 time when someone asked a rude question regarding a book I was reading. And they weren’t so much rude as condescending.

    Once I was reading a John Jakes book and one of my professor’s saw it sitting in my office and she asked “who’s reading this trash?” On one hand, I sort of understood her comment because she was a history prof and I think her comment was based on the fact that his historical accuracy is lacking. On the other hand, she forgot that I babysat for her and thus I saw her library. She really had no room to talk.

    Despite being from Kentucky I’ve managed to avoid being asked offensive questions based on that fact.

  28. 28

    To preface this: most of what I’ve written until recently is romantic erotica, and the novels range from paranormal to contemporary suspense, and some bondage books—lots of sex for my former publisher before writing for St. Martin’s. (well, lots of sex for them, too)

    Anyway, I’ve had this said to or asked of me in some form or another:

    “You must have a lot of experience.”

    Picture me dropping my jaw. Then replying. “Yes. With weretigers, vampires and Elves and cowboys, and I love menages. And bondage. I really like being tied up.”



  29. 29
    snarkhunter says:

    …wow. I can honestly say that I’ve never had questions quite as idiotic and offensive as most of you.

    The only things I get on a regular basis that irritate me are related to me being a grad student in English. First, there’s the inevitable, “But what do you do with that?” Which I feel I must answer politely, because they’re usually asking out of genuine befuddlement.

    The one I really hate isn’t a question—it’s when someone says, upon hearing what I do, “Oh, well, I’ll have to be careful of what I say, then, or you’ll be correcting my grammar.” I just smile through clenched teeth.

  30. 30
    NellyF says:

    Nora you rock I heart you!

    For everyone who’s asked: “When are you going to read/write real books?” by friends and family, just respond: “As soon as I find real, non-judgmental, friends.” Works for me almost everytime!

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