Several years ago, I was involved in a whirlwind romance with a bestselling author (when I say “whirlwind” I really mean “tornado-esque emotional blasting”).
I’m not going to name the author, because the point of this story is not to call someone out or vaguely attempt to name-drop (in fact, I am pretty embarrassed by the guy in many ways).
So for the purposes of this piece, let’s call this writer Samuel.
Samuel and I started our relationship the way all great loves begin: mutual friends accidentally set us up during a beer-infused situation. My friends dragged me out one Saturday night to catch a sports game.
“I really need to study,” I said. We all quietly stared down at my college textbooks, shut and practically covered in cobwebs, as I munched Oreos and a “Friends” rerun blared in the background.
They responded, “You’re coming with us. He’s a writer. You’ll like him.”
“Writer?” I asked. “Alright. For you guys, my very pressing studying can wait.” I set the DVR to record and was ready.
On the road, my friends informed me that his writing was “a mix between Tucker Max and Hunter S. Thompson.”
This in itself should have lit ablaze several hundred red flags. But still, there was something intriguing about it. Hanging out with a successful writer and discussing writerly things and hearing all of his wonderful writerly thoughts.
I met him and was surprised.
Samuel just seemed like a normal guy, not the archetype of a writer. He had three TV’s set up in his living room so he could watch basketball games across different channels. He was wearing mesh shorts and a plain white Hanes t-shirt.
My fantasies were quickly evaporating—the ones where I’m whisked away to a villa in Spain where he bangs on a typewriter and wears a bowtie while I swim in a pool of dolphins and eat olives forever. I’ll admit my image of the writerly lifestyle was unrealistic. It was clear that this diehard Knicks fan was not going to be that guy.
I scrapped the villa fantasy and got to know him, and soon we began dating. Again, I was amazed at how similar he was to the other guys I knew. This was not a bad thing of course. I realized I’d so romanticized the idea of “writer,” as if somehow he would cease to be a guy with guy needs and guy smells and a guy apartment.
There were differences that came with the writing though. Sometimes people would recognize him, which was a bizarre experience. He was flattered and annoyed at the same time. He was self-conscious yet simultaneously his ego would flare up wildly. It was my first run-in with fame, and it seemed like one of those things you get used to but never really get over.
He also never went to work. That isn’t to say he didn’t do anything, as most freelancers know, but he had freedom to create his art if he chose, or sleep until noon. But he told me about the undeniable years of work that came before the success. I never forgot that he’d sent his first book to nearly 1,000 publishers, literary agents and newspapers, and that he was rejected by all but one.
The best part about dating him was our conversations about the books we were reading. He was a voracious reader, and more than that, he read absolutely every genre and subject. His bookshelves were lined with everything from Goddard to Pamela Anderson’s autobiography to Chekhov.
He always told me, “If you want to be a writer, be a reader.”
Despite the nature of his books, which often dealt with the seedy underbelly to party scenes, he spent most of his time reading. Everyone assumed that because of his novels’ subject matter, he was out every night. But he mostly just enjoyed sports, a cold beer and reading at home. I think that surprised me the most.
The stories he told in his books, while often based on real circumstances and people, were not necessarily things he sought out. In fact, it seemed to me that the more acclaim he received, the more he actively tried to avoid an association with his books.
It seems simple, but he was not his fiction. And this really made me rethink how much I connect a writer to their writing.
RIFers! Have you met a bestselling author, maybe at a book store or library event? Was he or she what you expected? Share your experience in a comment!