Following on from Clare's Bouchercon-inspired post yesterday, I'm going to share an "are you a writer" conversation I fell into at the bar.
So I was at the bar and, as anyone who attended Bouchercon will confirm, that left plenty of time for a long chat. (2 barstaff, one on his first day (yes, really) and a whole lot of crimewriters and fans.) A guy sitting on the nearest stool to where I was waving a 20 and pining for a club soda said the line.
Guy: "Are you a crimewriter?'
Me: "I am. You?"
Guy: "Yup." (Slight alarm bell in the distance, since he was wearing one of those 1930s Chicago- style caps, at a very jaunty angle, and was chewing a toothpick as if there was a teeny weeny little baton twirler practising in his mouth. In other words, he looked a bit too cool to be one of us. Like when Lou Diamond Phillips turned up at Left Coast Crime; even from the back you knew he wasn't a writer.)
Me: "What do you write?"
Guy: "Oh, I'm prolific. What do you write?"
Me: "1920s amateur sleuth novels. And a stand-alone."
Guy: "Novels? Books? Wow. How many?"
Me: (thinks) "Eleven."
Guy: (whistles). "Hot damn."
Me: "So . . . are you a short story writer. (Because why are novels so surprising?)
Guy: "Short, long, real long. I do it all."
Me: "What's your name?"
Guy: "My real name or my pseudonym?"
Me: "Are you on a panel this weekend? Because this witness protection programme stuff isn't going to fly."
Guy: "Okay, my name - and you better get ready for this - is Stephen King."
Me: "Oh. Yeah, well, good idea changing it. Or even Steve King would do, so your mother could still be proud sort of idea."
Guy: "No, Stephen King is my nom de plume. That white guy in Maine? He's my assistant. He does the travelling and I do the writing."
Guy: (turning to the man eating his burger and fries on the next stool along) "And this is my beautiful wife, Tabitha."
Me: (getting it finally) "Well, it's a great honour to meet you, Mr King. I'm a huge fan."
Guy: "I'm just messing with you. I clean the windows in this place. You really a Stephen King fan?"
Me: "A huge one. All of them - the early stuff and the late stuff. I loved Dumas Key."
Guy: "Oh, yeah! LOVED Dumas Key. Scared the bejesus out of me, Dolls!"
Me: "Oh my God, yeah. Dolls. Dolls and creepy little dead kids scampering around."
Guy: "With the footprints? Brrrr. How about Lisey's Story?"
And then the time passed very pleasantly, looking forward to the Shining sequel and arguing about the Dark Tower and I learned that a. books are a universal language, b. my basic setting is "taking a basket of food through the woods to grandma's house" and c. window-cleaners are cooler looking than crimewriters. At least in New York.