It was recently said I look like a writer, which I tried to pretend wasn’t shorthand for appearing socially inept, malnourished and skint. They then asked me what genre my novel is.

It’s a regular question, and in light of people invariably asking the same things upon hearing that you are a writer, it would be a good idea to have well-prepared answers, which makes my lack of them even more inexplicable.

The most common is, ‘Are you published?” like it’s something that inevitably happens to every writer. Of course you want to grab them by the lapels and scream ‘D’you have any fucking idea how hard it is to get published?’ It’s not something you choose as an option at A-level . If I was published I would be (even more) unbearable, and you’d not be able to enter my house due to piles of unsold copies of the novel. Plus, you WOULD have known about it. If the blanket promotional bombing across every social media platfor hadn’t reached you, the airborne banner advertising and T-shirt emblazoned with I’M PUBLISHED! would have.

Once you’ve caught your breath, and the questioner looks less like they’ve stuck their head in a turbo jet engine during takeoff, they sometimes add that they’ve had an idea for a novel too. This suggests that given the time they might bash out a draft too, but they’re too busy with more important things, but it’s there, on the back burner. You take a deep breath…

Are you published? is the most dreaded question, and probably the one driving most writers to pursue publication. So they can answer, ‘yes, I am actually,’ as though it’s an option chosen at A-level.  It validates writing, justifying your claim of being a writer; an admission that is otherwise whispered through cracked fingers like you’re admitting to having chopped someone up before leaving them on a Dartmoor roadside.

Another favourite is ‘How do you find time, with kids, job, etc, etc?’ This is a slightly judgemental intimation of ‘Are you still doing that?’ dressed up as a good-natured question. It’s also impossible to answer without sounding conceited, (Yes-aren’t-I-amazing that I manage to juggle everything), and although it’s said with good intentions, you wish the earth to swallow you up. You start mumbling something about the fact they could do it too if they tried, before realising that you sound like a total wanker. The worst thing about being a writer is that some people think you are clever, whereas in actuality it takes you 2 months to draft a sentence you are happy with.

As any writer knows, the real question is what would you do with your time if you weren’t writing. Mind you, never declare this in earshot of your live-in partner, who will produce a list of things you could be otherwise doing with the sort of speed more associated with stopping a child from running into traffic.

The ‘what genre is it?’ is a popular response to you admitting that you write. It’s another tricky one, as it’s only something you realise to be important too late, and posthumously try to squeeze your script into Horror, Adventure or Chick Lit (is this still allowed?). Although I spent my teenage years reading novels, these would now be labeled YA.  Apparently there are such specific genres as cat fiction, which isn’t novels written by actual cats, but probably even worse.

What’s it about? is also common, like they are deliberately attempting to publicly shame you into realising that despite having written 80,000 words, this isn’t a question you have adequately asked yourself. This realisation occurs half way through garbled explaining what it’s about and you need to fake a coughing fit to avoid looking any more stupid. That’s if they haven’t wandered off already. Agents like an elevator pitch, but for the first 4 years of writing my novel there was no building with a lift high enough to describe it, not even in Dubai.

I’d like to add that my novel The Life Assistance Agency is now published, and I know exactly what it is about, which is the cover quote I’d put on the cover, if the author was allowed to comment. I’d also say it’s more fun than a threesome on a trampoline. If you buy it and it’s less fun that that I’ll refund your money, IF you have evidence of having tried the trampoline thing.

The Life Assistance Agency – selected by WHSmith Fresh Talent 2017 –  is available here –

and here,thomas-hocknell-9781911129035

and on ebook here –