I am about as Extroverted as one can get. Or at least I used to be. Most people fall somewhere in between, having more extroverted or introverted tendencies, but having some of both. But not Eve! Nope, whenever tested, I’m always a total extrovert.
Or at least I should say, I was a total extrovert. Then a funny thing happened on the way to my first book tour. At just about the time that the publishing industry was hailing my “literary voice”, I began losing my actual voice. Two years later, it’s only gotten worse. And earlier this summer I was finally diagnosed with a rare condition called Muscle Tension Dysphonia which basically causes chronic laryngitis.
Let’s face it, there are far worse things you can lose than your voice (your mind, loved ones, livelihood, last functioning kidney all come to mind). But you’ve got to think the Universe has some sort of odd sense of humor when a person who needs to talk as much as I do loses her voice. And here’s something I never would have known: The change in my ability to talk has caused a change in my personality. This erstwhile social butterfly, who thrived in the spotlight, who once loved to be surrounded by people and talking up a storm, now hates all of that. I avoid bars, restaurants, crowds of people – because I can’t be heard above the din. And while I still love going to parties, more often I now find myself fading into the background hoping no one will come talk to me.
It’s been, and remains, quite a challenge to me. Especially while trying to promote FIRST COMES LOVE, THEN COMES MALARIA. While writing a book is pretty quiet, introverted stuff, promoting a book is ALL about being out there and talking about it. The very sort of thing that – mind you – up until two years ago would have been my very favorite thing to do, but now I dread! Does the Universe have a sense of irony or what?
But in true optimistic fashion (for I am an optimist as much as an extrovert), I’ve been able to see the positive in what’s happened to me. First of all, I haven’t yelled at my kids – or my husband – in more than two years. And, for them at least, that has got to be a very good thing. Second, I’ve become a better listener and far more compassionate and aware of other people who are struggling with some sort of ailment or disability of their own. I think I’ve mellowed in my quest for perfection (well, a bit anyway), as I’ve come to recognize that I – and just about everyone else out there – is doing the best they can with whatever they’ve got going on.
And I’ve come to think that this whole strange an unexpected journey that I find myself on now might be worth writing about. Why not? I can hardly talk about it!
P.S. Want to hear what I mean? Okay, here’s a link to a public radio commentary I did a few years ago. Yes, that’s my voice as it was! Now, here’s a link to a recent radio interview I did on the John Carney Show at KMOX. Yup, that’s my voice as it is now!
I guess you could say there are two kinds of books in the world: introverted and extroverted. I’m personally a fan of the introverted genre, and I think that shows in my writing.
The novels I like are ruminative, exploratory. They examine a character or a situation for the why and how more than just tell you the what. To wit: Lolita, Anna Karenina, Crime and Punishment. Or, more recently, a book like Little Bee or The Kite Runner. Certainly, these books include jaw-dropping scenes and great plots, but the narrative circles the main situation of the novel rather than drives a stake through the middle of it the way, say, The Da Vinci Code does.
Not that there’s anything wrong with a good thriller. I like them. I just don’t write them. Occassionally, I’ll spot a reader review of The Little Giant of Aberdeen County griping that the “nothing happens” in the novel, or that I go “on and on and say nothing.”
Really? I mean, there ARE words on the page, and they are there for a reason. I hope they’re telling Truly’s story. But I take the point. Truly isn’t Robert Langdon. She’s not going to find a body in Le Louvre, and start solving codes every other page while albino killers run after her in a religious frenzy.
I guess I’m just more naturally inclined to take a more introverted approach to the world’s bizarre and puzzling events. For me, writing is the translation of “what if” into “what does it mean?” And if that isn’t quite your cup of tea, well, there’s a new Dan Brown coming out in September!
When faced with a choice, I usually gravitate to “neither.” I really don’t like to be categorized or to think of everything as black and white or either/or. And so my answer to whether I’m an introvert, an extrovert or neither is, as it is with many other choices, “it depends.”
Introvert? Let’s see… I like to spend time alone. I need to spend a little time alone everyday (a challenge as a mom). I’m happy doing my own thing. And I feel shy sometimes when I have to make a phone call. It feels so intimidating.
The introvert in me helps to make me a good writer. I don’t mind spending hours without anyone to talk to. I like to work for myself and by myself. I’ll often just want to curl up at night with a good book then go to a party. But once I’m there…
I’m not one of those people who sit in the corner all night, longing for the evening/party to be over. Does that make me an extrovert? Hmm… I love to “work” a room. I love to chat with people, so book signings and author events are lots of fun. I enjoy throwing dinner parties and introducing people (although I am definitely the world’s worst matchmaker).
The extrovert in me helps to make me a good promoter. I like to meet new people and find out all about them. I can find something to talk about with almost anyone, and I’ll often seek out someone who looks shy to plunge into the party and chat with them.
And the neither? The neither makes me able to inhabit both worlds. I like a little solitude and a little socialization every day. Too much or too little of one or the other and I feel off-balance. After being alone all day with my computer, I’m very happy to see my husband, son and friends. After a day on the road with my book tour, I have to go back to my hotel, put my feet up and be alone for a little while.
So what does that make me? Someone who has a jumble of different personality traits. Someone who enjoys defying categorization. Someone who is… myself.
So—are you an introvert, extrovert or neither? I want to know!
So I forget how long ago it was that I discovered the Jungian Typology test (sometimes called the “Myers-Briggs Typology” test). In a nutshell, possibly even a wrong one, because it’s lifted out of my brain, it’s a test based on Jungian theories that divide personalities into one of sixteen types based on the balance of four sets of traits:
Introversion vs. Extroversion
Sensing vs. Intuition
Feeling vs. Thinking
Perceiving vs. Judging
(I think Jung only relied on three of these sets… like I said, if you want to know the strict truth, go look on Wikipedia… they’re ALWAYS right over there.)
So, anyhoo, I like tests. When I was a kid, I filled out every direct marketing survey that came our way. “Why, yes, I DO like spending time outdoors! I DO have a dog!” If they’d ever made it into the mailbox, my family would have been buried in junkmail, but I’m pretty sure they were nipped in the bud.
So I took the test, a few years ago, and my results came out INTJ – Introverted Intuition Thinking Judging. The colloquial term for this type is “The Mastermind.” I enjoyed poring over websites describing me as impatient, perfectionist, demanding, and thorough. Then I went back to work.
Years passed. I got a different job–which I can unequivocally describe as a better job. I was a much happier person. I took the test again, looking forward to being reinforced as a mastermind.
So you can imagine my shock when my results came out INTP – Introverted Intuition Thinking Perceiving. What is this? No longer a Mastermind, I had been demoted to Architect. The major difference between Perceiving and Judging, from what I understand, is whether you SEW before you WRITE or WRITE before you SEW.
Masterminds line up all of their ducks before they have fun. Architects line up ducks for fun and then work only when driven to the point of insane guilt. I had started having too much fun, at work, and in every other aspect of my life. My true duck-playing nature scratched its way to the surface.
Anyway, I don’t set much store in classification systems like that. I mean, it’s kind of like dividing your pen drawer by color. Yep, there are the blue pens! Sorting them out doesn’t change the color of the ink.
But the introversion thing has stuck with me. I never thought of myself as an introvert–because I really like people. Only as I got older did I realize that the amount of “alone time” I need to refresh myself seems to be somewhere around double or triple that of the people around me. If the husb is out of town, I can spend the whole weeks happily puttering around by myself.
C.S. Lewis said, when cautioning against glorifying a love of humanity, “Love of humanity is easy because humanity does not surprise you with inconvenient demands. You never find humanity on your doorstep, stinking and begging.”
I find this funny, because I’m the opposite. Humanity? Not the biggest fan. I mean, blur your eyes and look around. My most common rant is, “What is WRONG with people?”
That seems to go hand in hand with my introversion, right? But here’s my secret–when you take humanity out of the equation and give me a human to interact with, I’m happy as a clam. I really do like people. I like YOU. And her. And that guy over there. And the guy who came to inspect my dryer vents. And the grumpy lady behind the counter at the drugstore.
I just don’t like all of these people when they gang together and act stupidly.
This is probably how I find my voice and form my characters as an author. An author plays God. You have to love every character you create enough to believe in what THEY believe, long enough to write it honestly. And how do you cultivate that love? By meeting real people and looking for the things that make them lovable, no matter how deep you have to dig.
So, introvert? Yes, definitely. But I’m the warmest, fuzziest introvert you ever met. I like everybody–one person at a time.
~ Katie Alender
If you take the test, make sure to comment and let us know what your type is! I’m always eager to hear other people’s results.
PPS – The Debutante Ball is now on Twitter! Click here and follow us for daily updates and special news briefs.
Hello, my name is Kristina, and I’m an extrovert.
I love parties, even if there are lots of people I don’t know. I even enjoy small talk. I sometimes go into what my husband calls “reporter mode” when I meet a new person, trying to draw out their life story, one anecdote at a time. I’m not intimidated by crowds, or public speaking. In fact, when it goes well, I get a charge out of it.
But even I, the self-confessed extreme extrovert, have found my limit. And it’s the book launch.
I don’t even have a particularly grueling tour. It’s mostly local towns in Michigan where I know people, plus I was in Chicago a couple of times. But the kick-off of the tour was four stops in four days. I didn’t do this on purpose. But my book launch came so close to the Fourth of July holiday, and I knew it would be pointless to schedule anything that week. So I ended up with four events in four days.
By the fifth day, I wanted to crawl into a dark cave in my pajamas and not talk to anyone for at least 48 hours.
So, I have new respect for introverts in this business. It’s a performance of sorts to be social and charming and engaged. Even the most dedicated extrovert doesn’t have an unlimited supply of effortless charm, or so I’ve discovered at last.
At the American Library Association convention, I signed books for 300 librarians that Sunday morning. It was really fun, capping off a solid weekend of social interaction with librarians, booksellers, other authors, and publishing people. I loved every second of it and was so glad to be done! After my signing I retreated to the hotel room, changed out of my “author girl” clothes and back into my jeans. I did venture one more time to the exhibit floor because there was something I wanted to see. I wandered happily alone in the aisles, my charm button switched to “off.”
But I was wearing my nametag, necessary for entrance to the exhibit floor. And I heard my name shouted across the aisle. Showtime! It was like whiplash to go from silent anonymous wandering to be “Author” again.
I’ve loved all this interaction and I will continue to love it because it means people care about my work and there’s no greater compliment to an author. I just need my cave-time once in a while.
Deb Meredith will be at the Hanover Book Festival Saturday August 1 in Mechanicsville, VA signing POSED FOR MURDER. And at 2:15, she’ll be teaching a screenwriting workshop.
Deb Kristina was so pleased to see this lovely review from Joelle Anthony, in which she says “it’s often hilarious and laugh out loud.” Also, Kristina’s fellow Literary Mama editor Caroline Grant called REAL LIFE & LIARS “sharply funny” on her blog.
Kristina’s Michigan book tour takes her through the north this coming week. Catch her at McLean & Eakin in Petoskey at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, July 28, or at Saturn Booksellers in Gaylord at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 30 or in Charlevoix — the setting of LIARS — at noon on Friday, July 31 at Round Lake Bookstore.
Deb Katie has taken the technological plunge and produced her first “vlog”, a video blog. Click here to watch it at Youtube.
Sherry Thomas is the author of Private Arrangements, a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2008. Her sophomore book, Delicious, is a Library Journal Best Romance of 2008. Her latest book is Not Quite a Husband. Lisa Kleypas calls her “the most powerfully original historical romance author working today.” Along with enthusiastic endorsements from trade publications and New York Times bestselling authors, her books have also received stellar reviews from many of the most highly trafficked romance review websites and blogs. Thanks, Sherry, for coming to the ball!
This past week at the Romance Writers of America’s national conference, I participated on a panel with two agents and three other writers of historical romance. The topic was about debut historical romances that had caught publishing houses’ attention, and sold either at auction or in a pre-empt.
I sat down at the panel more or less expecting to be a stage prop–a potted plant, if you will. Making deals is an agent’s work and I didn’t know enough about market conditions to educate anyone. But it turned out that Kristin Nelson, my agent—and Deb Kristina’s too– actually expected us to speak a little about our own debut books.
At one point, after Kristin talked about what had caught her attention our query letters, she talked about our manuscripts, and what had made her go “Oooohh.” Because she is always prepared, she had the opening of my debut novel PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS right in her notes and read the following to the audience:
“Only one kind of marriage ever bore Society’s stamp of approval.
Happy marriages were considered vulgar, as matrimonial felicity rarely kept longer than a well-boiled pudding. Unhappy marriages were, of course, even more vulgar, on a par with Frau Von Teese’s special contraption that spanked forty bottoms at once: unspeakable, for half of the upper crust had experienced it firsthand.
No, the only kind of marriage that held up to life’s vicissitudes was the courteous marriage. And it was widely recognized that Lord and Lady Tremaine had the most courteous marriage of them all.
In the ten years since their wedding, neither of them had ever uttered an unkind word about the other, not to parents, siblings, bosom friends, or strangers. Moreover, as their servants could attest, they never had spats, big or small; never embarrassed each other; never, in fact, disagreed on anything at all.
However, every year, some cheeky debutante fresh from the schoolroom would point out–as if it wasn’t common knowledge–that Lord and Lady Tremaine lived on separate continents and had not been seen together since the day after their wedding.
Her elders would shake their heads. Foolish young girl. Wait ‘til she heard about her beau’s piece on the side. Or fell out of love with the man she married. Then she’d understand what a wonderful arrangement the Tremaines had: civility, distance, and freedom from the very beginning, unencumbered by tiresome emotions. Indeed, it was the most perfect marriage.”
Kristin read the excerpt as an example of new voice that excites an agent. And to advertise me to those in the audience who had not read me—Kristin is nothing if not a tireless promoter of her authors. But the reason I bring up what she did is because barely five minutes later, another author at the panel mentioned that a book should always open with action.
I probably would have just nodded under normal circumstances. I don’t think very analytically about writing, and opening with action sounds like a very good idea. But because my own opening was fresh on my mind from Kristin’s recital, I said, hmm, wait a minute here.
My books don’t open with action. They don’t even open with dialogue. In fact, they open with—and here is a word to strike fear into the hearts of aspiring writers everywhere—info dumping. Not only that, it’s info dumping done in an omniscient voice.
Now this is only the opening two pages or so. Beyond that point I move to the usual limited third person narrative and get on with the story. But still, in today’s harried pace of living, with everyone’s attention span becoming shorter and shorter, the first two pages is precious real estate, to be used wisely and efficiently.
Why then do I open my stories the way I do, with what is essentially backstory, another dreaded landmine in narrative writing? Because I am going for the jugular. I am trying, as best as I can, to place the crux of the tale, its greatest conflict, before the reader. Front and center. And immediately.
If Kristin had read one paragraph further, the audience at the panel would have heard this:
“Therefore, when Lady Tremaine filed for divorce on grounds of Lord Tremaine’s adultery and desertion, chins collided with dinner plates throughout London’s most pedigreed dining rooms. Ten days later, as news circulated of Lord Tremaine’s arrival on English soil for the first time in a decade, the same falling jaws dented many an expensive carpet from the heart of Persia.”
There, in a nutshell, is the raison d’être of my whole story. Ten years of unrivaled cordiality on separate continents, and suddenly, of all things, a petition for divorce. Which forces my hero and heroine into hostile proximity. As a reader, at this point, I would whistle, rub my hands with glee, and settle down to see how the two of them would go after each other—cuz you just know there will be heavy artillery and no-holds-barred bombardment.
And that is when, as a writer, I shift into action mode.
Now the point of this post is not to say that opening with action is bad advice. In fact, it is excellent advice. But very often writers mistake good advice for universally applicable advice, when in fact, all advice come from someone’s personal experience.
Your experience might be entirely different. Your book might be entirely different. Therefore you should always feel free to discard someone else’s advice.
And open with action.