Writers what know writers

I keep getting letters from people being spun out that I know Maureen Johnson and Holly Black and Margo Lanagan and Libba Bray and Garth Nix and Cassandra Clare and a bunch of other writers. I’m trying to figure out why they’re so amazed.

My parents are scholars; they know heaps of other scholars. I’m pretty sure that lawyers know other lawyers, dentists other dentists, hairdressers and bricklayers ditto. So what’s so startling about a bunch of YA authors knowing each other?

I ask out of genuine curiosity.


  1. Danica on #

    To be honest, I don’t know. I guess we (meaning non-writers) don’t always think of publishing as an industry and don’t realize that most writers must be connected somehow. Probably how some people are amazed that celebrities know other celebrities, you know? We never look past the fame.

  2. Tole on #

    because knowing that all the people that you hero worship hang out together is enough to blow any fans mind!

    the fact that there are that many cool people somewhere in the world is something we can deal with, but when you think about them all IN THE SAME PLACE???

    perhaps it’s not so much that we are surprised that you know each other, as much as amazed at how lucky you are to not only have the talent and perseverance to write a novel, but that you have an amazing set of friends as well.

    if writing a novel wasn’t enough of a reward for it’s own sake, I think that doing it to get a chance to meet all those famous people would be a pretty big draw card 😛

  3. holly black on #

    Tole, you have hit on one of the main reasons I love being a writer. Getting to talk to other writers is still just about the most amazing thing ever to me (sorry, Justine).

  4. Bill on #

    Myself, I’m still so amazed that certain books exist at all (say, Stranger in a Strange Land) I can’t rationally believe that it was typed by hand by a human being named Robert Heinlein. Books, especially books that change your life, are inherently mystical objects to those of us on the receiving end.

    When I think about the lot of you all sitting around the apartment drinking coffee and kahlua, chatting about Hemingway or whatever, I imagine the combined creativity causing books to condense directly out of the ether and drop into the guacamole, complete with cover art and Neil Gaiman blurbs.

    “Oops, what’s this now? THE SWEET FAR THING.” (Waves it around at the group) “OK, anyone about to miss their deadline? Right, Libba, this one’s yours…”

    Admit it; you’d be stoked if it were true. 🙂

  5. JS Bangs on #

    I offer two hypotheses:

    1) People think of authors as solitary geniuses scribbling away and living on water and crusts of bread, without any contact with others of their kind.

    2) It feeds people’s fear that the publishing industry is all about who you know.

    And for bonus points:

    3) Overload on so many admired names in the same place, as Tole said.

  6. Justine on #

    Holly: I think you’re conflating two different things. Let me put it this way:

    It does not surprise me in the slightest that Karen Joy Fowler and Ursula Le Guin are friends. But it surprises me HUGELY that I am making a living as a writer and therefore I have many writer friends. I constantly have to pinch myself. How on Earth did I get here? Please don’t let anyone take it away!

    Can you see the difference?

  7. Gabrielle on #

    I guess writers are sort of rock stars, while dentists, are not. Heh. But we fans are closer to writers than we are to rock stars, what with blogs and emails and whatnot. I don’t know. I’m just musing.

  8. deborahb on #

    Which is odd, because I remember seeing someone (David Duchovny, perhaps) on Letterman once, complaining that ‘when you’re famous, people think you know all the famous people — like we all live in the same house’.

    He said people kept asking him if he knew how Mr T was doing. For some reason.

    … Do you know how Mr T is doing?

  9. Camille on #

    I think, too, it’s because you can write from anywhere. With lawyers and professors and the like, generally you have to congregate in a place to get anything done. (Less now, with the Internet, but still, predominantly people go TO work.) You HAVE to physically associate with your colleagues. Writers can live anywhere and yeah, somebody above said we think of writing as being a solitary exercise. (I tend to think of writing as being a solitary exercise. In a cabin. In the woods. The woods of IRELAND. Which is funny because I’ve never written under any of those conditions, really. Well there’s solitude, but where I live, solitude is relative — even when I lived alone in an apartment my next door neighbor was mere feet away…and audible… *sigh*)

    Plus, the Internet tends to trick people into thinking they know each other better than the really do. You can actually chat with authors you read and are awed by, even if they’re in different countries and time zones — people who get to meet the “greats” face to face are, like, a step up.

    I hope that made even a LITTLE sense, I’m half-asleep!

  10. Justine on #

    Gabrielle: We are like the very opposite of rockstars. Truly!

    Deb: Do you know how Mr T is doing?

    Has he written a book? If he had I could answer your question.

  11. Justine on #

    Maureen: Don’t you remember me? We met in Atlantic City? I was telling you how much I love your books? I’m Australian. Long hair? Really? You don’t remember me? Sorry! Never mind. Go back to your life. And I’ll return to talking to my other imaginary YA writer friends . . .

  12. maureen johnson on #

    WAIT! I DO know you! You wrote A Great and Terrible Beauty!

  13. Justine on #

    I did NOT kill Zane! That was Cassandra Clare!!

  14. maureen johnson on #

    Cassie Clare who wrote Twilight?

  15. Justine on #

    No, silly, Scott Westerfeld wrote Twilight!

  16. maureen johnson on #

    Scott Westerfeld who wrote Wicked Lovely also wrote Twilight? Wait . . . what did *I* write?

  17. Justine on #

    Harry Potter, wasn’t it?

  18. maureen johnson on #

    I thought YOU wrote Harry Potter! That’s why I keep coming to your house. I think it’s Hogwarts.

  19. Dave H. on #

    I get this a lot – people are always shocked that I know athletes or people in the media. I’m a sportswriter, so isn’t it kind of obvious that I would know them?

    “Do you REALLY know Mitch Albom?”

    “Yes, I sat next to him at every Lions home game for 10 years.”

    “But did you ever meet him?”

  20. Herenya on #

    I think it’s because we know who these other writers are. If I started talking about who my friends are, people would look at me blankly because none of my friends have done anything to warrant that sort of recognition (yet!) But you talk about your friends, and I think “oh, yes, I know who they are, I was reading one of their books yesterday.” It’s a bit like the same sense of surprise you get when you find you and a friend / acquaintance “know” someone in common, but with the awe factor involved, because we only know them through their writing and not personally.

    And I agree with Camille about the distance thing – since it is possible for writing to be such a solitary and isolated thing, it doesn’t seem like such a “granted” situation that writers know other writers like some other professions.

  21. Kadie-Wa on #

    That conversation with Maureen and Justine was very hard to follow…

  22. Gabrielle on #

    Heheh. Maureen, Justine, you amaze me.

    Justine: I didn’t mean rock star as in the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll living (because YA writers are all pure). I meant that you have fans. You have fans who buy your books (CDs), and you have fans who go to your signings (shows), buy every edition of your books (albums) and spend way too much money on your book T-shirts (same thing) (you should make those, by the way). Whereas no, I don’t buy T-shirts saying “Dr. Trinh, best dentist ever!” Although I could argue that she is the best dentist ever.

  23. Justine on #

    Kadie-Wa: Who knows what goes on in Maureen’s brain? All I can do is humour her.

    Gabrielle: Okay, I see what you mean. (And, yes, most YA writers are so pure they can’t even spell sxo, drags and rocc ‘n’ rile.) Though I think we are more like Off-Broadway theatre people with a small but loyal following.

    I wish I had a good dentist! I’m jealous of your Dr. Trinh!

  24. Diana Peterfreund on #

    We are like rock stars in that many days, we sit around in our pajamas.

    Also, the hotel room trashing thing. One of my favorites.

  25. Justine on #

    Diana: Once your YA is published you’re going to have to stop those kind of shenanigans! We YA writers are pure and non-hotel-room trashing kinds of people. We are not debauched like you adult writer types.

  26. Diana Peterfreund on #

    Curses! I was hoping to check into Suite Scarlett and trash that.

  27. Diana Peterfreund on #

    Even though I know how much it would upset the author, Libba Bray.

  28. Alyxandra on #

    i envy your proximity and caffeinated hanging out! i’m a YA author too but i live on a farm currently under several feet of snow…not a lot of writers around here!

  29. shamelessreading on #

    I’m not surprised that writers know other writers, but I suspect some of the surprise in question comes from writing being a solitary (and somewhat mysterious to non-writers, possibly) occupation that requires no formal training. Doctors work with other doctors and go to medical school together. Lawyers have to lawyer against each other, retail drones have to work at the mall together. While there’s no reason one writer might not be friends with another, there’s nothing throwing writers together like there tends to be with other professions (either school or the work itself.)

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