In the Finger Lakes Region of New York, there exists a tiny town that is home to approximately 2,200 people. Nestled in a valley beside a lovely (if not somewhat sea-weedy) lake, my town boasts it’s very own park, post office, pizza shop, (and if you count the neighboring tiny town, population: 2,500) dive bar, and convenience store. And now, they have their very own author … who writes some really weird shit.
The Girl at the Pizza Shop
My Dad owns the wee little pizza shop in my hometown, and hot damn, our pizza recipe is awesome. But before my slow transition toward “Resident Author of Really Weird Shit” began, I was “The Girl at the Pizza Shop.” And for the most part, I still am. Except … I don’t work at the pizza shop anymore. (Unless, of course, there’s a pizza emergency … like that time my dad broke his ribs. Or the time he accidentally stuck his hand in the deep fryer. Or the time he had pneumonia, bronchitis, and the flu all at once. Or the time … well, you get the picture.)
I think in some ways, I’ll always be the chick from the pizza shop. And that’s important, because it informs most of the townsfolk’s opinion of me. Here’s how:
- Customers: See me as a bubbly, bouncing, ball of sunshine who always has a ridiculously huge smile. (Except for maybe that group of construction workers who once saw me get into a yelling match with my dad over a tray of burnt peppers. Sorry, Dad.)
- Coworkers: See me as Satan incarnate. (I have no patience. Sorry, guys.)
Anyways, the first place where word of my book slowly began to trickle into the community was at the pizza shop. My Dad is an avid reader (mostly of biographies and historical fiction) so he has a few customers who he exchanges books with. Naturally, my novel is way outside their usual choice in genre, but a few of his book buddies went for it anyway.
Here’s how that played out:
The other week, my husband and I pulled into the shop to grab the mail and my Dad was outside chatting with a customer. I waved. (But I stayed in the car, because social distancing is important!)
Of course, my dad brought up my book and asked the customer, “Hey, how’d you like that book?”
The guy answered, “I had to take a break in the middle. It had some really dark parts.”
Naturally, that’s when my dad took the opportunity to say, “Hey, Annelise! He bought your book!”
I squealed a little and clapped. (Embarrassing, retrospectively, but hey, I was excited!)
Then, the light went on behind the customer’s eyes and realization struck. “Oh! She wrote it?!”
My dad chuckled a little and nodded. “Yup.”
And as the customer stared with raised eyebrows (no doubt trying to piece together how the gleeful lady, hanging half out the window in a hot pink t-shirt, had written such a soul-crushingly dark book about prostitutes in a dystopian hell-scape) my husband hopped back into the car and headed for the convenience store.
The Convenience Store
Down the road from the pizza shop (just past the dive-bar) there’s an everything-you-need-to-survive-in-the-event-of-an-emergency convenience store where the beer is cheap, and the canned chili costs more than my car.
Out front, there’s a gas pump that’s so old, you can’t even swipe a credit card. And in the back (I swear it’s like Narnia) there’s a hardware section that doesn’t even look like it should be able to fit in the tiny building.
This convenience store is beloved. We go there almost every day.
In fact, my husband, goes in so often that the first time we walked in together, there was a collective cheer of “Grey!” And then, they saw me with him, totally blanked on my name (since I’m pizza shop girl) and yelled, “And . . . Grey’s wife!”
Hey. I’ll take it.
(Oh, and for the record, I wrote the first draft of Pieces of Pink two years before I met my husband. So, Grey’s name is totally coincidental. I did not name my main character after my husband. Plus, as far as I’m concerned, it was her name first, so why would I change it just because I met him?)
Anyways, thanks to my husband’s gift of gab (I don’t have that. Like, at all.) one of the employees bought a copy of my book. It came up because he majored in English in college, so Grey thought it might entertain him. And I certainly hope it did.
When he first got the book, our gentle tie-dye wearing friend (Oh, did I mention the uniform at the convenience store is tie-dye? Yeah. It’s awesome.) read the synopsis to the other employees in his best “movie trailer voice.” (Which, as a fan of literal movie trailers and bad lip readings, I deeply appreciated.) Then after that, I didn’t hear much.
Honestly, I think it’s because it’s tough to talk about fictional hookers when there’s a huge line of people who are trying to buy beer. Still, I have faith that he read it. And I’m sure he was horrified.
The Post Office
But, beyond the pizza shop and the convenience store, there’s one more place full of magic and wonder in my teeny tiny home town. It’s–you guessed it–the post office! The post office is so small. The only one that I’ve ever seen that’s smaller is in Ochopee, Florida, and I’m pretty sure that one has the record for the smallest post office in the country. But, hey, this one is definitely a close second.
Now, the post office plays an important role in my author journey, because that’s where I go to mail out any signed copies of my book.
(Side note: Did you know, you can mail books at a special lower rate? Just ask your local postmaster about it! I think it’s called media shipping, or something like that.)
Both the postmaster and the head postal worker are absolutely delightful women who remember my name without fail. (I suppose sorting through the mail helps with that, but still. Their memories are like steel traps!) We always have very smile-filled conversations, and when they first heard about my novel, their reactions were along the lines of:
“No. Sweet Annelise? She wrote something like that?”
But once the initial shock of finding out that I’m more hardcore than sunshine dust and unicorn farts wore off, the post office became my number one source for pats on the head. Every time I go in there, they ask how the book sales are going … even if I’m just buying stamps. And damn, there’s no way to brighten up a cloudy day like a trip to the post office.
So, what does this all mean for me?
Honestly, there’s no real difference. I was so afraid that when word of my book got out, people would shun me for the subject matter. But once they got over the initial shock, they just shrugged it off with no noticeable interruption to our country lives.
In the end, I’m still Annelise, the pizza girl. I still creep over to the Little Library at the park to leave books that no longer fit on my shelves. I still stop at the convenience store for my daily Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup, and I still look for the brightest most sunshiny stamps at the post office.
So, ultimately, if you’re writing something wild, or off-color, or violent, don’t stress. When all is said and done, you won’t be a pariah or the village outcast. You’ll still be whoever you were before, just a little more colorful.