“No, really, what’s your day job?”

Its October, the leaves are falling, the witches are abroad, and I’ve opened the blog up to guest writers again. Yes its Indie October. Throughout October some old favorites among my guests will be returning along with some new voices. Today’s Guest Post is from the antipodes, in the shape of my favorite antipodean author Karen J Carlisle…

First, let me tell you I’m an ‘extroverted’ introvert (with major emphasis on the introvert). And that’s on a good day. On a bad day I have at least one panic attack before having to attend an event or do a talk. Socialising is mentally exhausting. As an indie author, who has to do their own marketing, this isn’t always a good thing. (That’s another blog post or two right there.)

I’m attending an event. (I’m the one staring into their drink, listing the environmental impacts of the host’s choice to use disposable cups – at least they aren’t made of foam). Someone drifts in my direction. The silence is awkward.

As an introvert, I dread that ‘ice-breaker’ question. You know the one. I dare not ask it myself, because I know it means I’ll have to fend off the list of follow up comments: “I’ve always wanted to write a book!”, or “oh, it must be nice to work from home.” (This is obviously a pre-Covid comment.) Then there’s the questions: “Have I heard of you?”, “What do you write?”, or “Where do you get your ideas?

These are the easy ones to answer:

  1. Go for it. (Just don’t forget to get an editor.)
  2. Some days it’s great; some days, not. It can be difficult to delineate work and leisure time. The edges can get blurry, especially when you have family commitments. It requires discipline. If I don’t set aside work time, my book doesn’t get finished. (I think more people understand this after 2020)
  3. Obviously not, if you have to ask.
  4. Where don’t I get ideas? Anything. Everything. I’m always asking ‘what if?’ I use my imagination. I have an endlessly growing list of ideas. The problem is creating an interesting story about them, and finding the time to use them all!

Back to the original silence…

I introduce myself. Phew. Made it so far. I can do this… I sip my drink, and congratulate myself on successfully socialising (not panicking and fleeing the scene, or shrinking into a dark corner.)

Then, it comes; it’s inevitable. That question: “What do you do?” Or the other, more dreaded, version: “What do you do for a living?

(Firstly, very few authors, especially indie author actually make a living from their writing. The average author’s income in Australia is AUS$12,000. It’s less for Indie authors, and even worse now the government has axed its budget supporting the Arts… yet another blog post there.)

The reality is some authors are fortunate enough to work full time, find time to write. I stand in awe of their stamina, and capacity for functioning with chronic sleep deprivation. In 2014, after twenty-eight years of working to work-imposed appointments, looking after others, I made a tough decision. I changed my career. I now look after my readers, not patients. In terms of mental and physical health, this was the best decision I ever made. In terms of income, not so much.

So, I smile, tell them I’m an author, then take a deep breath and steel myself for a long debate, often defending my life choices.

You can tell a lot about someone, depending on how the conversation progresses (often with the comments above). Often I feel like I’m suddenly dumped in the middle of a job interview (but usually interviews aren’t a spectator sport). Ideally, the ‘interviewer’ will show interest, or at least feign it. Questions like “what made you want to be a writer?” or “Tell me about your books” – you know, things you would expect when asked about a vocation – would be welcomed. I hold my breath. Perhaps, they understand creatives? Perhaps they understand Indie authors – by virtue of the definition – do the work of writer, project manager and marketing themselves? Perhaps they will acknowledge the hours of work spent researching, outlining, writing, rewriting, editing (rinse and repeat), sourcing beta-readers, rewriting after feedback, sorting out cover designs, publishing, marketing, creating a presence on social media, and attending events?

And then, even after discussing all of the above, they ask: “No, really, what’s your day job?” That is the worst day.

About Karen J Carlisle

Karen J Carlisle is a writer and illustrator of steampunk, Victorian mysteries and fantasy. She was short-listed in Australian Literature Review’s 2013 Murder/Mystery Short Story Competition. She is currently writing a cosy fantasy mystery set in Adelaide. Her short stories have featured in the 2016 Adelaide Fringe exhibition, ‘A Trail of Tales’, and the ‘Where’s Holmes’ and ‘Deadsteam’ anthologies.

Karen lives in Adelaide with her family and the ghost of her ancient Devon Rex cat.

She’s always loved dark chocolate and rarely refuses a cup of tea.


Karen’s latest publications include:

The official online launch for Another Twist of the Nib and Spanish Flu will be on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/events/450550142590612

Karen will also be launching a secret projects – just in time for Halloween. ‘Another Twist of the Nib: short stories with a darker twist’ – AND -my second digital music single, ‘Spanish Flu’. Join me for a chat, info about my stories, a live interview with Richard Ryall – co-writer of Spanish Flu (approx 10.30am). There will also be an eBook of ‘Another Twist of the Nib’

This entry was posted in amreading, amwriting, books, fiction, goodreads, humour, indie, indie novels, indie writers, indieoctober, indiewriter, novels, opinion, reads, sci-fi, self-publishing, steampunk, writes, writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to “No, really, what’s your day job?”

  1. Pingback: Guest Blog Post at ‘The Passing Place’ – karen j carlisle

  2. Pingback: Guest Blog Post at ‘The Passing Place’ | Karen J Carlisle

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