Online dating is full of weird, awkward questions, especially in the initial contact phase, when you don’t really know anything about the other person. Doubly so before you meet and all you have is text.

So, this is a (slightly condensed) transcript of a conservation I had today:

Him: Is it hard to invent new characters?

Me: I don’t find it hard to make up characters – they’re usually combinations of people I know.

Him: Is it difficult to find inspiration for your characters? Do you end up observing people in a social setting to see what makes them tick? Without invading their privacy, I guess that you could listen in a little to their conversations to get inspiration?

Me: No – I usually find the characters pretty easy to come up with. You can steal inspiration from anywhere.

It might sound creepy, but I have sat in cafes listening to other people’s conversations, also on public transport, in airports, at theatre shows and watching bands. Admittedly the band scenario is harder given the increased background noise. I’ve looked at people out in the world and made up back stories for them.

I’m sure other writers have done the same. There are variations of the same meme going around online writing groups:

Never piss off a writer, they will put you in their book and kill you.

In my books, because I tend to write romance, I’ll make you the shitty ex. The antagonist or the side character who gets in the way of the protagonist’s goal. If you’re very lucky, I’ll make you the false love interest.

I’ve been working on a few manuscripts. I’m planning to release a book next year, it’s with a couple of people to read and I’ll have it edited in a month or so. I’ve finished a first draft of a book I’ve been working on for about a year; it will be need a significant amount of editing but is over 100,000 words. I’ve also started revising the manuscript I started for NaNoWriMo last year. I’m not sure it’s worth much chop at this stage, but it might be a good story once it’s finished and I’ve had a chance to fiddle with it.

I know most writers have had conversations with people who aren’t writers. They try to understand the process but they don’t really get it. And I know we’ve all had the conversation about what out search history looks like. Mine is quite worrying and I don’t even write thrillers.

Online dating is likely to always start with questions about what I write, dreading the judgement of telling people I write romance. Hoping that they won’t be like all the others who equate romance with Mills and Boon, as though they’re somehow unworthy, or require less work to create.

Given the number of book sales I’ve had, it still feels a bit weird to call myself an author, but I’m getting more comfortable with it. I’m putting in the years of work it takes to become an overnight success. Even if it never happens for me, I think I’ll be okay.