Sara Jayne Townsend - Archieved Post

October 14, 2015 - 1:39 pm 1 Comment

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By Sara Jayne Townsend

There’s a misconception out there that all writers are rich and famous. The media plays a fairly big part in encouraging this misconception – firstly by following only the tiny minority of writers who are rich and famous, and secondly by perpetuating this myth in TV and film: the TV show ‘Castle’ for instance, in which a stupidly rich and famous crime thriller writer (played by the charismatic Nathan Fillion) follows a New York cop around crime scenes to help her solve murders. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love ‘Castle’. It’s by the same team that brought us Buffy and Firefly, and has so many references to geek culture that it’s a crime series for science-fiction geek. But watching it requires some serious suspension of belief. First of all, it’s hard to believe a civilian would be allowed to stomp over quite as many murder scenes as Richard Castle does, and this man spends so much time solving murders that you wonder how he ever finds time to write all of these mega-best sellers he churns out.

The point is that the vast majority of writers are a long way from being rich and famous. But because the average person doesn’t know anything about how the publishing industry works they buy into the myth, and there’s always that person that a writer will meet at some social event or other, who upon learning they are talking to a writer will ask a stupid question.

If you want to avoid being That Person at the party, here follows a list of things you should not say to a writer, along with the response you might get if said writer is in a brutally honest sort of mood.

So will I have heard of you?
The majority of people don’t read fiction. Of those that do, quite a lot read two or three books a year that they pick up off the ‘bestsellers’ rack in the supermarket with their monthly shop. So unless you’re one of those rare few people who peruses the small press lists and occasionally takes a chance on a new writer, no, you won’t have heard of me.

How many books have you written?
I have written over twenty. Do you mean how many books have I had published? That’s an entirely different matter. I’ve been writing books since I was ten years old. Not everything I’ve written will be published, and most of it never will be. Contrary to what Hollywood might tell you, writing is not about churning off a manuscript and then passing it on to the publisher and waiting for it to be released. There are lots more stages in there that the average lay person doesn’t know about. Including the small matter of rejection slips.

So you’ve given up work? Must be nice being able to stay home all day and write.
Yes, it must be. I wouldn’t know. Some writers manage to eke a modest living out of their writing alone, but quite a lot of us don’t and need another occupation to pay the bills. And by the way, writing is a ‘proper’ job. Those of us who juggle the day job and the writing could say we’ve actually got two full time jobs.

I could write a book. I just never had the time.
No one assumes that because you can drive a car you’re a mechanic, or because you can draw a smiley face you’re an artist, so why does everyone assume that if you know how to form words on a page you can be a writer? If you’re a writer, you find time to plant your backside in the chair and write. There’s no magic formula, and no short cuts.

Can I have a copy of your new book?
Because writers are so rich they can afford to give their work away, obviously. If you’re a plumber, will you come and fix my dripping tap for free? No? There’s your answer, then.

Sara Jayne Townsend bio:

Sara Jayne Townsend is a UK-based writer of crime and horror, and someone tends to die a horrible death in all of her stories. She was born in Cheshire in 1969, but spent most of the 1980s living in Canada after her family emigrated there. She now lives in Surrey with two cats and her guitarist husband Chris. She co-founded the T Party Writers’ Group in 1994, and remains Chair Person.

She decided she was going to be a published novelist when she was 10 years old and finished her first novel a year later. It took 30 years of submitting, however, to fulfil that dream.


Her latest horror novel, THE WHISPERING DEATH, about a group of live action roleplayers who unwittingly release an ancient evil during a game, has recently been released by Kensington Gore Publishing.

Learn more about Sara and her writing at her website ( and her blog ( You can also follow her on Twitter ( and Goodreads ( or join her Facebook Group, “Imaginary Friends” (

One Response to “Sara Jayne Townsend - Archieved Post”

  1. Monthly Round-Up: October 2015 | Imaginary Friends Says:

    […] October – I made an appearance on Theresa Derwin’s Terror Tree blog talking about the questions you shouldn’t ask a […]

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