I was in my home town of Swindon, running errands and rushing around, standing inside a bank when it started. As I waited in line, a man appeared in front of me and reached over to claim an unopened sandwich he’d left on the counter, in the spot where I stood. Yes, I had noticed it and wondered what it was doing there, but I see a lot of odd things. As the man took his sandwich, and I half smiled, I noticed a particular look on his face, one I’d describe as confusion mixed with uncertainty. He hesitated, only for a second, and then went on his way. I thought no more of it.
Minutes later, as I left the bank and marched up the street to my next port of call, I became aware of movement in my peripheral vision, saw someone matching my stride and closing in fast on my left. Then I heard a male voice, turned my head in its direction, and saw the same chap from the bank.
“Excuse me,” he said.
Now it was my turn to give him a “look”. My mind raced. Being a crime writer makes that happen, and I immediately assumed the worst. As he was good-looking, and at least twenty years younger than me, I ruled out the idea that he’d stopped me just to chat, or took a liking to me and wanted to ask me out on a date. No…this man wants to rob me, I thought. He just saw me in the bank (I apologize to the young man in question, should he ever read this). A small amount of panic rose in my throat. I tried not to let it show, clutched my bags a little tighter to my side, and glanced around for potential witnesses.
“Yes?” My reply was loaded with suspicion. Even I could hear it. Undeterred, the man fell into step beside me as I continued my march up the town.
“You’re a writer.”
Temporarily stunned, I stared at him, and tried not to drop my guard. “How…did you know that?”
There was more. To my amazement, he knew quite a bit about me, such as how I’ve been living in the US and returned home to the UK to research and write my new novel, Stone Cold. He knew I gave up my job to focus on my writing. About now, I’m trying to decide whether to be flattered or alarmed. How did he know so much?
We talked for a minute, and I learned the young man had read about me in a featured article in the Swindon Link Magazine. He’d recognized me from the magazine and then spotted me in the bank (guarding his sandwich). As a relatively unknown author, up until this moment I felt safe in the bowels of obscurity. I prefer the attention to be on my books rather than on myself, so the encounter came as a bit of a shock. I’d never imagined what it might be like to be recognized and stopped by a stranger in the street. Now I know. It feels a tiny bit weird.
With the panic over, my thoughts turned to what might happen next. Had he read any of my work? Is this where he shows his appreciation…or not? I waited to find out. We chatted about the Link Magazine and the couple of recent workshops I’d held for local writers. Turns out he’s a poet, he’d missed both of my workshops, and wanted to know if I planned to hold another one next time I’m home.
After we chatted some more, I gave him my business card and we parted. All the way home, I chuckled about my little brush with “fame”, and realized I was actually quite pleased about it. Still largely unknown, I realized I must be building at least a little notoriety as an author. Although on a much smaller scale, I got a tiny peek into what life must be like for celebrities who are recognized and stopped all the time. On that level, I’m not sure I’d like it.
What about you? Have you had your fifteen minutes of fame? How did it happen, and did you enjoy it?