Awkward questions about sex, underwear, my mental health and my tax return.

At all of my book talks, I offer a prize for the most unique or challenging question of the evening. This began after a woman asked me about the role my ex-girlfriends play in my fiction.

When I asked her why she asked the question, she replied, “You look like the kind of guy with a lot of ex-girlfriends.” 

Thus my contest was born.

At a recent talk, the prize went to the man who asked me if I thought that autism was the result of inbreeding. I was forced to give him the prize in fear that he might attempt to trump that question with another.

Usually the offer of the prize does not cause people to ask anything out of the ordinary, probably because my prizes aren’t great. They tend to be the foreign editions of my books that have piled up around the house. I keep at least one, of course, but had no reason to keep the other ten copies, so giving them away made a lot of sense.

Lately I’ve been working through my stack of Chinese versions of SOMETHING MISSING.

Not exactly an inspiring reward.

But perhaps I have underestimated the value of these books.

At last night’s book talk, I was asked the following less-than-ordinary questions by audience members:

How lucrative is your writing career?

Based upon the childhood experiences that you’ve described, is it possible that you are schizophrenic?

Do you think that you had an imaginary friend as a child because you were neglected by your parents?

Do you avoid writing romance because of the sex?

Do you ever write in your underwear?

I also met a woman whose daughter lives in the home that my grandparents occupied for more than forty years.

It was a fun night, but it was a strange night, too.