Saturday, April 3, 2010


Today was one of those days of embarrassment and isolation. I am writing about a hero in my book who is a granite countertop installer. He just received his contractor’s license and had opened up his new firm in a tiny office. Not sure if I had enough research done for what I had already written about him, I decided to talk to some employees in countertop companies in person. I was extremely nervous about this because I feared that I’d be too bothersome to the employees, and they would shoo me out of the store or office.

I went into a huge home improvement store around 11:30am. I found someone at a desk in the countertop section. I asked him some of my questions I needed for my research. He referred me to a company that might be able to answer those questions. The company stores marble and granite slabs. They also do the carving, designing, and polishing of counter-tops. He gave me directions to this place and I left.

I arrived five minutes later at the office building. The parking lot was tiny. I had to be super careful pulling up my car between a huge van and a stand supporting two marble slabs for street display.

I wrote down all my questions in a notebook in order to ask one of the workers. When I went inside, my impression of it being a tiny office from the outside was dead wrong. I stepped into a huge foyer that looked like an art gallery. Decorative finished countertops of granite and limestone hung on walls like paintings. I heard my feet echo from the high ceiling.

A hallway in the back led to another big room stored with unpolished and unfinished slabs piled high on shelves, or standing for display. I was impressed and curious about the industry. I knew nothing about it. In fact, the older I get, the more I find out that I don’t know much of anything. Here was my chance to learn about something. I immediately thought of my hero in the book as I was entering “his world.”

A doorway led outside from the side building. More slabs leaned on the fence for display. The path continued around the back of the building. I heard what sounded like sawing and drilling coming from an additional section of the building with a metal exterior. I headed back towards the doorway and a woman who looked a few years older than me came outside holding a clipboard. Good, she must work here. And she gave me eye contact. Good sign.

“Hi, do you work here?” I asked.

She gave me a little smile. “Yes,”

Going great so far. I briefly told her I needed to ask some questions about the granite countertop business, stuttering about three times. “I am writing a fiction novel about a guy who cuts granite countertops.”

The woman’s face changed and her smile faded. “Well, I don’t think I can answer any of those questions. The only person here that would know this would be the manager, and he’s busy with a customer right now.”

Well, I couldn’t ask the manager so I prodded to ask her some questions I felt she could answer. I mean, if she worked here, she had to know something. “Well, maybe you can answer some of these,” I opened my notebook to the list of questions. “Do contractors order slabs here?”


“How are slabs carved?”

“They use a giant tile cutter and then an edging machine. The installation takes place on-site.”

I asked her to elaborate what she meant “on-site”.

“They go to the client’s place and do it outside.”

“That drilling I hear,” I said. “What are they doing?”

“They drill holes for faucets,” she listed more but my writing couldn’t keep up with the information. It seemed she answered about half of the questions.

“Look, that’s all I know. I’ve been only working here for three weeks,” she continued waving her hand to add emphasis. Okay, she was irritated. And it made me feel bad and embarrassed. She walked away to attend to a customer.

As I headed inside, I passed a tall middle-aged man with a hammer hanging from his belt talking to a couple. By listening to the conversation, I quickly made out that this slender man with brown curls was the manager, and the couple was a customer.

After the couple left, the manager approached me. “Can I help you?”

Great! He appeared friendly and eager. But wait until I had told him what I was here for!

He held his hand out and I shook it. “Hi, I’m Nona.” Being anxious, I dove right in. “I’m here because I’m doing some research on granite countertop businesses because I’m writing a book about a hero who-”

He held up his hand and turned to head inside.

Huh? Okay. Did he just run away from me? Or did that hand signal mean “wait”? Maybe there was someone inside that called his name. I didn’t hear anyone call his name. Maybe he ran inside to tell someone about the weird chick outside who wanted to interview him because her fictional hero cuts countertops …

It took a while until the heat surged through my system. I was too impatient. I was ruthless. I was pissing these people off! Was this guy going to come back? I waited, feeling numb.

A few seconds later, he came outside to meet me. He spoke rapidly, “You have to call and make an appointment for that. We are really busy here and we don’t have the time—there are business cards in the front and go pick one up.”

He walked off. My legs felt they were disconnected from my body because I was paralyzed in humiliation. They moved to the lobby while my upper body wasn’t ready to go. I passed the woman I spoke with earlier. She was coming my way.

She spoke, but I could tell it was to someone else.

A dreadful feeling of isolation and rejection overcame me. I made a mistake. She must hate me. She was probably thinking, “Ugh, there she is again!”

I exited the office and went to my car. I got in and started the engine. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t drive and I felt like complete shit. I tried to research a subject for my book so I wouldn’t wind up writing something incorrect or politically incorrect about it. What if someone in the industry read it, got mad, and sued me because my story mentioned radon?

I was once again left in the unknown. I would never call this company and would never speak to this manager at all! I would just have to find another company to research. I hate research. There must be a better way to do this rather than going up to strangers to ask them about their profession. Their purpose and goal was to do business, not answer questions from some silly author. If only I knew someone who had a friend or relative in the granite countertop business …


  1. Sorry, I don't know anyone in the granite countertop biz either, or else I'd hook you up. People running writing workshops I've been to have claimed that people are usually happy to share their expertise, but I haven't found that to be the case either. Even when I was a reporter, people would sometimes be hostile to me - and here I was giving them free publicity. And I'm not exactly the stereotypical pushy reporter. -Becky


    The internet is your friend! Just an example of what you can find.

    Also, one thing. When you get to the stage you want to query agents and editors about your novel, never call it a fiction novel. Novels are fiction.

    Good luck and happy writing!