How do I talk to people whose work I admire without coming across as starstruck, opportunistic, tactless, or otherwise obnoxious?
Anonymous because I feel like a major deluxe dorkomat asking this.
This question is inspired in part by PhoBWanKenobi's answer in this thread
, and in part by a few accomplished friends-of-friends I know. They're really cool people on their own merits, and they just happen to be doing things I really admire and wish I could do myself.
For example, one of these friends-of-friends has a novel coming out this year. Yay! Awesome! I'm intensely curious about the process and want to hear all about it. But, you know, I bet he's probably already sick of people treating him special, or saying the same five uninformed annoying things, or talking about their half-assed dreams of writing a novel and declaring themselves besties based on this supposed shared interest.
(And, okay. Yes, I'd like to write a novel. I know: I have no idea what it's like and writing sucks a good chunk of the time and don't expect to make any money and I'm not as good of a writer as I think I am and if I really wanted to write a novel I would be writing a novel and not this question. I don't want to be that irritating pretentious wannabe, all somedays and if-onlys and no accomplishments.)
This is not a question of how I can become a novelist or whether I should try. This is a question of how to talk to people like him, either as a friend or in an informational interview context. I want to be respectful of both their work and of their non-work selves. I don't want to fawn. I don't want to look like I'm only interested in them because of what they've done. But I'd like to know more about it, if they're willing to share.
How can I ask them about their accomplishments without coming across as obnoxious? Especially when they're things I'd like to do myself? I mean, I'd love to sell a novel, but I don't want to be like "You are sooooooo talented! Can I touch your notebook?" or "Wow, that's my dream! You must have a dream job, gee huh? Is it totally awesome?" or "Oh yeah, if only I had the time and dedication I could probably write something good, so like I have sooo much respect for all the hard work you've done" or "Wanna read my manuscript? Can I get your agent's card? You'll let me piggyback off your years of hard work, right?"
If you're well-known for your work, how do you prefer laypeople to bring it up? Or do you wish they didn't? What's okay for me to say, and what isn't?