Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Meeting readers in cyberspace

As a kid, and then a young adult, and then a young woman, I used to dive into books to escape, not unlike the average reader. I was always on the hunt for a good story, a story I could not put down. Some of the books I read were good, others only average, and then there were those that touched me or moved me in such a way that I'll never forget them.

I hated the last twenty pages of those books. You know the feeling. When you're reading and it's so good, the story and the characters and the writing so fine, you don't want it to end. And then you get that awful feeling in your stomach when you notice there are only twenty pages left.

Right about then I would read as slow as I could go, savoring every sentence, not ready to say good-bye to the story or the characters. Then I'd close the book and immediately think about the author.

At that point, I would (and still do) read the book's Acknowledgments Page, trying to get a 'feel' for this person. I wanted to meet the author. I wanted to send him/her a note and tell them what their book had meant to me, but back before the internet existed that wasn't easy to do.

Thankfully that's not the case today.

ie., Yesterday I received the sweetest note from a seventy year old woman from Albany who borrowed her granddaughter's laptop to send me an email. She was writing to tell me how much she loved The Tin Box, although she complained about three swear words that offended her, and then we had a brief back-and-forth about how important it is for an author to write with 'realism' in mind vs. worrying about offending readers.

Some emails are pure gush, which is great because every author needs a certain amount of gush to keep going. Others complain about a scene a reader didn't like, or an ending that wasn't wrapped up enough for their taste, or they might point out a piece of dialogue they feel didn't ring true.

It's all good, though, because I learn from all of these comments. Better yet, because of cyberspace I'm accessible to readers, and genuinely open to whatever they might have to say.

Please keep those emails coming :)


Heidi the Hick said...

That is wonderful!

I needed to hear you say today that you can't worry about offending your readers. It gets in the way of storytelling, doesn't it?

You're wonderful too, gush gush gush!!!

Adam said...

I hate websites that are all bells and whistles about the books but when you click CONTACT you can only contact the author through their agent or publisher.
What's with that?!

I like how you keep it real.

Victoria said...

"Right about then I would read as slow as I could go, savoring every sentence, not ready to say good-bye to the story or the characters. Then I'd close the book and immediately think about the author."

So cool! This is exactly how I felt when I read The Tin Box. Can't wait for your new book.

Larramie said...

How well I know the feeling of not wanting the story to end...it's pure bittersweet.

wordman17 said...

That's why I stop by your blog, cause you're not aloof and all diva-like.

I've told you what I like and don't about each of your books and -- gasp -- you still answer my emails! Go figure.

ORION said...

I totally get this. I too have tried to contact authors- and I don't even mean super famous ones - and I don't even mean to be a stalker. I just want to say how much I enjoyed their book. But yanno- I can't-- no way to get in touch with them.
It was the whole reason I put my website and contact info in my book. I love it when I hear from readers.
Even when they chide me for naughty bits LOL.
5 days until C -Day.
Are you ready Sully?

Chumplet said...

I'm glad you're accessible - not only to readers, but to other writers. When I first started writing, I visited the websites of bestselling authors and poured out my admiration in their guestbooks.

I was realistic enough to accept that I wouldn't get an answer, but a tiny part of me hoped I would.

Kim Stagliano said...

Nice. Very nice. F'ing nice even.... ;)

jessica said...

I like that you are
accessible to readers even if
all we do is lurk around your
blog and get to know you
this way.

Jessica, a Cleveland fan
who will be at your reading!!

Ramona said...

That's quite the compliment
that that 70 yr old lady borrowed her granddaughter's laptop to send you a note. Very cute!!

Melissa Marsh said...

When I was in junior high and high school, I used to send letters to my favorite authors and it was such a treat to check my mailbox and see an envelope with their name on the return address! I kept every single one of those letters, too. :-)

Doreen Orion said...

That's why we write, isn't it? For reader feedback like that. (Not that I'd know quite yet.) It is amazing how you can't reach some authors at all.

I was trying to write one recently to tell her how much I enjoyed her book. Her website's only way to contact her was through the "forum", so that your note would be read by everyone. And, judging by how often she responded (every 3 months) it really didn't inspire me to leave a message.

Melissa - you reminded me of how I wrote to one author when I was in 4th grade whose books (the Katie John series - anyone read them?) I adored. She wrote back a handwritten, personal letter. It practically made my childhood!

Trish Ryan said...

I'm the same way...I hate to see the end of a good book, and I always hope that the author's acknowledgment pages/website will let me hang out with him/her a little longer!

Therese said...

Before I was a writer I never thought about contacting an author whose book I loved--but then, it used to be so much harder than it is now.

Now I know: there's nothing more affirming than fan mail!

The Anti-Wife said...

I'm glad you're so accessible and look forward to your next book.