Thursday, August 02, 2007

Booking Through Thursday: Letters! We Get Letters


Have you ever written an author a fan letter? Did you get an answer? Did it spark a conversation? A meeting? (And, sure, I suppose that e-mails DO count . . . but I’d say no to something like a message board on which the author happens to participate.)

Once upon a time, I wrote a letter to author Don Pendleton. I was in high school at the time and something in his books inspired me to write. Or perhaps it was because there was a contact address listed in the book and I thought, why not? It's been so long that I do not remember. I do know that I enjoyed his Ashton Ford series very much. The protagonist was a private detective who had psychic abilities. I never did read his Mack Bolan series, the series for which he is most known and gave him the title of "father of the modern action/adventure." I wrote him a rather long letter, if I remember correctly, telling him how much I liked his books and telling him a little about myself. His response is one of my most treasured letters. I still have it to this day.

I often think of writing to authors. After I finish a good book, I sometimes compose letters in my head to the author, telling him or her what I got out of the book and just how much I liked it. When it comes to actually sitting down and taking the time to show my appreciation, I rarely do. Besides the fact that I often draw a blank when it comes time to putting words on a paper or into an e-mail, suddenly what I wanted to say sounds terrible. To me anyway. And would the author really care what I have to say? I have heard so much about people writing touching and soul revealing letters to authors, explaining how a particular book has impacted their lives, even changed them. My letter would pale in comparison. My letter would seem superficial and, well,dull.

Ultimately I know that is silly thinking. If I were an author and I received a letter from a fan, no matter the length or context, I would appreciate it regardless. Who wouldn't like to get a letter or an e-mail telling you how much your book was enjoyed? I imagine each letter brings a smile to the author's face. I wouldn't be so appreciative of hate mail, but that's another subject altogether.

In actuality, I have written other authors besides Don Pendleton. On the spur of the moment while visiting the authors' websites, I e-mailed Anne Perry and J.A. Jance, both of whom write mystery series I enjoy. They both wrote back, which thrilled me no end. I sent a short note to both T. Jefferson Parker and Kelley Armstrong by snail mail, although I am not sure these count because I was seeking autographed nameplates.

Although in my own mind my correspondence with these authors sparked further conversation, those one-sided conversations stayed in my head. And although I did get the chance to hear Anne Perry and J.A. Jance speak in person, I never did talk with them directly (I also heard T. Jefferson Parker speak, but that was before I'd read anything by him). I had not realized that Don Pendleton passed away in 1995 until I was visiting his website today. I might have liked to write him one more time to tell him just how much his letter has meant to me over the years.

Every now and then I come across a review on a blog that is written in the form of a letter to the author. I think it is a neat idea.

Don’t forget to leave a link to your actual response (so people don’t have to go searching for it) in the comments—or if you prefer, leave your answers in the comments themselves!

11 comments:

  1. I was so uncertain about emailing Lilith Saintcrow. But, I'm glad I did. I think you're right. I think, if I was a published author, I'd be thrilled to receive feedback from a fan. Next time I won't be so hesitant to do so.

    cjh

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  2. A thoughtful answer! It's so nice to write to them and then get a reply or replies.

    After this exercise, I'll make a mental note to write to my fav authors spilling my heart out to them. :) It's ok if I don't any reply from them...

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  3. I, too, often think about writing to authors when I've loved a book or series. However, I've never actually carried through; maybe this Booking Through Thursday will encourage me. I've read so many interesting responses about people who have not only written, but received replies. Never thought about email, but what a great way to test the waters!

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  4. Hi, Literary Feline! :)

    First of all, you've had several good reads lately. Woo Hoo! I need to look into the last two you reviewed. Thanks.

    Secondly, I have only e-mailed two authors and they were both this year! With both of them, we corresponded back and forth a couple of times. It was wonderful to be able to ask questions or just share a thought or feeling about their book. By the way, one e-mail I sent was positive and the other was negative. The author that received my negative thoughts (I wasn't mean; I formed my disappointment into questions.) was extremely gracious. I highly respect him for how he handled my e-mail. The author that received my positive e-mail was extremely humble. Thus far, I've been pleased with my experience of contacting authors. :)

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  5. If I like a book, I always try to write the author and tell him/her so. I know what it's like to get those emails and letters from readers, and it's great to hear comments about the books. Usually, I do hear back from the author.

    What's frustrating is when an author doesn't have a web site! I read Gillian Flynn's SHARP OBJECTS recently and absolutely loved the book and wanted to email her to tell her so, but there seems to be no way to do that. She does not have a web site that I could find.

    BTW: if you're looking for a good book, I highly recommend SHARP OBJECTS, it's compelling and disturbing and really well written.

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  6. If your letters are as well written as this post, your favorite authors will be thrilled to hear from you!

    Happy BTT!

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  7. Oh, you wrote someone and got a reply, that's marvelous. You are clearly much braver than me already. ;)

    Also, I find the idea that you kept that reply you received all those years really touching! Heartmarking, that was!

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  8. In her book on writing, Carolyn See recommended writing to authors as a way of making yourself feel a part of their community. Inspired by that, I wrote to George Macdonald Fraser and John Mortimer, and was pleased (and somewhat surprised) to receive charming responses from both.

    Along these lines, Berkeley Breathed mentioned on the Bat Segundo podcast that he always appreciated getting mail, but that with e-mail, he rarely (I think he actually said never) gets written mail. He tended to take these letters very seriously as feedback. If someone went to the trouble of writing and posting, they were not just casual readers but fans (sometimes rabid, tho he didn't say that).

    It seems like, these days, any author, except maybe Dan Brown or J.K. Rowling, would be thrilled if someone wrote to them.

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  9. CJ- I'm glad you decided to go ahead and write to Lilith Saintcrow. I've never regreted writing to an author once I've done it. It's getting started that's the hard part. :-)

    Alice - Thank you. It is nice to receive replies back. I know that many are busy and when they take the time to acknowledge your letter, even if only briefly, it's a nice gesture.

    Jenclair - Whenever this topic comes up in conversation, I think I'll write to the author of the book I'm reading--but then it turns out to be an author who doesn't have a website or contact information. It never fails! Haha

    Joy - Hi, Joy! Yes, I feel like I've been lucky in the reading lately. Lots of good books. :-)

    Thank you for sharing your experiences writing to an author. I think the way you handled your critical e-mail to the author was very well done. And I applaud you for taking the time to do that. I think when people turn the negative into a personal attack, that's going too far. I've never understood that.

    Karen - I think that is good practice. I have run into that too, not being able to find a website for an author, especially when I would really like to send them a note or a letter.

    Thank you for the recommendation! Compelling and disturbing are two qualities I really like in a book. :-)

    Marianne - Oh, thank you so much! That's so nice of you to say!

    C.R. - I did, although it was so long ago. I was a lot braver when I was in high school. LOL I'm a bit of a packrat when it comes to momentos like that. Not to say the letter is any less special to me--it is very special.

    Bill - I haven't read Carolyn See's book, but I can agree with what she said. I do think writing to authors and especially getting a response makes the reader feel closer to the writer.

    I hadn't thought of how a writer might perceive a hand written letter differently from e-mail, but that too makes sense. These days, e-mail is probably much more accessible (not to mention faster). I wonder if the number of correspondence has risen because of e-mail. Do people write to authors more then they might have otherwise? Nothing beats getting a real letter in the postal mail though . . .

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  10. Hi Wendy! I was thrilled when my favourite authors replied to me several years back. Although I don't write to them like what I did last time, but sometimes I still do have the urge of doing so...although in the end I didn't. Nowadays, I'm hoping my favourite authors will stop by my blog after reading my reviews...and to me that's the greatest thing than receiving their autographed bookplates (although I'd love to receive them too!!!), hehe.

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  11. Hi, Melody! I need o finish folding the laundry, but I thought I would check my e-mails one last time. :-) Isn't it wonderful when you get a response? Especially from a favorite author.

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