Sometimes when you finish reading a book, you just feel inspired to write to an author. Today, the Chicks are reflecting upon some of our own experiences…
I love hearing from readers that they enjoyed my Ladies Smythe & Westin books–and shared them with their mothers. Sometimes they read the ebooks together. Apparently a few of my more colorful characters have been spotted in real life at various senior living communities across the country. One reader was worried about moving her mom to a FL condo, but after a few high adventures at Hibiscus Pointe, she felt better. She was sure her mom would be friends with someone like my older sleuth Dorothy Westin.
In a previous life, I wrote kid series books, mostly under pseudonym. I often got fan mail from kids that started “Dear Laura Lee Hope” or “Dear Mary-Kate and Ashley” or “Dear Lizzie McGuire.” They told me I was their very favorite author EVER. (Or that their teacher was making them write to me.)
Before I segued into writing mysteries, I wrote plays and television. Nothing meant more to me than receiving a letter sharing that what I wrote helped someone through a personal issue or a dark time. I’ve received similar, deeply affecting messages from readers of my Cajun Country and Catering Hall mysteries. One email moved me so much, I turned it into a graphic to share on social media:
“I am 76 years old. My husband is 77. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s four years ago and I am his caregiver. Little by little, he is ‘leaving’ me after 55+ years of marriage. My cozy mystery books are my ‘escape’ every night. I try to read each night for an hour before turning off the light and going to sleep. Thank you for writing wonderful books I had trouble putting away and going to sleep. Sharon D.”
Messages like this touch and inspire me. They also motivate me to press on with my fight to earn the cozy mystery genre the respect it deserves.
It means so much to hear from readers who enjoyed the book! And I’ve written a few such letters too; for example, I was around ten, I was reading a book by Ellen Raskin. At some point, I had a question, so I decided to ask her directly. You know, like you do. So I sat down and wrote her a letter. No copy remains of that, so I’m not sure exactly what I said. But she wrote me back–a handwritten note–and said she was glad to hear that I loved her book, so at least I told her that, whew. To this day, I still have her note! Incredibly kind of her.
Fan letters never fail to lift my spirits. And sometimes they can come at the perfect time, such as this one, which arrived on a day I was feeling completely stuck on my new manuscript: “Just a short message to say thank you for an enjoyable and could-not-put-down series! I’ve read all 4 and look forward to more in the future. Thank you!”
And it turns out famous, celebrity authors can use the same kind of boost. Back in my twenties, I wrote a fan letter to Lawrence Durrell, author of The Alexandria Quartet (and older brother of the writer/naturalist, Gerald Durrell). Not only did he write me back a lovely letter in his distinctive writing style, but he told me this:
“… Also the fatigue caused by wrestling with this intractable quintet [The Avignon Quintet] of which I am now working on the last volume in fear and trembling, hoping I can bring it off…. I am warmed by your generous thoughts and return to my book with renewed zest and hope.”
I’m a fan of fan letters and although I’ve received some sweet notes from readers, I’ll never forget receiving a return reply from humor columnist/author Dave Barry. The details are a little fuzzy. I was young. I’d loved what he’d written. I reached out to…I don’t remember…ask a question? tell him something I felt he urgently needed to know? share gardening tips? and he WROTE BACK. I had no expectation of a reply and was genuinely shocked (and beyond delighted) to receive a handwritten note a few weeks after I’d written. It was incredibly kind, very funny (of course) and such a gift his time. I still have it somewhere. If I find it, I’ll solve the mystery of What I Thought Dave Barry Needed to Know.
Back when I wrote for kids, I got a letter from a boy who said, “I didn’t like to read until I read your book.” When I transitioned to writing for adults, I got two letters in quick succession after Fiction Can Be Murder was published. Both said my book helped them through the darkest times in their lives. Those were powerful reminders to me, and really brought home how important it is to give people escape via a story. Not every book needs to be a weighty literary tome to make an impact on someone.
What a timely topic for me! I just received a note from a fan and feel over the moon about it. The reader mentioned getting my book because she saw Mimi Lee Gets A Clue at a table display. She finished my novel the very same day and loved it. Then, instead of reading the other books she’d picked up, she bought Book #2 in the Sassy Cat series. I’m delighted and happy that readers are finding my books and enjoying them.
Having talked with a bookstore owner recently, I know that cozy mysteries have been a balm for readers. Even those who prefer darker themes have gravitated to cozier reads to bring them through these rough pandemic times. I echo what El said above—there needs be more respect for this genre, which provides much light and joy to people.
Readers, drop us a note in the comments below! Have you ever written to an author? Did they write back?