sad-boy-in-ball-cap

I guess you’ve heard. The blog’s closing. Jaunty is moving on.

You probably can guess how ambivalent we all are about the decision. Yes, it’s been difficult—and growing more so every month—to keep up with the commitment. But it has been so much fun, and we all have loved coming to this happy place, where we could connect with each other, and with you, our readers.

Knowing we’re nearing the end has made me think about my own experiences with reader/author interaction from the reader side. It’s been limited, and frankly a bit unlucky.

White paper and pen on the grass with space for text

Though I’m a lifelong book fiend, I’ve written only one personal fan letter in my life. That’s partly because many of my literary idols have been dust for decades (think Edith Wharton, Jane Austen, etc). It’s partly because I’m by nature an introvert and hate the thought of intruding.

And it’s even more because I don’t really want the human truth of an author who undoubtedly has warts and quirks (I know I do!) to mess with my adoration of their perfect fictional characters. I don’t really want to know what person in Harper Lee’s life inspired Scout, or Jem, or Atticus. Scout and Jem and Atticus are real people. REAL, I say. Real people aren’t inspired by anyone.

k-with-age-of-innocence-1

But, even so, I did write the one fan letter. I don’t want to say which author/book inspired me to do it, but it was a historical YA I read as a teenager…so don’t worry…you don’t know her. 😉

I adored that novel. It was beautiful, romantic, visual, fun. I’m pretty sure I try to recapture a little of that feeling, if only subconsciously, every time I write a book. I wrote to tell her all that.

She never wrote back.

So. Strike one.

Strike Two: Through the years—as a lifelong writing student and as a member of RWA—I’ve been lucky enough to attend workshops, lectures, classes and speeches by some truly great writers. But only once in my life have I wanted desperately to hear an author speak purely as a fangirl. Merely because I was in love with her books.

dorothy-dunnett-books-on-shelf

The writer was Dorothy Dunnett, a Scottish genius who wrote, among other things, The Lymond Chronicles. Her hero, Francis Crawford of Lymond, may be the most brilliant creation of all time. Maybe ten or twelve years ago I heard Dunnett was, miraculously, coming to an independent bookstore in Sarasota, which is reachable from Orlando.

I was all set to go, my reservations made, my overnight case packed, my heart in my throat, when I heard she had cancelled. My heart was broken, and when I heard why, it was shattered. The amazing Dorothy Dunnett was sick. Not long after, she died.

I may not try any author interaction again. I’m clearly jinxed. 😉 No one wants a strike three, right?

So those are my two sad stories about my life as a book groupie. How about you? What wonderful, silly or sad experiences have you had with your author heroes?

I’ll be giving a $10 Amazon gift certificate to one randomly chosen commenter today, so let the stories begin! 🙂


38 thoughts on “Dear Author

  1. Lorelei says:

    Oh, Kathleen. It makes me feel a little bad sharing my experience, because mine was great! Okay, I take that back, because I met you Later on after my first fan mail to the other fabulous JQ sister, Kristan Higgins, who happened to be the author I was fangirling over, and still do! Hopefully I’ll get to meet her in person after 10 years! Wow, does time fly!
    Since that first fan mail, I’ve discovered what a wonderful group the romance community is. Such talented, interesting and professional women. You are all very inspiring and have been a positive influence in my life.
    I’ll miss visiting JQ every day or on Saturdays when life gets busy, yet happy I could discover through JQ the many authors I enjoy today, and reader too who have also become good friends through FB.

  2. Amy says:

    The Internet and email has made it so much easier to write to authors. I can’t say I do it all the time, but I have written more than a handful. I only do so if I have something different to say, other than how much I loved the book. Most everyone has written me back and that is always very fun.

    Decades ago was my first author connection and that was as a member of the Danielle Steel fan club. I remember getting a package in the mail with a slick folder containing a “signed” glossy photo and other various fact sheets. I was thrilled!

    1. How cool, Amy! 🙂 Do you still have the photo?

      1. Amy says:

        You know, I’m not sure. But, I don’t think so. Things seem to get lost in moves.

  3. Lexi Eddings Lexi Eddings says:

    Oh, sad, Kathleen. I’ve had much better luck with my favorites. I was able to meet the wonderful and gracious Jo Beverley (who sadly is no longer with us) and such incredible workhorse icons as the incomparable La Nora (Roberts, that is).

    But my biggest blessing in the meeting authors department has to be getting to know all my fellow JQs. I will miss you all so when the blog is done.

    1. Lucky lady, Lexi! Those are great choices. 🙂 I will miss everyone, too. Saying goodbye always feels wrong, somehow.

  4. Charlotte says:

    I have never contacted a beloved author, maybe because I was too shy and didn’t find the words to do him/her justice.

    1. Charlotte, you and I have the same issues, it seems. I hadn’t quite thought of it, but yes, feeling that I didn’t have the appropriate words to do justice has always been part of my reluctance.

  5. Dawn A says:

    I have been lucky enough to win books from various authors, several of them being jaunty quills, and every time I’ve had to contact them they have been pleasant. Trust me, there are times I felt like I was gushing in emails or private messages, but the authors were always very kind.

    1. :), Dawn! I’m not sure there is such a thing as too much gushing. <3 Knowing that something you've written makes someone else happy is just about the best thing there is!

  6. Laney4 says:

    I never wrote fan letters “back in the day”. With emails, blogs, etc. today, though, I often write authors.

    My favourite emails were with Sandra Hyatt, who passed away Aug 21/11. She was first published back in 2009, and I was fortunate to have spoken with her via emails, blogs, etc. often. She first blogged about a poem she couldn’t find. She gave some details about its content, so I wrote her a replacement poem. She told me it was posted in her office immediately (and her daughter confirmed years later that she remembered that poem on her mom’s wall). I cried buckets when I read that.

    I feel blessed to have “known” Sandra and miss her so much … but at least I have all her books to still enjoy….

    1. Oh, Laney, what a beautiful story! How incredibly generous of you to have written a replacement poem for her! And how wonderful that it was so valued. I know that must be a memory you cherish.

  7. Kirsten says:

    It’s such a big thing to write a letter to an author whom you admire so & who is so eloquent in her own work. How can you say I loved your book in such a way that it doesn’t sound so bland. So uninspired, difficult for me I grow silent just thinking about it. But perhaps it is enough to leave it at that, must be nice to hear someone read and appreciated…

    1. Lisa Hutson says:

      I struggle with that Kirsten. I have a blog that I write for and some reviews it isn’t so hard. Because I just liked that book. But when I love it, feel connected to it, deep inside….those are the reviews and letters that are so hard to write. I am not a writer after all.

    2. Kirsten, I think that’s partly what inhibits me, too–the fear that I won’t be able to express how I feel well enough. But it is true that a sincere compliment is never unwelcome. Just knowing someone responded to your work is a real joy.

  8. Annette Naish says:

    I am in love with the Amelia Peabody books. I read every one I could get my hands on, bought them and reread them at times. I generally am a person who believes my very existance is an intrusion, so I did not write to Elizabeth Peters. I never told her how much I loved what she had created.

    Ms Peters died and I felt as though I had lost a friend.

    I had some note paper that was in the shape of a hippo and purple and very cute. I did some research, found the address of her daughter and sent her a note on my hippo paper. I poured my heart out and let her know how much I loved what her mother had given me. I also told her, one reason I liked the hippo note paper was Amelia and Emerson and Ramses.

    She wrote me back and told me her mother would have loved the hippo paper, and her mother would have appreciated my caring words.

    Since then, if I can, I let authors know how much I enjoy their writing. I want these talented people to realize that there are those of us who appreciate their hard work.

    Most of the time I get a response. Sometime I don’t. But, at least, the authors know that someone out here likes what they do. I realize at times I gush, and the receiving author probably develops a cavity from the sweetness, but too bad. I want to be able to appreciate while the author is aware.

    If I have received hours of true pleasure from someone’s creation, then that someone should know how much they have given to another human being.

    1. Lisa Hutson says:

      Very sweet of you Annette!! How nice of you to share!

    2. Annette, that is so lovely! How poignant that you lost your chance to correspond with her directly, but it’s really a gift that her daughter was able to speak, in a way, for her mother. She probably was as touched by the kind words as her mother would have been. She had, after all, lost a beautiful light in her life, too. <3

  9. Lisa Hutson says:

    OH gosh, I can see why you are a bit skittish.
    I have had several wonderful author experiences. The wonderful Kristan Higgins being one of the big big ones…..I got to meet her and have dinner with her and some of her other fans. It was a wonderful evening.
    I have met Julia Quinn, fabulous!! And Jill Shalvis, she was very nice.
    At an author event, I dropped my bracelet in the rest room, not realizing it. And Tessa Dare followed to catch up to me and return it. How nice is that??
    Shana Galen has also signed a book for me when I sent it to her. I know these requests are eating into their time, but I surely do appreciate it.
    The amazing Grace Burrowes has been very generous and kind with me before.
    I don’t really know why I feel such a connection with these people when I read their books…..It seems rather odd, doesn’t it? But still, I do.
    Now, the latest one is not even really real for me yet.
    I have loved the Bedwyn series by Mary Balogh for so long. I like other writing of hers. But for some reason, that series clicks with me.
    Recently a lovely friend was going to the author event in Seattle at the old hotel. And she asked if she could get me a signed book from someone. I looked at the list and who was going to be there but the wonderful Mary Balogh!!
    I sent her two of my books from this series. This friend took my books and asked her to sign them. I can only imagine that the line was forever long. And she is rather shy. So I know it was a lot to ask of her. But she did it. I have been gone, so I have not even had a chance to slobber over the books yet.
    And I don’t know when I will ever get to meet this incredibly generous friend. How can I ever tell her how much this means? Or Mary Balogh for that matter??
    These books…..
    I cant tell you how much I appreciate all wonderful authors that go out of their way to pacify us readers.
    Big thank you to all!!

    1. Shana Galen Shana Galen says:

      Reader requests are always welcome! I never see them as eating in to my time.

    2. Lisa, what wonderful experiences you’ve had! It is terrific to discover that the writers you love are actually lovely people, as well. I know they were touched to realize they had given you so many hours of friendship through their books. <3

  10. Suzanne W says:

    Honestly aside from local authors Kristan Higgins is the only one I’ve interacted with and it was certainly a memorable experience when the fire alarm went off not once but twice during her speech! Getting to sit at her table that day and interact with her made me love her books even more because the more I got to know about her the more genuine I felt she was. In today’s world it’s nice to meet a writer who could just as easily be my next door neighbor rather than a best-selling author. Now when I recommend her books to family and friends I do so not because they are wonderful books (which they are!) but because I want to support her work and have my family and friends support her work too.

    1. Aw, Suzanne, how sweet! She really is down to earth and lovely, isn’t she? I understand exactly what you mean about loving to discover a writer is a real person…and knows it! 😉

  11. bn100 says:

    some are nice; others, not so much

  12. Eileen A-W says:

    Like you I am very much an introvert and afraid to contact many authors. However, I have written the wonderful Kristan Higgins and she responded!! I felt so lucky!! I also decided to pull up my big girl pants and made plans to attend the Barbara Vey luncheon next spring.

    1. Eileen, I’m smiling about your “big girl” panties! 🙂 Being an introvert does make such things harder, but they can be so worth it, as you obviously discovered with the lovely Kristan!

  13. Shana Galen Shana Galen says:

    Several years ago I met Julie Garwood at RT. I was shaking so badly I don’t even remember what I said or she said, but I’ll never forget it. And I have a picture to prove it!

    1. Love it, Shana! Hard to think of you shaking like a leaf, but I know that feeling!

  14. Julie-ann Ford says:

    I am a fan of many authors but especially Jill Shalvis. I found out that she was going to be at Turn The Page (Nora Roberts’ Book Store) during the summer a while back. I mentioned to my husband that I really wanted to meet her. He said he would go with me. So when the time came, he had made other plans for the day, when I stated that I would be back late. He asked where I was going and when I reminded him, he cancelled his plans and went with me. We stood in the extreme heat for 2 hours (he never complained) and I finally got to meet her. She was just as fantastic in person as on Facebook. I have pictures and I will remember that day for a long time.

    1. That’s wonderful, Julie-ann! I’m so glad your writing hero lived up to your dreams! I’ve never known a writer who disappointed me, but some actors seem so unlike their charming roles, and it’s a real disappointment!

  15. I’ve written a couple of fan letters and even got a reply, never expected that and was pleasantly surprised!

  16. cabooklover says:

    The first author fan letter I ever wrote was to you and what a delight that ended up being. I’d like to think that your own experiences have guided how you interact with your fans. You’re so gracious and kind. I’ve never been disappointed that I wrote that email to you all those years ago.

  17. catslady5@aol.com says:

    I’ve never met an author in person. I do enjoy blog or FB interaction. I think you can get the basic truth of a person from her works and her words. I’ve only unfriended one author because of a political rant but I hadn’t read anything she had written yet and, of course, I won’t now. I have no problem usually and can agree to disagree about most things but there are always a few that cross the line.

  18. Rochelle says:

    I have been very lucky as I live in the Dallas area and have gotten to attend both the Literacy for Life signing at the RWA convention and the Romantic Times convention. In addition, I have attended some author events. Its been great fun to meet many of the authors that I read. I probably have a fangirl moment with all of them!

  19. Michelle F. says:

    Hadn’t heard of this blog closing (oh, no!) but I haven’t visited much in the last few weeks. Are there other blogs you guys will be on? When will it close? Hope it will remain up online in case we want to look at it.

    I’m also a fan of Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody mystery series (someone else commented about this). She signed a book for me.
    It was at the Authors, Authors library event where the author gives a speech and then has a book signing. I think it was back in 1997. I really enjoyed it. A few years later I saw another mystery writer, Carol Higgins Clark. Barnes & Noble even sold some books there by the featured writer, in case you needed a book for the signing. The library still has the event but I haven’t been to any more. They have all kinds of writers there.

    First author interaction was when I was a kid and wrote to Judy Blume. I received a newsletter from her. I don’t remember how I got an address to write to; it’s certainly easier today with the Internet (just look to see if an author has a website and you can contact them).

  20. My experiences with beloved authors have been good – for the most part. In fact, I can only think of one incident where an author, whose books I love to this day, turned out to be a disappointment in person. I won’t name names. She was the keynote speaker at a regional conference and she came across downright surly – to everyone, not just me. Here’s what happened: At the end of the conference, she was sitting in the lobby by herself. I was talking to some friends. We were laughing and probably being too loud (when introverts find their people, you know how it can be). I noticed that she kept looking at us. It seemed like she was giving us the stink eye. Still, I gave her the benefit of the doubt and went over and invited her to join us. She said, “No.” Not no thank you or I’d love to, but I’m very tired. Just a flat, unceremonious “No.” Then she continued to stare us down as we resumed laughing and talking. Yeah, she didn’t make a very good impression. But in all fairness, her books are still fabulous.
    I know from personal experience that writers are usually introverts. Social media (and our novels) can make us seem more gregarious and less awkward than we might be when tasked with face-to-face contact. So, I chalked that author’s antisocial personality up to being socially awkward. Maybe she puts everything she has into her books. Or maybe she’s truly a judgmental snob. I’ll never know.
    However, I have had some fabulous encounters with authors. Like Mia, I was blessed to meet the fabulous Jo Beverly before she passed away. I sat and talked to her for a long time at a party in Atlanta. I can be shy around people I don’t know well – especially if I admire them. But Jo made me feel so welcome and comfortable. Jo was a class act.
    Also, like Mia, I’ve had good experiences with Nora Roberts. It astounds me how gracious and accessible she is at RWA conferences. I have no idea how many people want to talk to her or want photos with her, but every time I’ve seen her or spoken to her she seems so down to earth and gracious.
    Finally, back in 2000, the historical romance writer Judith Ivory was coming to speak to the Central Florida Romance Writers. I was in charge of programs and was coordinating her visit. During our correspondence, she graciously asked me about me. I wasn’t published yet, but I had just finaled in the Golden Heart. She asked where I had submitted my finalist manuscript. I hadn’t. You know – fear of failure, fear of success, fear of being exposed as a fraud…all the usual writer excuses. 😉 I think I said something about needing to tweak the manuscript. She said, “But it finaled in the Golden Heart, right?” She told me to get the darned manuscript out there pronto. She also said something that has stuck with me after all these years, “Perfection is the enemy of very good.” She was right. Even the most brilliant writer isn’t perfect. Those words of wisdom changed my writing life.

  21. Kate Sparks says:

    You all have been amazing and I’ve so enjoyed this. But I do understand that live changes and so do needs and wants… I can still track you via other social media…and your direct author sites… Enjoy your next stage of life!!

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