Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Readers letters

I doubt if any author would deny that writing is hard work. It drains the energy both physically and mentally. However, the pleasure of writing usually outstrips the pain of frozen shoulders, carpal tunnel syndrome, dry eyes and mental exhaustion that comes with life in front of a computer. The author creates a plot and the characters, and as they take their designated journey, a struggle takes place to bring them alive in a believable way. The characters themselves sometimes put up a fight. It’s as though - once you’ve given them life - they’ve decided that they’re going to live it their way, just like real people do. This independence of character is surprising when it happens, even though it’s not entirely unexpected. Sometimes, their meddling will take the plot in a different direction altogether, so everything has to be adjusted.

I didn’t know how much work went into a book until I actually started writing one. As a reader I had my favourite writers, of course, and usually, I either liked a book or I didn’t. Either way, I never thought to contact the author. Writing is subjective, but most published books will please some of the people some of the time. Rarely will they please all of the people though.

If I didn’t like a book I wouldn’t write and tell the author. And having been hurt once by a rotten and totally unfair review I would rather not review a book at all than badly review one. But praise is always acceptable, and it surprises me now to realize that in my days as a reader only, I never wrote to an author with a word of praise, telling them how much I enjoyed their work. Rather, I took them for granted.

I do receive a steady amount of letters from readers of my books. I always answer the letters and thank them, and when I can I try and help them out with any queries they may have .A little while ago I exchanged a letter with Kath who lives in Rayburn, a farming community near Bendigo in Victoria. She borrows her books from the mobile library. Today, I received an unexpected gift of two coffee cups and a tea strainer dish in Bendigo pottery, to thank me for writing books that she enjoys reading.

I was very touched by this gesture, and it brought home to me how lovely it is to receive thank-you letters and praise from readers. On the bad days when nothing seems to go to plan and writing becomes tough, it warms me to look through the letter files and through them, get in touch with my creative self again. So thank you Kath, I’ll think of your kindness every time I have a cup of coffee. And thank you to all the readers who buy, borrow and read my books.

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