Tuesday, January 5, 2010

On Fan Mail

JAN: I'm sure I speak for us at Jungle Red when all I say we all love to get fan mail. Every correspondence is hugely appreciated. I, for one, am always amazed and touched that there are readers out there who take valuable time out of their days to write a note.

Maybe it's because I have a secret fantasy of teaching high school English, but an email I received recently from a fifteen year old boy from Toronto went straight to my heart. It made me think a bit about why we all write murder mysteries.

Eeshmam Munir is a student at the Scarborough Academy of Technological, Environmental and Computer Education in Toronto, who had read A Confidential Source, the first in my Hallie Ahern series. It started with a simple email: He wrote me to ask if the mayor, Billy Lopresti, or anyone from the Providence Police, was involved in the conspiracy which explains the murder. He added, "Can you please tell me before December 14th because I need to know before my class presentation."

I was so excited that I'm sure I went on and on -- with more detail than necessary explaining more than he wanted to know. But it really tickled me to think of a high school student an
alyzing my book. Thinking about what it all was supposed to mean.

Later, he wrote me back to thank me and sent along the pdf. file of the poster he made and presented to his class. I thought, it doesn't get any better than this. What a treat to see how someone else's imagination interprets your own imaginary characters and world??

Through later emails, Eeshmam said I could run his poster here, but being WAY more responsible and diligent than I ever am, asked me to cite the links where he got his art. (I run those at the bottom) Also, he asks that no one download his artwork from here. So no downloading.

The best part, for me, was that he also explained why he chose each image in the poster. The white sedan, for example, is in one of the earliest scenes, a getaway car for the murderer. It also turns up in later scenes and for another murder. That's why he put it against a dark background.

The woman in the middle is Eeshmam's idea of what my protagonist, Hallie would look like. As it turns out she looks a lot like the actress Anna Torv from the TV series Fringe, which is a big compliment to Hallie. She is holding a flashlight in this poster to symbolize "no matter what happens she will get to the truth."

The character to the left represents is the prosecutor Matt Cavanaugh, who is Hallie's love interest throughout the series. The man on the right is Hallie's confidential source, Leonard, the talk show host. Eeshmam says they are on either side of Hallie to symbolize their support for her 'honesty and bravery." (That comment alone made my writing career worthwhile.)

You can't read it here in the compressed image, but on the bottom he wrote: No one wants to know the ugly truth. This hits on the theme that no one in power wanted to own up to either the murder or the conditions that gave incentive for the murder.

And here Eeshman gets at why we write mysteries. Because in our worlds, we want to believe that although it's a struggle, the good guys will eventually expose the truth. That the flashlight will shine.

Okay, so this was my favorite fan letter ever, but I know there are a lot of writers out there who read this blog, so come on, now it's your turn: Tell us about your favorite fan letter. Or if you are a fan, tell us if and when you were compelled to send a fan letter.

Below are the attributions for the images used.

http://i2.paultan.org/mazda3/m3s1.jpg: White sedan.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Seal_of_Rhode_Island.svg: The seal of Rhode Island.

http://i38.tinypic.com/xn9t7t.jpg: Anna Torv, who stars at the show Fringe on FOX, as Hallie.

http://tv.yahoo.com/the-x-files/show/273/photos/9: The actor Mitche Pileggi in the X-Files series represents Leonard of Late Night.

http://l.yimg.com/l/tv/us/img/site/10/62/0000061062_20090910164904.jpg: This picture represents prosecutor attorney general Matt. It is Joshua Jackson, also from a FOX TV series Fringe.

http://www.wlcntv.com/media/uploads/articles/police_cruiser.jpg: This is the background picture the brick wall and a police cruiser light flashing.

And thanks again Eeshmam, for one of my very favorite Christmas presents this year!


  1. Wow! This is wonderful. I just finished yakking with someone else about fan mail. I don't have anything to compare with this but the other day I was writing and thinking - why do I this again? - when I got an email from a woman in Seattle who told me just LOVED Pushing Up Daisies. I floated on that for the rest of the week. At the risk of sounding needy...the emails make a difference. The posts on Amazon or facebook or whatever your particular poison is. Everything is so viral these days - it's like the old commercial, "and she'll tell two friends, and they'll tell two friends" multiplied by thousands.

  2. OH,. Jan, that is terrific. Wonderful. It's astonishing, when people write. It's my favorite thing in the universe.

    It takes their time,you know? And the idea that someone thought--I like Hank's book, I'll find her addres, and sit at the computer, and write the letter, and send the letter.

    I was in the post office recently, and a woman came up to me and said--are you Hank Phillippi Ryan? I'm kind of used to being recognized because of TV, so I said, sure...

    But she said: I love your books! And she pulled a copy of Face Time out of her purse, and asked me to sign it!

    Ah, so wonderful.

    To anyone who has ever written a note to any author--thank you! It's a life-changing thing to do. Don't ever wonder--"will they care?"

    They'll care!

  3. My favorite fan letter came when I was writing YA books, years ago.
    It was from a girl who said she was failing her classes and about to drop out of school. She thought books were stupid and had never finished one. She picked up my book and said to herself "If I can read this, I'll stay in school."
    She finished the book and now she wanted to read all my other books and she was going to give school another try.
    That's why we write, isn't it? In a small way to change lives.
    I've also had several fan letters from people who have thanksd me for helping them get through chemo, sickness etc. That's also awesome.

  4. What a talented fifteen-year-old! The poster is amazing. It would definitely be my favorite fan letter. And to put a face to Hallie. How great is that? Of course I'm a huge fan of the series.

  5. Those are all terrific stories and the poster is fabulous!

    My favorite fan letter came handwritten from someone's elderly aunt. The nephew had come to one of my book events and bought her a signed copy of my first golf mystery, SIX STROKES UNDER. She wrote to express her concern that my character Cassie was drinking too much during the golf tournaments. She also informed me that no woman she knew drank beer right from the bottle.

    I laughed and laughed. I saved that letter and always will--she proved to me that Cassie had really come to life!

  6. Thanks Ruth, for the kind words.

    Rhys, that's a terrific story. There's something about getting a letter from a kid that makes me think I really SHOULD be teaching high school English. It's just so rewarding. And the letters from people undergoing chemo must have been incredibly moving.

    Roberta, I love that story. To think of people worrying about your protagonist. (has she thought about AA?? just kidding)

    Hank, it must have been a great moment. TWICE recognized!!!

    And you are right Ro, not needy, the emails make the difference!



    Margie B! You win Toni'sKelner's book! Email me and send your snail mail address.

    And Plastic Santa! You win a copy of Quarry, the new and wonderful collection of short stoires from New England writers (okay, including my On The House.)
    Send me your snail mail!

  8. Every single fan letter is my favorite. That someone takes the time to drop a line always give me goosebumps. The following is one that surprised me, though:
    If I'm reading fiction, it's usually sci-fi like Asimov, so romance/mystery was a complete departure for me.

    I'm a mechanic, not a literature critic. ... I enjoyed reading Finding Sarah hugely. Detweiler's thoughts and feelings were well-drawn. Sarah was likable, and the difficulties she faces are believable while being... well, unbelievable.
    Just sending some mid-thirties male reactions…

  9. My favorite fan letter came from someone who accused me of contributing to THE DEATHS OF MILLIONS because I include fattening recipes in my Booktown Mysteries. I blogged about it: http://tinyurl.com/y8d3qm3

  10. Oh, yeah, I remember that, Lorraine!
    The deadly CAKE!

  11. Terry,
    What a terrific review he gave you. And Lorraine, I think the best part of that letter is that the fan is taking your work and influence very seriously. Even if it goes a bit over the deep end.

    I had one once from a guy who kept writing in as one of the characters I killed off, insisting he wasn't really dead and that Hallie needed to save him.

    That was a little unusual....


  12. What a lovely post for the New Year. Congratulations on books well-read and fan mail happily received!