Thursday, May 6, 2021

Why I Love Readers @LucyBurdette



LUCY BURDETTE: I always hold my breath a bit when correspondence from a fan hits my inbox. Will they want the world (including me) to know they hated the book from start to finish, the set-up was preposterous and the character plain stupid, or that an author should never insert her own opinions about ____, just write the damn book? Really, this kind of thing does happen, but luckily not too often. It certainly prevents a writer from suffering of too much head-swelling.


Note from Aunt Flo

When I had my first books published in the early 2000’s, email was only just taking hold. So if someone wanted to write an author, it was longhand, sent through the post office. I still have a few of those I treasure, including this one from an older woman who worried about how much my first character Cassie drank, and how this might affect her golf career aspirations. 


Last summer, one of my readers pointed out how distressing it was to read this sentence in The Key Lime Crime: “But on the other hand, I felt a heavy weight lifting, as though someone had been holding a boot to my neck and I could breathe again.” 


She’d been so upset that she’d had to put the book aside for a while. Of course I’d written that well before George Floyd died and I was as horrified as she to see those words on paper. It was too late to change for the hardcover—already printed. But I was able to remove it for the paperback edition that will be out in July, and I’m grateful to her for pointing it out.


On an entirely different topic, Sue P sent me a note a few years back that absolutely changed the direction I thought I was going with Hayley Snow’s love life:


I recently found this series and love it. I do have a complaint though. I was just getting interested to see how the romance would work out between Hayley and her detective. And you bring back his ex and she gets dumped! I was not a happy camper at this development. I still would like to see where this would go, more so than with her boss, which is where you seem to be leading. I think she needs a challenge and this is not her boss. Bring him back!! Just my opinion. Thanks.


Oh, and sometimes a note is pure joy.  I can’t resist posting this old favorite that had me smiling for weeks:





We are a class of 12 girls in our freshman year at Gymnasium Sylt, a high school which is located in the far north of Germany on the island of Sylt which is surrounded by the North Sea.


We read your book "An Appetite for Murder" in our English lessons (cf. the photo attached) with our English teacher, Mrs Detlefsen. To us it was a really enjoyable book because it is full of romance, action and crime. We particularly liked the Scene with Meredith pushing Hayley off the road and threatening her with a gun. Moreover, we love the different quotations you use, some are so true and fit perfectly.


Though we talked a lot about the characters, the setting and the plot, there are still some questions left we would be grateful for if you could answer them for us. For example, we would really like to know why Hayley just spills the beans about everything (e.g. with the Police) and why she fell in love with that arrogant Person of Chad.


Don't you love that, "arrogant Person of Chad?" 


Writers, what’s the best letter you ever received from a reader? Readers, do you ever send fan or other kind of mail to authors?


57 comments:

  1. I've been tempted to write more than I actually have, mostly because I was uncertain about sending a letter via the publisher and didn't know how else to do it. Nowadays, it's a bit easier to let favorite writers know how much readers enjoy their books since there's Facebook and author websites and blogs like this . . .

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    1. Yes for sure it's much easier now Joan! I do remember sending a note to Tom Perotta through his publisher and I did get a handwritten letter back. such excitement!

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  2. I think Joan sums up how much easier it is with social media and online communications to let authors know how much we enjoy their books. As soon as we read the last words, we can get on FB and post to the author how much we loved their latest work. Also, for me, I think so many of my reviews of favorite authors' books, like the Reds, end up being half love letter for the book and for them writing it.

    It's nice you've kept those snail mailed notes, Lucy. I have for some time lamented the fact that nobody sends notes or letters anymore, and I think of all the people in history, writers included, whom we've gotten to know through their correspondence of letters. I also treasure letters from my mother and friends from over the years, with my mother gone now 26 years. Also, I've enjoyed going through cards and written notes from my mother's life. And, yet, I'm part of the problem, as I don't send written notes or letters anymore, unless it's a thank-you note. My younger granddaughter and I used to exchange notes through snail mail. I think I'm going to see if she'd like to start doing that again.

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    1. Kathy, it's a different world, isn't it? So few handwritten, or even typed, letters now. My father-in-law kept copies of all his correspondence, all the way back to the '50s. It was fun to read the back and forth joking of notes and letters between friends who lived in the next county. It was long distance to call them, so they wrote at least once a week.

      He was also an author, and kept every "fan" letter he ever received. There was a thick file for every year, mostly handwritten.

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    2. Yes Kathy, reviews are definitely a way of letting an author know what you thought. I try to write snail mail notes of thanks, and for birthdays, and sympathy. I know how much I appreciate receiving one. Karen, what a lovely story about your dad. What did he write?

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    3. He wrote a weekly column on local wildlife and nature, Lucy, called A Naturalist Afield. It was, and will always remain at this point, the longest running column in the Cincinnati Enquirer by a single person, over 50 years.

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    4. My father wasn't a published author, but he was definitely a writer. My uncle, his brother-in-law, was and is a published author. Richard Reinhardt saved all the letters that he and Daddy exchanged. Uncle Dick recently sent me the file. It's an absolute dream to read through. Daddy regularly typed 6 or 12-page single-spaced letters. I have some of the ones he wrote me while I was in graduate school in Indiana. So many treasures.

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    5. It's like a time capsule, isn't it, Edith? I am sad for future generations who won't have that resource from ours.

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    6. I wrote my son a letter every two weeks this past year while he was at college. He saved all of them and said he loved getting them. He was the only one of his friends who got handwritten letters. Now if only he'd remember to go to the post office on a regular basis. :)

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  3. I sent a few letters when I was a kid. I don't tend to send as many now. I might send a message on Facebook, but pretty much these days I let my reviews do the talking.

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  4. Oh Lucy, that letter from the adorable young women at Gymnasium Sylt is priceless!

    This feel so timely... I love hearing from readers, if only to collect typos for the publisher to tweak in the next edition. It's the nature of the beast that we write but never get to SEE readers reacting our words.

    Harder still these days is giving VIRTUAL book talks and workshops and not getting to see the faces of the folks I'm supposedly *INTER*acting with. I've always found presenting or teaching is a dance, and it takes the presenter PLUS the audience to make it work. So yesterday I was so pleased to get an email from a woman who'd heard me speak a few nights earlier. She said she was a journalist and thanked me for my honesty and candor in talking about my late start as a fiction writer, as she, too, was starting late.

    She ended with, "Thank you for providing a bright ray of hope where there is so much doubt, I really appreciate it! Keep on rocking it, you inspire ;)"

    It doesn't get much better than that!!

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  5. Hallie, that's a perfect kind of message to get isn't it?

    Roberta, I also love the picture from the German class and their note. For me I love getting letters where people say they learn so much about being a Quaker from my books, or they can't wait for the next country store mystery, or whatever. The best ones, of course, are the ones that say my book got them through a really tough time sitting at the hospital while a loved one was in surgery, or having to spend a week in the hospital themselves and my story took them out of the pain and difficulty they were going through. Those make it all worthwhile.

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    1. yes exactly Edith, isn't that a good part of why we write?

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  6. What a creative teacher Mrs Detlefsen must have been to use your book, Lucy, in her class. And how lovely to receive the students' note.

    I have sent notes to writers. My model is my mother, who used to write notes of appreciation to my drama teachers after seeing a play they had directed and I was in. Mum would send the note via me, so I got to see how pleased the teacher was to receive it.

    Back in the days before social media, I somehow tracked down Sara Paretsky's email address and sent her a note of appreciation after reading her book of essays. And she wrote me back! My huge regret is that I did not keep that small exchange for posterity.

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    1. How wonderful that your mom sent those notes Amanda! I have tons of cards and letters just stuffed into the back of my closet. Someday when life slows down, I'll have to sort through those...

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  7. Just keep writing, we'll keep reading.

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  8. Lucy, I love that letter from the English class!

    These days, the Internet makes it pretty easy to send messages to authors. I've sent a few that way or over social media. I do like being able to tell someone "directly" that I loved a particular piece of their work.

    I've received some great feedback over the years from people I've done reviews on. When I reviewed a CD by the singer Robin Beck, her husband (House of Lords singer James Christian) sent me an email thanking me for both taking the time to do said review and for the positive things I said in it.

    The best feedback I ever got was when I got a negative feedback that said I had to be a stupid, unintelligent American because I gave a middling review to a DVD by a band called Pain of Salvation. It was absolutely hilarious that I got such a PO'd reaction to my review.

    I also ended up corresponding with the guitarist Bernie Torme (RIP, Bernie) for a few months when I reviewed a DVD he was part of. Both he and his bass player sent me thank you emails for what I said about a bonus feature that was included on the DVD. I responded back to both of them and Bernie kept responding. He even arranged to have a CD sent to me when a lost album he was part of got a long delayed release.

    But if we go back to when writing fan letters by hand was still the prevalent way to communicate, I have to remember when I wrote a letter to singer Leather Leone (who was the singer for the band Chastain at the time). Just a regular fan letter, nothing all that noteworthy but I did ask a couple of questions. I was shocked when I got a handwritten response back from her and then a second one as well. 29 years later, she called my house for a phone interview and I got to mention that I still had the letters she sent to me (even had them in front of me when I told her).

    So being able to let someone know how much you enjoy their work, or being on the receiving end of that is always a good thing.

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    1. that's such a cool story about Leather (is that her real name?) She was interviewing you 29 years later or you her? Wonderful ripples in your pond...

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    2. Lucy, it's not her birth name. But it is her professional name. I didn't even know her real name until I bought a band T-shirt from her and her real name popped up on my Paypal dashboard.

      And it was me interviewing her for the album she released in 2018. Here's the link to the interview which I think came out rather nicely considering I'm usually avoiding doing interviews with anyone: http://www.knac.com/article.asp?ArticleID=28620

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  9. Person of Chad, indeed!

    How wonderful that Mrs. Detlefsen encouraged her students to write to the author, aside from the fact that she chose your book, Roberta, which is cool enough. I think readers can have strange relationships with authors, either putting them on unreachable pedestals, or feeling as if they only exist in order to entertain them personally. Their teacher gave them an entirely different perspective on the reader/writer dynamics.

    Wayne W. Dyer had an article in a women's magazine in the late 1980s. At the end of the article was his address, so I wrote to him. I wanted him to know that his book, Your Erroneous Zones, had made a huge impact on my life, and I wished him well with his upcoming title. About a month later (snail mail) I got a package that included a letter from him, along with stacks of clippings, and a book. Not the one just coming out but a science fiction paperback he wrote. I am still blown away by this.

    I have a file of handwritten letters, along with some dot matrix-printed emails, from my own writing career. The most interesting was the one written entirely in Spanish, a language I don't speak. A friend translated it for me.

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    1. See, you are inspiring me to write more letters Karen! He must have been really touched by what you wrote...

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  10. What a wonderful story. Aunt Flo is a hoot. I can see why you saved it, and the freshman class in Germany - fabulous.

    I love receiving communications from readers. In my career, they have been e-mails or FB messages. Isn't messenger great for communication? I have written kudos e-mails to authors and have always received gracious replies.

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    1. It makes the hard work feel worthwhile, doesn't it Kait?

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  11. Hallie, what a great message. And Lucy, I love that photograph.

    I only have one hand-written note from a reader, an older lady at my dad's church. She said I was just as good as "the big guys, like Connelly, but without the sex and swearing." I kept that one for sure.

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    1. That needs to go on your website, Liz!

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    2. I figure when we're old ladies we can pull out the folders and spend lots of time remembering:)

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  12. Lucy, I am so glad you are talking about letters received. Just yesterday I was thinking about a letter I had written to an author and his wonderful reply. Then I thought of other letters I have received in response to one sent. I also remember, to this day, the author who had not replied to my letter. This was many years ago and I had loved what was her first book. She's written a lot of them since but I never sent her another letter. Could be she never even got the one I sent, I suppose.

    Sending an email fan letter just isn't the same for some reason, especially if it's a keeper.

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    1. Wow Judi, too bad the author didn't write you back--she would have had a fan for life!

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  13. What a fabulous letter from the German students! That has to be the best ever.

    I started to say I'd never written a fan letter, but I suppose posting here, on Facebook and email, messenger, all like platforms, count. One of my prized possessions is the response to a note I sent James Lee Burke, not commenting on a book, but thanking him for his political stance on something important to me.! He wrote me back, not his daughter, but the real thing. Yes, I've saved that.

    I've also archived a number of messages and responses I've received from JRW and many of my other favorites. I have years of correspondence from a few authors, carefully saved in some cloud, which I likely will never be able to retrieve!

    My all time favorite was getting a private message from a writer I'd just met at LCC in Phoenix, five years ago. She said she needed to vent. It doesn't matter what it was about, but it was the beginning of a friendship that continues. We talk maybe once a month, rarely about books. When she wins the Nobel Prize for literature, I plan to publish. (Not really)



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    1. Lovely story Ann! And your grandchildren will be able to help you access those files when you need them I bet...

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  14. The only fan letter I ever sent to an author was to the poet William Stafford. Then I got to meet him in person. A truly humble man and a great poet!

    But I love the examples you've all shared today--Hallie, what a wonderfully gratifying response to your talk! And yes, Aunt Flo's letter and the German girls! Priceless!

    I have a fat envelope of letters I received from a fourth-grade class for a presentation I did for them on archaeology. They attended a ritzy middle school, but were the 'average' kids--in their school, programs were aimed at the 'gifted' kids. Those kids were so well behaved during the presentation and asked great questions and sent such wonderful thank-you notes.

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    1. What a treasure trove those letters must be! I taught mystery writing to fifth graders over two years. Hardest job ever--my hat's off to teachers.

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  15. Oh, those are fabulous! What a brilliant idea to use your book as an English lesson. Wow. And that photo is incredible. The joy on their faces!
    MY favorite is the person who wrote me to say that she'd been so inspired by my speech about following your dreams that she'd quit her job to do what she'd always wanted to do, and that she was happy for the first time in her life.
    AHHHHHHHH. I still worry about that, gotta admit. Hope that worked for her. (I wanted to write back: ah, um, ya know, I didn't mean, like, um, casually give up your health insurance.)

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    1. LOL Hank! I think we should assume she'd been thinking and planning for a while, and your words gave her the nerve to act.

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  16. OH! And the note I got from a little girl in an audience--I guess she'd been there with her mother.
    She wrote, in those big gawky pre-teen letters:
    YOU ARE PRETTY. THE ANGLES ARE WATCHING OVER YOU.

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  17. Oh, my gosh, I'm still laughing over "Aunt Flo has never seen a lady/woman drink beer from a bottle." If poor Aunt Flo is still around, she must be in a constant state of shock about the world today.

    It's hard to think of a single best communication from a reader. I tried to write everyone back, but it eventually got to the point where, sadly, I simply couldn't respond to all the emails - it would have been the only writing I ever got done!

    I have had a few people write that reading my books was their escape during a particularly hard time with a loved one in hospital. That's a great honor, because I've been there, and know how thankful I felt to be able to step outside my life for a couple of hours with someone else's book.

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    1. Yes Julia exactly, that is a great honor. If Aunt Flo had only known that I too prefer drinking beer from the bottle...

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  18. Aunt Flo is hilarious! Though she had a good point about drinking just before playing golf. It's hard to imagine being able to focus on playing sports after imbibing alcohol. I agree with Julia above that poor Aunt Flo would be in a constant state of shock about the world today if she is still living.

    Love that comment "arrogant person of Chad".

    Good point about writing before and after George Floyd.

    And I had forgotten about Hayley's ex. I agree with that letter writer who sent you a letter about that.

    As a reader, I never know where to send letters to authors. I often comment about books that I loved. And I think I sent you an email about how much I loved the story set in Scotland.

    Wonderful post about readers who loved your books, which gladdened my heart. I often read about letters from people who did NOT like a certain book, which saddens me.

    Diana

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    1. yes thank you so much for the note about SCONE! About people not liking books, this post grew out of reading a couple of reviews that excoriated that same book you loved. I had to go back and remind myself that once the book is out in the world, we have to let go and let the bad reviews run past, and focus on the good news.

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  19. Lucy,

    Just remembered that I did write a letter to an author, Richard Critchfield, a long time ago. I met him at a book event and he gave me his card with the publishing house address. I sent him a letter with lots of questions about his book AN AMERICAN LOOKS AT BRITAIN while living in England. I was at Oxford for a Summer Study program.

    Diana

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    1. Lucy, yes, he replied with a long letter answering my questions since I had many questions, LOL. These were the old days Before the advent of Facebook and Instagram. I was floored that he found the time to answer my questions. I felt like a VIP. It is always wonderful to receive a note or a letter from authors that you admire.

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  20. I have emailed authors notes many times. Usually to say how much I enjoyed a particular book. A few times it has been to get more background on a character in a series or to clarify something. I'm notorious for forgetting details, such as when did he get married???? I write thankyou notes to mail anytime an author has taken the time to mail me something, whether it is a book (hooray!) or swag. That effort merits an effort on my part.

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  21. Lucy, it's a good thing you didn't have sex or swearing, or Aunt Flo might have keeled over from shock! LOVE those German students!! What a great teacher, and don't you wonder how she chose your book?

    I've had many lovely letters from readers over the years, but the best are the ones that saying that my books got them through a hard time. Books have always been my comfort, so knowing I've provided that for someone else is so gratifying.

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    1. I sure do wonder that Debs! And now I'm dying to visit their little island. Absolutely, hearing that books have comforted someone is the best news ever.

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  22. Oh, reader mail. It's the best. Like Deb, I get weepy when a reader tells me my book gave them comfort when they needed it. Top two? A tossup: the email from the reader whose mother gave her one of my cozies and reading it told her she could follow her dreams like my character did. And the handwritten note from the 5 year old who came to a library book talk with her mother, who handed her a pen and notebook to keep her busy, and she wrote me, in a mix of English and Cyrillic -- the mother was a Russian immigrant -- that is completely unreadable and completely wonderful.

    And what a lovely reminder to all of us to say thank you more often. Thanks, Reds, for YOUR books and this community you've created!

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    1. thanks Leslie--how cool that a Russian immigrant was at your talk, and what a treasure they left you with!

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  23. Yes I do send fan letters to authors, especially when I doubly enjoy the book. I'm more likely to send a fan letter though when I'm reading an ARC. But I will do a shout-out on Facebook.

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  24. These show how real the characters become to readers. We want them to be happy and healthy . . . and "proper" when they drink beer? ;-) It also makes me remember the lovely student and parent notes I kept in a folder, as an antidote to difficult times. <3

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  25. I have to say, about Aunt Flo, that when I was a high school golfer, I caddied when the state men's tournament was at our home course. The man I caddied for drank a beer on EVERY HOLE on both days and won the first flight -- not the championship flight, but darned good club golfers. I was maybe 16 and astonished. When I told my dad, all he could say was "some guys can do that." Of course, Aunt Flo might say 'he was a man' and consider him coarse because he drank from the can, though he was actually quite nice.

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    1. Leslie Budewitz, Teen Caddy. This has GOT to be made for television. Or maybe Teen Vampire Caddy? Go for it, kid!

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  26. When I spun off my new series from the Alafair Tucker mysteries with The Wrong Girl (sorry, Hank. The publisher chose the title), featuring one of Alafair's daughters who runs away and becomes a movie star, I got a letter from a reader who was incensed - indignant, I tell you! - that the girl would do such an awful thing to her mother. She felt so bad for Alafair that I tried to comfort her by hinting it'll all turn out okay in the end. But like Mary said above, these characters become real people to the readers.

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