Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Writing as a Three-Way Street

I don’t think I have ever written but one author whom I didn’t know personally to say how much I liked a book. I distinctly remember the sweaty palms with which I approached the keyboard and the number of times I edited the letter before I finally stamped and mailed it. What if I misspelled a word? Said something dumb?

Yet as a writer, I love to get letters from readers. I don’t care if they are short, long, misspelled, even ungrammatical—although few are. I love to know that my characters reach across the ether and become real for somebody else, that the fictitious places and situations I create can taken other people out of their pain or boredom for a little while.

One of my favorite letters came from a woman who said, “A friend gave me your books just after I was diagnosed with cancer. I laughed my way through chemotherapy.” Another wrote that her bedridden mother in the Midwest loves to travel to Hopemore, GA, each year through my mysteries.

I even appreciate readers who write to point out errors in my books, because that means they have read them carefully—more carefully than my editor and I did, apparently.

This past week I got a letter from somebody upset because she felt my books lectured her when she had merely expected a good read. At first I felt a definite “ouch,” but I invited her to point out instances where she felt that was true. Today I got an e-mail from her with several examples. Tomorrow I will go back and look at the book again and see if her criticism is justified. Whether it was or not, she will make me a more careful writer in the future. And I hope she and I will keep up the dialogue. A reader who takes the time to analyze your books is worth his or her weight in words.

I am delighted to announce three new titles since my last blog. No, I don't write that fast, but the two books in the Job's Corner Chronicles, THE REMEMBER BOX and CARLEY'S SONG, were reissued in late summer and my third Family Tree Mystery, DAUGHTER OF DECEIT, will come out October 1.

THE REMEMBER BOX and CARLEY'S SONG chronicle the story of Carley Marshall in North Carolina at the mid-point of the last century, when Carley was 11 and 12. In the first book Carley learns about race and religion. In the second, she learns about love.

In DAUGHTER OF DECEIT, which is at this point my favorite mystery of the ones I’ve written, Katharine Murray would rather be finishing the restoration of her house than researching military medals, but poor Bara Weidenauer has had a tough year—losing both son and father and now in the throes of a bitter divorce. So when Bara asks Katharine just to find out what her dad earned his World War II medals for, Katharine reluctantly agrees. Unfortunately, they discover that Bara’s dad earned one of his medals in Europe around the time Bara was getting conceived in Atlanta. oops. So who is Bara, really? Can she stay sober long enough to find out before somebody kills her?

If you are a reader and if you happen to read my books, I hope you’ll read these one and let me know what you think. I don’t so much care what you think as that you think! Much of my writing energy comes from knowing that my work is a three-way street of communication between me, my characters, and my readers.
To you, who make it possible!
Patricia Sprinkle

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