- by Laura Resnick
Today we’re talking again about reader mail.
Although I would never say so in my responses to them, a few well-meaning readers have unwittingly made me wince when intending to compliment me. It typically goes something like this: “You and [insert the name here of the author whose writing you most dislike] are my two favorite writers in the whole world.” Or: “Your recent novel is right up there alongside [insert the name of the most offensive or badly-written novel you've read in the past ten years] as the best I’ve ever read.”
Sometimes, I confess, this effusive praise makes me contemplate sticking my head in a lion’s mouth as a worthy use of my brain. But I know I should accept such a compliment in the generous spirit with which it is given. (Conversely, novelist Lillian Stewart Carl once received a letter in which the reader asked if she also wrote under another name…which just happened to be the name of one of my favorite novelists. Now that’s a flattering comparison!)
However, some readers don’t mean well, and their letters are intentionally insulting. For example, fantasy novelist Kate Elliot received this charming missive from a reader: “i just finished reading volume three of your crown of stars. please return alains dignity back to him, he is the sole reason im reading your too long and very boring story.” Happily, Elliot kept her sense of humor upon reading this. Considering that her books are each several hundred thousand words long, that is, as she notes, “a lot of pages to read, considering how ‘boring’ it is!”
Some readers are distressed by a novel and want to let the writer know. Bestselling novelist Nora Roberts once got a letter castigating her for killing a cat in Montana Sky. “No mention was made,” Roberts says, “of the human beings who’d been scalped, sliced, and disemboweled [in the book]. But I’d killed a cat. I was a terrible person, and she was never, never reading me again.” Novelist Tamar Myers received a four-page letter from a Canadian member of the Monarchist Society castigating her for making a joke (in one of her books) about Her Majesty’s clothes. He sent a copy of the letter to Buckingham Palace where, he assured Myers, the likes of her will never be invited for tea.
Another reader wrote to novelist Kristine Kathryn Rusch: “I was planning to fly to Oregon to take you out for a nice dinner. I think we might be compatible.” However, the reader said, he’d changed his mind about wooing Rusch, based on the (erroneous) assumption that she was the “girl” of co-author Kevin J. Anderson. In an unrelated incident, Anderson received a letter from a young fan demanding the author send him several thousand dollars, explaining at length why he needed the money more than Anderson did.
In our final installment on this topic, we’ll look at some of the most peculiar examples of reader mail!