BrooksBlog: In Praise of Fans
This blog is long overdue, but that’s how it is these days. I am back on tour with The Darkling Child, and it is something of a relief to be momentarily distracted from my work on the Shannara TV show, The Shannara Chronicles. It is also a reminder of how much I enjoy interacting with my readers on a personal basis.
Judine has always maintained that I have the best readers of any author she has ever seen, and she has seen a lot as a DM (District Manager) and bookseller. The reason she likes them so much is that they are consistently enjoyable to be around. They don’t act crazy or cause trouble, and they are always kind.
All true. But there is something else I have to tell you. They make me feel incredibly fortunate to know them.
In the old days, when readers wrote me letters – before the age of the internet and email – I made it a point to always answer. I thought readers deserved that much just for taking time to tell me stories about what my work meant to them. And to this day readers still show up at book events holding those replies and telling me how important it was to them to hear back.
But I have fallen away from answering those letters, both written and emailed, and I admit I experience a certain amount of guilt for this failing. It doesn’t help that there are too many of them and too little of me to respond or that my energy level isn’t what it once was or that other obligations intrude. Still, they mean so much, and I think they should know this. I can do it here in a general letter to everyone but it isn’t the same as a personal expression of appreciation, and I regret that.
I try to make up for this by going on the road with each new book, even it is only to a few cities or major events and talking to anyone who comes up to me. They have such inspiring stories. The other night a man told me we shared adjoining tables at a dinner but he was too shy to say hello and stayed silent. His appearance on this night was an effort to make up for that. A young woman said that using my books in her entry level high school English classes helps her engage her mostly non-reading students when nothing else will. Another young woman who has become a writer of fantasy herself told me my books inspired her as a young girl. Others talk about their childhood memories of reading my books with their parents. Some share them now with their children. For some, my books were there when they were going through a difficult time and it helped give them respite.
Recently, I was at breakfast with Judine and a young couple came up to say hello. Didn’t want to intrude, just wanted to tell me they liked my books. After they left, I went up to the cashier to pay my bill and found the couple had paid for our whole table.
Such incidents of unexpected kindness and nice stories go on and on. It reassures me more than I can say that my writing has touched so many. It is inspirational and incredibly humbling. It means must give something back. It means I have to try harder. It means I have to remember there are readers who are waiting.
It means, most of all, that I should keep writing.