This morning I retweeted something from one of my favorite paranormal romance authors* (and awesome person) Alyssa Day:
RT @Alyssa_DayDear Readers: You know that part where you tell us you like our books? We love that part like chocolate.
First off, I would amend that to say we love that part better than the chocolate-covered marshmallow Easter eggs that I have stashed in a secret place in my office where my mother can’t find them.**
The thing is, it’s not just that we (as authors) are looking for the ego stroke. At least, I’m not. Or mostly not. But hearing from readers who have enjoyed my books is honestly my favorite part about being a published writer, and here’s why:
A book is a collaborative process in more than just the writer/editor/cover-designer/publisher/marketer way. It’s a collaboration between the author and the reader. See, when I write a scene, or I describe a character or setting, I have a picture in my mind. Literally, for me, because I tend to see my scenes as multi-sensory movies in my head. That picture is drawn based on my own experiences: places I’ve been, people I’ve met, plus a whole lot of my own dreams, emotions and neurosis.
When you read a book—MY book, for the sake of this blog post, though it’s possible you’ve wandered to this site by accident, or because you Googled Alyssa Day or chocolate-covered marshmallow Easter eggs—then my words, if I’ve done my job right, make a picture in your mind, and that picture is drawn by YOUR experiences.
So if I write this***:
“Hey, Agent Tasty,” I’d said, when I saw Agent Taylor waiting beside the car. I liked Taylor, and not just because he was young and really hot for a buttoned-up guy with a G-man haircut and a newly minted FBI badge. I sort of like liked him, but we worked together and I was still three months shy of legal age, so it stayed with they boundaries of “sort of.” None of which kept me from noticing that he did not skimp on the FBI physical training program.
I might be picturing this (I’m not, btw):
You could be picturing this:
Someone else might be picturing this:
Or REALLY old school:
None of these, by the way, are models for Agent Taylor, who is fresh out of the academy as well as my imagination.
I do draw on real people and places for inspiration sometimes, but rarely just one. It’s this model’s hair, but this dancer’s height, and this actress’s cheeky grin, etc. I rarely, if ever, tell anyone what/who I have in mind because I want you to form your own picture.
Even my editor and I have different ideas. She said, “I picture Daisy looking sort of like a red-haired Taylor Swift, only with a lot more eyeliner and black nail polish.” (Which got me thinking, would Taylor Swift even BE Taylor Swift with red hair and a lot more eyeliner and black nail polish?) However, Swift is quite tall (or she looks that way) with really long legs, and so body-type-wise, that’s exactly what I’d described in both Texas Gothic and the new book, so I considered this a success.****
ANYWAY. This brings me to reader tweets/comments/email. The fun thing for me is to find out what stuck with you from the story. I have my favorite parts, so I love hearing yours. I know what *I* think Ben McCullough looks like, but I love to hear what reader’s imagine. I think that the shared universe of a book is something kind of magical. When I see fans of a wildly popular book/series sharing ideas, fan art, world-building theories, character analysis, that book becomes almost like a virtual reality.
That’s why I love reading, and that’s why I love writing. PLUS, I got to spend my morning looking up pictures of hot FBI agents. It really is better than chocolate.
* No, really. Day really gets it RIGHT. You can tell that she loves the Fantasy part as much as the Romance part, and it’s not just an excuse to have the couple to have Magical Soulmate Sex. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I suspect Alyssa might be a bit of a SFF fangirl at heart.
** This is not an exaggeration. I bought a ridiculous number of packages when they went on sale, and if I don’t want Mom to eat them ALL AT ONCE, I have to hide them. When did I become my parent’s parent?
*** Why, yes, that IS pulled from SPIRIT AND DUST! So glad you asked.
**** Dear Ms. Swift. If you’re looking for a starring vehicle, the option on Spirit and Dust is available. Ha ha.*****
**** No, really. Call me. We’ll do lunch.