In grade school, I regularly hauled tall piles of books home, which would often tumble several times (sorry, librarians!) on the fifteen minute walk home. Once in my room, I would surround myself with stories and spend the rest of the day reading on my bed. I loved those days for reasons any avid reader can relate to, but the best part was trying to figure out: “What was the author thinking?” I still find myself putting a book down for a moment to wonder about that.
More specifically, “Did E. L. Konigsburg (From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Franweiler) have a habit of fantasizing about lurking through closed venues so that, just for a little while, she could have the place to herself?” After reading about her characters running a muck in a museum after hours, I sure daydreamed about it—only I wanted to vacation at the Mystic Aquarium in Massachusetts. Does Suzanne Collins have a passion for outlandish fashion that found its way into The Capitol (Hunger Games)? If JK Rowling was the age of her characters, which one would she fall for? How many hours a day did Tolkien spend utterly lost in his own head? Was Laura Ingalls Wilder’s personality as mild-mannered and calm as her writing voice? What the hell happened to V.C. Andrews before writing the Flowers in the Attic series? As a teacher, does Infinite Ink author Shelbi Wescott (Virulent Series) have her own plan of action ready should the world tumble into a dystopian hell in the middle of a school day? Does Barbara Kingsolver speak with as much imagery in day-to-day conversation as she does in her novels and non-fiction? Let’s not even get started with questions for E.L. James!
A curious thing happened once I wrote my own novels. I mean, no doubt, someone probably wonders about the motivations and psychosis behind my stories, but now I want to know what my readers are all about. Why? Because learning about the minds behind one’s readers can reveal truths about your work. I mean which experiences do they have or lack that color their preferences for or against my work? Has the reader been bullied and can relate to the main character’s plight? Are deep friendships so important to the reader that the ones in my series draw that reader in? Was my novel the first scifi fantasy the reader has ever tried and it turns out they enjoy the genre? Conversely, has the reader been bullied and just doesn’t want to relive it by way of a story? Does the reader tend to prey on those different from herself and finds the story conjures uncomfortable whispers of guilt? And what recipe combining writing, experiences, and personalities won the very unexpected attention of some men in their forties and fifties?
Want to show an author you appreciate their work? Don’t just tell them what you did or did not enjoy. While that information is always appreciated, think about what you brought to the experience of reading their story and share it, if you can. Oh … and if you happen to see your qualities in one of our characters at some point in the future, well … ehem... that’s entirely coincidental! ;)