What Every Author Wants

Whenever I interview children’s or young adult authors, we often end up talking about the enthusiasm of their readers. People who love books love them equally, it seems to me, young or old, but the young express it differently. The comments, for instance, posted on the Youtube version of our interview with Richelle Mead—who writes the very popular Vampire Academy series—are full of anguish and excitement. Reading these comments is like being asked to judge a competition for the world’s biggest Richelle Mead Fan. By comparison, I was having dinner recently after my interview with Jasper Fforde near where a sizable crowd was gathering to hear him read. It was crowded enough that I had to share a table, and my tablemate, it turned out, was there to hear Jasper read. “Should be good,” I said. “He’s an entertaining guy.”

My dinner partner nodded solemnly. “And a very good writer.”

And this is what I hear from a lot of writers of adult fiction, or from writers of YA fiction who have adult readers: adults generally want to let the writer know that they know what really good writing is. Yes, writers have egos, sometimes very big ones, and yes they like to hear what fabulous writers they are—but by and large novels are not written as a four hundred-page test of our writing skills but as a means of sharing something we love.

This obsession with how well something is done is an affliction of sorts of adulthood. It’s to be expected, however. We spend so much time, particularly in school but often on up into the professional world, having what we do graded and ranked and judged, that life can come to be seen as a kind of test that we will either pass or fail. The adult fans obsessed with good writing are letting the author know he or she has passed, and with high marks.

Better, however, to let the writer know how much the book meant to you. It is a lovely human-to-human exchange. More importantly, by not bothering with how well the book was written, the reader gives a great gift to the writer by reminding him or her to always turn their focus back toward what they love. All that good writing has merely allowed someone of a like mind to experience a joy similar to that of the writer when he or she first discovered the story they wanted to tell.

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