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writer responsibility

March 24, 2009

It’s been several years since I discovered author Dean Koontz, and when I read FROM THE CORNER OF HIS EYE, I was so profoundly touched by the story that I wrote him a letter.

It was the first time I’d ever sent any correspondence to an author (or any other famous person, for that matter) and I confess I felt rather silly. Nevertheless, even if he never read my letter, I felt compelled to praise his lyrical prose and genuine storytelling talent.

Six months later, long after I’d forgotten about the letter, I received a large envelope with Dean Koontz’s name un the upper left-hand corner. Certain that the envelope contained nothing but promotional materials, I let it sit on the dining room table for a few days before I finally tore it open.

Inside was the Dean Koontz print newsletter, but on top was a folded white sheet of paper. I opened it and discovered a typed letter explaining that my message had been received, and that while he would love to answer each letter personally, he simply didn’t have the time.

At the bottom, however, was a message printed in ink:

Sam, So glad you enjoyed FROM THE CORNER OF HIS EYE. I’ve enclosed a few bookplates for your copy. –Dean Koontz

The fact that Dean Koontz had included a personal message touched me in ways I cannot describe. Here is this very successful author whose prolific dedication to his craft must claim most of his waking hours, yet he takes a few moments to scribble a note of thanks.

This isn’t about hero worship or a serendipitous brush with celebrity. This is about human kindness, about an author who takes his fans seriously and doesn’t place himself above the masses.

After I received the bookplates—each handwritten, by the way—I vowed to treat readers with the same courtesy should I ever become a published novelist.

A few days ago, however, I was surfing the Internet randomly and decided to look up Stephenie Meyer’s web site. I touched on the Twilight series briefly in a previous post, citing numerous problems with the prose, but my husband was interested in seeing the movie that was just released by Summit Entertainment.

Plus, I like visiting authors’ web sites. Sometimes you discover unique gems of information.

What I discovered on Stephenie Meyer’s web site appalled me. Apparently, she is far too busy and famous to even accept fan mail, let alone read it. Last I checked, even J.K. Rowling accepts fan mail, and will even sign book covers and photographs if requested.

This baffles me. It seems to me that writers have a responsibility to their fans. After all, if it weren’t for readers, writers wouldn’t have any career at all.

It just seems beyond arrogant for Stephenie Meyer to imply that she is so famous that she can’t be bothered with her fans. What do you guys think? Do writers have a responsibility, or is this a personal judgment call?

7 Comments leave one →
  1. March 24, 2009 11:52 am

    Wow, Mr. Koontz is a gentleman and a scholar. I’m impressed. Even if his secretary typed the thing, unbeknownst to him, he still has someone who is instructed to reply with a personalized note. So he does care about his fans. I would like to believe that most authors are not as full of themselves as Hollywood actors, that they have a better grasp of reality and their place in it.

    I am DISGUSTED at Meyer. I am so glad I have not given that woman a plug nickel by buying one of her books, or seeing the movie. I was thinking about renting it when it comes out on DVD (actually I think it’s out now) just because it’s filmed in my locale (the Columbia River Gorge here in OR) but now I don’t even want to do that. I have no patience with ‘celebrities’ who can’t be bothered with their fans. Ursula Le Guin will even send 6 signed bookplates if you send her an SASE. She doesn’t promise to answer letters, but she says she does read every one she gets.

    If I ever manage to get published and someone reads my stuff and takes the trouble to write, I will certainly respond.

  2. Sam Tamlyn permalink*
    March 25, 2009 5:30 am

    I’m pretty sure the typed letter was a form letter sent by his assistant, but it looked like the note was in Koontz’s handwriting. It matched the signature, anyway.

    I feel the same way about Meyer. I finally broke down last night and let my husband rent Twilight from Red Box so we could watch it during dinner. Don’t waste your money on the movie, either. I said, “If I hadn’t read the book, I would have no freakin’ clue what was going on in the flick.”

    Good to hear about Le Guin. I just think that writers insult their fans when they close themselves off. Like, “Sorry, no, I don’t have time for you.” Very arrogant.

  3. March 25, 2009 9:25 am

    Oh gosh, I misunderstood, when you said “printed” I thought you meant like printed off a printer! I’m even more impressed now, that is really extraordinary.

    My son’s gf asked me the other day if I’d seen the “Twilight” movie. I simply said, “No”, knowing where the conversation was going. Oh yes, she thought it was great. Argh. Well, she’s young yet, maybe she’ll learn.

  4. Sam Tamlyn permalink*
    March 25, 2009 10:18 am

    My fault. 🙂 The movie is definitely marketed toward a much younger age bracket, but I still don’t see how anyone who hasn’t read the books could possibly understand it. Boy meets girl and…uh, he’s a vampire, and they’re instantly in love. What?

  5. April 3, 2009 10:14 am

    Hi Sam,

    Do you remember where on Meyer’s site she says she doesn’t want fan mail? I’m trying to find it to show someone else. I’ve been poking around the site but no luck.

  6. Sam Tamlyn permalink*
    April 3, 2009 8:12 pm

    Here you go: No Fan Mail to Stephenie Meyer. Second paragraph.

    “For those of you hoping to find an email address or a way to contact Stephenie — I apologize. There is currently no way for fans to get in contact with her. Stephenie is still much too busy to re-open her fan email or snail mail addresses.”

    Gag me.

  7. April 3, 2009 9:28 pm

    Wow, gag me indeed. She’s a piece of work. I have never heard of an author who couldn’t at least be contacted through their publisher. I’m still astounded she ever got published. It just kills me to think of all the really fine books that don’t get published, and this crap does. :::shaking head:::

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