This morning I received three emails.
One was from a lady in Scotland who read one of my books and joined my fan page. She wanted me to know how much she appreciated waking up and finding that I had responded to her messages.
The second was from a man in Australia who sent me a list of things he liked about Silent Witness. He highlighted sentences that he particularly liked, but at the end of his note he said “thank you for making Hannah so intelligent.”
The third was from the very first fan I ever had. We’ve been pen pals for 28 years. Now we communicate on the computer but every once in a while we still send one another a card, remember birthdays, the holidays and share information on grandchildren (hers since I only have a grand dog).
The point of all this is that what authors do is extremely personal. It begins with our characters. If we don’t feel them in our souls and translate that feeling into words on the page, our books will be enjoyed but not treasured. When we do make that magic happen and a reader reaches out, opening a personal dialogue with them will make a reader into a fan. In some wonderful instances it also creates a friend.
Here are my top five rules of engagement:
1) Know the personal history and habits of every character in your book and write as if you live and die with them.
2) When a fan writes, write back with more than a thank you. Acknowledge that you appreciate the time they took to write you. I am always excited when someone takes the time to read my work; that they go the extra step is like having a cheerleader in my corner. I want them to know that.
3) Start a personal dialogue slowly. There are those fans that would like more of your time than others and those who wish to have a more personal relationship than you might be willing to enter into. It is up to you to set the parameters. For the most part, though, these relationships will be casual, fun and fulfilling.
4) If a reader contacts you about something in your book that touched them, expound on what got you to that place. For instance, Hostile Witness was inspired by a case my husband handled. As a criminal judge, he sentenced a sixteen-year-old boy to life in adult prison. The character, Hannah, and the plot of that book were based on this experience. It is a bit of personal information that is not too intimate but is interesting to readers.
5) Truly enjoy your interaction with readers, other authors and reviewers.
We are, perhaps, the luckiest people in the world. Despite the fact that our profession is solitary, the result of our labor is a book that reaches hundreds and sometimes thousands of people. When they reach back, that is the hallmark of success. Make sure you know that real life dialogue is part of the joy of writing.
I marketed a world-class spa when it was still called a gym and did business in China before there were western toilettes at the Great Wall. Then I wrote a book on a crazy dare and found my passion.
Now, I am a USA Today and Amazon best selling author with more than 26 books to my name - and if you ask me where all those words came from I'd be hard pressed to tell you. All I know is that I wake up with a story in my head and go to bed the same way.
I write thrillers with an eye toward the very human element of my characters. The Witness Series follows the lives of attorney Josie Bates, her ward, Hannah, and Josie's lover, Archer. The series was voted #1 in PRG Reviewers Choice for series and Eyewitness was voted #1 in the mystery/thriller genre. I try to push creative boundaries with my non-series books. Before Her Eyes garnered a B&P Readers Choice Award for best mystery.
I have taught at the UCLA Writers Program, UC Irvine and Cal State Long Beach and lecture at writers groups, women's conferences and philanthropic events. I am most proud of the work I do with The Young Writers Conference, a program that helps motivate middle school children to explore the power of words. I am particularly drawn to kids who want to write because both my sons have always had a passion for it. Eric is a playwright and novelist (see Eric Czuleger) and Alex is in film.
When I'm not writing I'm traveling, on a tennis court, working a sewing machine or reading. Thank you so much for taking a look at my author page. You can find out more about me - and leave me a note - at www.rebeccaforster.com