Reaching Authors

When I was little, I adored The Famous Five. I wrote a letter to Enid Blyton to tell her so. This was quite a big deal. I can’t remember if I actually found some sort of address or if I just sent it to “Enid Blyton, England” in the certain knowledge that she was so famous it was bound to find her but I wrote her a fan letter.

I gushed about how much I loved The Famous Five and how wonderful she was. I took time and wrote very neatly in my best writing and sent it off, shaking with excitement because I was writing to a real author and of course she would reply and I would treasure it for the rest of my life.

She never wrote back.

Of course, the fact that she’d been dead for about 20 years may have been some sort of excuse, but still. Anyway, although my love of her books remained and I went on to devour more for years, especially the St Clare’s series, I didn’t try to connect with any more authors. Maybe some little part of me decided that she hadn’t written back because authors just don’t do that – they are mystical creatures who must be kept on pedestals. I kind of equated authors with pop stars; in fact they were even more amazing because I wasn’t really ever into pop music but books were my best friends. I think my parents did try and tell me that Enid Blyton was dead but by then the damage was done; I was SCARRED for life (well, ok that might be a slight exaggeration. But only slight *sniff*).

Anyway, I was thinking about it all the other day. I was lucky enough to receive a proof copy of a fantastic book, which I’ll be reviewing soon (if you’re interested, it was Bloodstone by Gillian Philip, the sequel to Firebrand which I reviewed on here last year as well as interviewing Seth MacGregor, the main character). There were frequent occasions when I picked up my phone and tweeted a message to Gillian to say how much I’d enjoyed a particular part. I didn’t even think about it until one really heartstopping moment after which I sent her a private message telling her how that one passage had made me feel. Then out of nowhere I remembered my Enid Blyton debacle and the contrast really struck me.

It was nothing to send an author a quick message, not just about how much I liked her work overall, but about one particular passage of one particular book. And Gillian messaged me back. This was nothing unusual, we frequently chat on Twitter but that in itself is quite amazing when you stop to think about it. I think it is amazing, actually, on many levels. As an aspiring author myself now, I dream about fan mail, who doesn’t? And things like Twitter and Facebook Pages and this blog make it so much easier to get that fan mail and feedback quickly. I reckon if I get published feedback like this will keep me motivated and and reassured that people are enjoying my writing (hopefully anyway…). And for the reader, especially younger readers perhaps, that sense of authors being mystical beings who must be worshipped from afar might be broken down as they can reach them way more easily than I could. It’s another little endorsement for the Wonders of the Internet and a reminder that we are very lucky to have the technology that we do.

I do wonder what Enid Blyton would have made of it. Would she have been on Twitter? Not likely, from some of the things I’ve heard. Maybe she is an author best admired from afar, I don’t know. But it’d be great fun to think of what her twitter name would be. @gingerbeer maybe?

15 thoughts on “Reaching Authors”

  1. @gingerbeer would have been a good name but sounds like a joiner-in. @farawaytree?

    Positive feedback on blogs is much like fanmail and gives me a small flutter of pleasure when it happens, as do positive comments after a poetry reading. It depends what you see as the purpose of fanmail – to let an author know you enjoyed something, or to get a response from them. I’ve been to a Q&A at the Old Vic in which Kevin Spacey was taking part and some of the questions were definitely asked purely so the questioner could say to friends, ‘Well, Kevin Spacey said to me that…’.

    Technology has changed so it’s easier now to let authors know how we feel. If @gingerbeer didn’t bother acknowledging positive tweets we’d soon stop following her…;-)

  2. I was terribly cautious about blogging and then about Twitter – did those people really want to be bothered by me? I wonder what some of the authors I met in my teens would have made of Twitter too. I met Patrick White once – Australia’s Nobel Prize for Literature winner. He was not a nice person at all and I am sure he would have thought Twitter was beneath him. There were some other lovely people however who would have joined in the wonderful banter on Twitter.
    I have a whole new “family” who talk the language of “writing” on Twitter and it is something I really appreciate…purrs to you my Twitter friend.

  3. That non-reply from Enid Blyton really was your Julie & Julia moment, wasn’t it.

    Someone would have taken her name on Twitter and never used the account (sore spot) so she’d be something like @therealenid (account verified).

  4. Hi,
    Ooh, the heartache of being spurned by a hero (even if she’s dead!). Glad to see you’ve survived it.

    And I’ve had the same reactions as Catdownunder – why would they want to hear from me – but it turns out that in general the same rules apply as in real life: Be gracious and don’t stand too close, butting in ALL the time and people will respond well to you.

  5. We authors are fickle creatures like any other. I, for one, love it when people get in touch to tell me they have enjoyed my writing. Why else do we publish other than to entertain and to share our work? And if people like it, that’s fantastic!

  6. What a lovely post! I’ve only been published (Ya urban fantasy ebook!) for nearly two months but I have had several wonderful emails/tweets/facebook messages from readers and it has totally made my day (week/month/year!). I remember feeling the same as you did when I was a child. Authors were like gods and goddesses in my eyes. I was totally in awe of them. I’m not sure what many of the classic authors would think of how we network these days though!

  7. Since I’m an expat, this modern form of communication make all my emails and such seem like fan mail. Everyday I marvel at what we can do with computers and the Internet. I’ve met hundreds of people I’d have never met otherwise. And reconnected with people I thought I’d lost forever. It’s a wonderful thing.

  8. Oh I do like @farawaytree! Perfect! I guess fanmail is mostly to let an author know we enjoyed their work, but isn’t there a little tiny hope that we’ll get something back? 😉

  9. Purrs to you too! I love the ‘language of writing’ on twitter, it really fills a hole in me that I couldn’t have even identified a couple of years ago.

  10. I’ve survived it – just! 😉 I do worry I butt in too much but otherwise it’s been a wonderful revelation, how much people respond. The biggest difference to real life is that in real life i don’t get to go to the places authors are – London, Edinburgh, festivals, conferences, so a whole range of opportunities that would have been closed are thrown wide open.

  11. Some of them still are gods and goddesses to me lol. I think some of the classic authors would have embraced it. Jane Austen for instance – would have had a touch of snark and little patience for timewasters but I think she’d have been genuinely delighted to engage. And the victorian authors did their own face-to-face networking I believe – weren’t Dickens and Collins and Gaskell all friends, as were Tolkien and Lewis in the mid 20th century?

  12. Hear hear! Thanks for commenting, and summing up my own experience perfectly. And I appreciate how much more vital online communication must be to an ex-pat.

  13. From the tone of your article ‘Reaching Authors’ I assume you don’t think Enid Blyton would have answered your letter if she had been alive. She did actually respond to all letters from her young fans, thousands and thousands of letters. I actually have many of these letters in my Blyton collection as proof of this. I also believe she definitely would have joined in the likes of Twitter etc if she was still here. She is portrayed as being old fashioned but that’s only because she was writing between 1917-1968 so thats to be expected. She actually was continually changing and I have a letter she wrote to one of her publishers saying that writers who are worried about the ‘new’ Televison taking over books just need to change what they are doing, she expanded her writing to include the Famous Five Play and the Noddy Play (in the 50s) both still being performed today. And don’t be too influenced by the negative press about Enid Blyton due to the film ENID. That film was obviously produced with the intension of creating scandal. It exaggerated all the bad and completely left out all the good in Enids life, of which there is plenty.


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