Deb Susan Doesn’t Know Who She Loves

… but she’d like to.

About a week before my book release, I received an amazing email. A reader  who received an ARC through Goodreads went to the trouble of locating my website and emailing me to tell me how much she enjoyed the book.

Not just that … she thanked me for writing it.

Talk about blown away.

It meant the world to me that someone actually took the time to find me and send an email. I responded, thanking her for loving the book and also for letting me know. I still smile every time I think about it–and, of course, I’ve kept the email.

That beautiful compliment started me thinking. 13H Teacup

As authors, we hear from friends and family who read (and hopefully enjoy) our books. On lovely occasions, we meet other readers at signings or online. Every author I know adores those moments, but they represent only the tip of the iceberg. Our audiences consist, for the most part, of people we’ll never know.

Yet we–or, at least I–love each and every one of them. I am deeply grateful to every person who takes the time to read my book. I hope they enjoy it, but even if they don’t they have given me a gift of time and attention. Ordinarily, I thank the people who give me gifts, and it’s a very odd feeling to consider the thousands, or tens of thousands, of thank-you notes which must, by necessity, go unsent in the course of an author’s career.

It is a humbling thing not to know everyone who loves your work, and a curious feeling to love and be grateful to people you’ll never meet. As I write this, my book is “on hold” or “Status: Checked Out” at libraries across this country and also abroad. There are copies in the U.S. military’s library in Europe. Soldiers are reading my book. Soldiers–and civilians–I will never meet, whose names I will never know. And that doesn’t even touch on the people who bought the book in bookstores and online.

A humbling thought, indeed.

It’s easy for authors, especially new ones, to focus on numbers: sales, signings, copies on the shelf. It’s easy to fall for the trap that says success is measured by hard and fast data, by royalties, or by spots on the bestseller list. It’s easy to ask what the novel is doing for you, and to forget what it does for the people who hug it and squeeze it and lovingly call it George. (Or Dave, or Hiro…call it anything you’d like. I’m good with that.) And yet, though I may not know the names of all my readers, I do know something important about them:

One claw  They are the reason I  do this, and at the end of the day they are #1 on the list of the reasons that writing matters.

An 83 year-old woman stayed up all night to read my book. She asked her daughter to tell me to “write faster, because I’m old and I don’t want to miss the rest of the series.”

If I live to be 83 myself, or even 103, I will never ever forget how that makes me feel.

I might not know everything about writing, but I know that I love every one of my readers, whether or not I ever hear their names. And I know that I will strive to write as well (and as fast!) as I can–because the people I don’t know deserve the best that I can give them.

How has what don’t you know about life impacted the way you live it?


7 Replies to “Deb Susan Doesn’t Know Who She Loves”

  1. I’ve come to realize that I have no idea what is coming next. Ever. I might think I do – but surprises pop up when you least expect them. Some good, some bad. I’ve come to realize that control is an illusion. I can shape my life in certain ways, but I can’t know when tragedy – or opportunity – will strike. So I try to live each day as completely as possible as it goes by, and live whatever comes as joyously as possible.

  2. I often feel like I know nothing, which can paralyze me until I realize that the answers are coming whether I like them or not. So I get ready. And you’re right. It’s hard to remember sometimes how much writing matters. I am going to write that on a post-it note and stick it on my head!

  3. Hi Susan!

    I don’t think of myself as knowing much. I absorb things, get a sense for things, see patterns, make connections, synthesize information — but actually remembering facts that I can turn around and use in scintillating conversation? Hah!

    I think I tend to be a listener because of this. I’m not much good a cocktail party conversations. 🙂

    Cheers, Lisa

  4. When one of my readers said Jack (my protagonist with Down Syndrome) sounded “exactly like her brother’s voice” (and she’s known her brother fop 46 years!), that compliment meant and means more to me than all the money in the world!

  5. Awe, that was a lovely post indeed. I’m not at that level yet with my writing, but I do relate to feeling when someone takes the time, reads, and then responds, especially. It’s like, “Yes! It was all worth it, and No, I’m not (terribly) crazy – that was just as good as my mother having me tested”

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