By Margaret Lucke
Writing offers many rewards. For some authors the prizes include fame and fortune. While I'm waiting to achieve bestseller status, I measure success in less tangible ways. One of the big ones is the connections I make with readers.
When I began writing, the rewards that kept me going came from the writing process itself. I loved watching characters emerge from my mind and come alive on the page. It was great fun (and sometimes great frustration, but on balance more fun) to figure out what they were going to do next and how to bring their dilemmas to a satisfying conclusion. It was a thrill when I came up with the best word, the perfect phrase, the right image. I gained knowledge and insight along the way.
Then my first novel came out and I discovered the joy of having readers. Writing is a form of communication, after all. Having someone read what you write completes the loop. When a reader gets to know your characters, pays attention to your ideas, has an experience provided by your imagination, and responds in a positive way, then a new dimension of reward has been added.
I'll never forget the excitement I felt the first time a stranger came up to me and said, "I loved your book." It was at a group signing, and I was sitting at a table with three other mystery writers. I looked around to see whom this person was speaking to, because surely it couldn't be me. Then he started talking about specific aspects of the story that he enjoyed, that he thought the author had handled well. And it was my book he was describing. My critique group members, my agent, and my editor had all given me valuable feedback and encouragement along the way. But it was that first conversation with a reader, when I realized that what I wrote could have a real impact, that made me feel like I was really a writer.
I love it when readers speak and link the communication loop back to me. I enjoy knowing my latest tale has brightened their day. I appreciate it when they take the time to offer thoughtful suggestions. I'm touched when I learn that something I wrote made an impact on them.
In my novel A Relative Stranger, my detective Jess Randolph must cope with her mixed emotions when the father who walked on her as a child becomes the prime suspect in a murder and asks for her help. Soon after the book came out I received a letter that said, in part:
"Reading your book made me want to repair my relationship with my son from a previous marriage. I haven't seen him since he was a young boy. It was tough, but I made that call. Next month I'm going to his wedding."
I confess that this letter brought tears to my eyes. What an honor to have my book be his call to action. What a reward. Reading fiction can change someone's life. Writing fiction has certainly changed mine.
Readers, speak to me. I'm listening.