As I write this letter, I can imagine you tipping your head back and laughing that larger than life laugh of yours and telling me I’m mad for choosing you. You’ll make a joke about it and I’ll laugh too, but then I’ll shake my head and tell you, ‘I’m not mad’ (not always anyway).
See, the thing is, our debuts came out around the same time; back in 2015 when I was trying my hand at romance and not doing all that well at it. But straight off the bat I felt this connection to you. I thought of us as in something together. And then I read your first book, How To Be Brave, and I remember vividly being utterly blown away by the beauty of your writing and the way you weaved the story of a lifeboat in 1943 and a little girl in the present with a life-threatening illness. A mother and a daughter, a long ago grandfather, all struggling against the odds.
From the very first sentence on the very first page, I was a fan of you. And I realised we weren’t connected. You were in a different league. A different universe to me, it felt. And so I was a fan, but more than that, I was a writer inspired. Your debut novel encouraged me to push myself further and harder. It made me question the words I used and the characters I chose. It made me want to be better.
So I went away and kept on writing. So did you. Year on year our books have come out. Mine have got better I hope. And every time I picked up a new book of yours, I thought to myself, ‘yeah, but you’ll never top How to be Brave in my mind.’ Except then you did. You went and wrote The Lion Tamer Who Lost. A story about identity and love and family and dreams. A book that destroyed me and then put me back together again. Was it possible I had a new favourite? Yes. Although not for long. Because then you wrote This Is How We Are Human – a book about a young man with autism and a mother who desperately wants her son to experience his life to the full. It’s a story that hits you right in your soul. I laughed and I cried and I saw the world so differently.
Your writing always touches a place in our hearts and our thoughts, and I will forever be inspired by you and cherish each book you write.
I’m completely honoured to have met you now a few times, to have chatted online, and to think of you as my friend. So the next rounds on me.
With love and gratitude,