Being an entertainer at heart, I love staying in touch with my readers. In doing so, not only do I extend their reading experience and, occasionally, answer plot questions or discuss alternate endings, but I gain interesting insight into the minds of those who honor me by allowing my stories to become a part of their lives. Some of their emails and reviews have proven to be surprising, to say the least.
“You’re a woman!” one reader wrote in an email. “I never buy crime thrillers written by women, but I’m glad I made that mistake.” I must confess that stung a little bit; I was taken aback by his comment. I understand how my name could be misleading, the androgynous quality of the name Leslie being the culprit there.
I couldn’t help but ask for more details, especially why he wouldn’t consider crime fiction authored by women. The reply, apologetic and seeping embarrassment, went on to explain that most women authors load their books with unwanted romance. I remember staring at the computer screen for a while; after all, the prejudice exists, and it costs women authors a significant chunk of change in sales. Otherwise, JK Rowling wouldn’t’ve been advised by her publishers to use her initials as a pen name, just to increase her marketability. And she’s not the only one. [Sigh].
Change takes time, generations even, and it happens in small steps. One such step happened that day, when this reader found that he’d been wrong, and he was determined to give female crime novelists a fair chance going forward.
“You kept me company after my surgery,” came a thank-you note from an eighty-seven old woman. It was humbling, and brought tears to my eyes.
When I write, I’m focused on who kills whom and why, on the police procedure and the storylines and all that, but since that day I’ve been increasingly aware that my books touch people’s lives, and that means responsibility, and a commitment to make them good – because time is the gift my readers give me, and time cannot be taken for granted.
Soon thereafter, there was another email of the same nature that said, “You almost got me fired today”. Apparently, this reader had read through the night, then fell asleep at her desk the following day. Oops.
“Maybe Leslie Wolfe is a psychopath or just a heck of a researcher (hope it’s the second one).” That propped my left eyebrow right up there. Okay, that’s new, I said to myself. But then I smiled. I absolutely love writing serial-killer stories with direct, first-person accounts of the why and the how behind their decisions to kill. Of their secret urges, of their sleepless nights spent hunting for their next victim. And I was thrilled that someone thought that to be noteworthy. Dear reader, thank you for enabling my secret passion!
“I fell into the Leslie Wolfe hole,” was the final sentence in a reader’s email. Well, I had no idea such a thing existed. Apparently, it’s what happens when a reader and new fan, as she explained it, drops everything and reads all the books in a newly discovered series, abandoning housework, cooking, all the daily chores. My overactive imagination immediately visualized a table surrounded by screaming, starving children banging their forks against empty plates, just like inmates before a prison uprising. Ouch.
“I believe you wrote the perfect murder,” another reader pointed out. “Aren’t you afraid someone might use what they learned from you?” Whoa… Easy now, buddy, I really don’t like where your mind is going. But we can’t control what other people do. Well, here’s to thinking, and hoping, that real killers don’t have time to read.
“I think I know where you live, and I drove by your house last night.” That email brought a chill down my spine, and I immediately pulled the curtains shut. A little-known side effect from writing serial killers with deviant pathologies; sometimes, the odd reader takes it a step too far. Thankfully, he had me confused with someone else. Whew.
“When’s the movie coming out?” This is a question I receive quite often, in various forms, from many readers. It makes me laugh a little, because usually we say, “I’ll wait until the movie comes out,” when we don’t want to spend the time reading the book. But that’s not what they mean.
“These characters would be great for a new television series (hint, hint, Amazon!),” a reader added, talking about my latest release, The Girl From Silent Lake. And indeed, they are, I say with the conviction of a proud mother who firmly believes her offspring are the best and brightest of them all. Yet hearing other people saying it is the ultimate compliment my work could ever receive, for which I’m deeply grateful.
The Girl From Silent Lake is available now!
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