Russell Kirkpatrick's Journal
They are so insincere. They allow us to be far harsher with each other than we ought to be. They remove the need for moderate language. They mask the most appalling rudeness. Yet another way of strangling the language - or of hiding in plain sight.
Many authors hate fanmail, but I love it. Hearing personally from readers is one of the great things about being an an author. Of course I enjoy the praise: yes, I do occasionally get praise from misguided or sheltered individuals :) But I enjoy the critical emails just as much.
Now my first series is available in the US I get a lot more of the latter, funnily. Those stateside sure don't mind giving me an earful if they don't like my work. I'm intrigued by such gems as:
'I've read all three of your books. I hated the first one and the other two aren't any better.'
The sort of chap who sticks his finger in an electrical socket a second time, perhaps? Did it really hurt that much? Ow!
Or: 'I read your first book and it's crap. I want a refund!'
I replied: 'I'm eating a Big Mac right now with the proceeds of the book you bought. Sorry, but you wouldn't want the refund.'
I've had emails from peope demanding reimbursement from improperly bound books. One castigates me for my 'terible writing [sic]'.
Others, however, have made good points. I even had a reviewer point something out about my first book I hadn't seen: the Company all act as loners, there's no real bonding. On reflection I think she's right.
Keep the fanmail coming.
I often get asked this question. Those asking seem to think I'll tell them about the glamour, the fame and the fortune.
Well, there's none of the first, little of the second and intermittent amounts of the third.
There's no glamour. I'm constantly thinking about the story: everything I see, everyone I encounter, is potential story fodder. (Of course, you're other things too!) The act of writing hurts - I have tendonitis in both arms.
There's a little fame. A couple of weeks ago I flew down to Christchurch: the guy in the seat next to me was reading a fantasy novel. Eventually he asked me what I did. I gave him the list: lecturer, map maker, author. 'You're not Russell Kirkpatrick, are you?' he asked, and proceeded to tell me how much he liked my books ... that's fame. But everyone else I've met has no idea who I am - and nor should they.
Fortune depends on so many things, not just book sales. What sort of contract you have, what your annual output is like, how promptly you get paid - I have one large contract already 18 months overdue. You get paid once every six months, and when the payment arrives it's already more than nine months and up to fifteen months after the fact.
Do I love it? Yes.
It's minus 2.8 degrees, frosty and so perfect for golf. Before I go, time to get the Trudi Hat.
Timely I should talk about the Trudi Hat, given Trudi and Paul have just finished visiting. Trudi is a successful writer and Paul is an even more successful minder, whose mission is to prevent Trudi purchasing enough wool to put NZ's Balance of Payments into the black (and Australia's further into the red). That he succeeded was no thanks to me, who carted Trudi to as many wool shops as I could find.
We had a great time with them. I drove them from Christchurch to Queenstown at the start of their visit, then two weeks later they spent four nights with us in Hamilton. We saw glow-worms and kiwis, hot pools and mist, and the interior of wool shops, record stores and antique stores. I kept the central locking active and bored them silly with whatever drivel I could come up with - history, geology and other outright lies.
They're gone now, but I have the Trudi Hat on my table. A couple of years ago, when I was last in Queenstown (with Ellen Datlow) I found some possum/merino wool. Sounded interesting, so I bought a few balls and sent them to Trudi, who I know is an avid knitter. (Is there any other kind?) Thought nothing more of it until later that year when I went over to Melbourne for a convention. Trudi welcomes me with a beanie and scarf knitted out of the wool I'd sent. This brought a tear to my eye, and the flow of joy was only increased when she pointed out how narrow the scarf was - not because she'd run out of wool, she claimed, but because I have very little neck. I might not have much neck, but Trudi had a lot of front! (It's an expression, Trudi.)
So today I get to use it in anger for the first time.