What Do Readers Want to Tell Writers?
Books cannot come to life without readers. Readers co-create stories envisioning characters and story worlds in their imaginations. With that in mind I asked librarian, bibliophile, book blogger and fellow dragon enthusiast, Alyssa Bussard, to visit us here on Dreamwalks to try an experiment–Author interviews Reader/Reader interviews Author (and we share cat pics). When I asked Alyssa if she was game, she replied, “How Awesome!” And so here we go!
Janet: Welcome, Alyssa. I love your blog Books Take You Places. Thanks for visiting Dreamwalks and taking time to explore the reader’s world with me. The first of my 3 questions: What do you love most about books?
Alyssa: Honestly, I am living proof that books save lives. Many years ago, a line in the book Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier turned my entire life around. To this day that quote stands as a reason to keep going despite all obstacles. Books are magical, they are necessary escapes for some and simple pleasures for others. Books can help you be anyone and help you go anywhere and that is true magic.
Janet: I love Juliet Marillier’s Sevenwaters series and have read them many times. It’s great to know someone who shares that love! Next question: What in your opinion should authors do to draw the reader in and keep them engaged?
Alyssa: I always believe that authors should write what they want to read. The passion comes through and you can tell that the author truly loves their subject and their characters. I always have questions about reviewers who talk about, for example, middle grade books being too “dark” for that age because I really don’t agree. Every reader is different no matter their age, etc. When I read the book I mentioned above, I was much much younger than the intended audience and it still resonated with me! I am one of those “bad” YA Librarians that doesn’t censor. I will be honest with parents if they are around regarding the content of a book but otherwise, I am just a book pusher.
Janet: Bravo, Alyssa! I so agree. And now my final question. What do readers need from authors?
Alyssa: There are many ways that I can answer this question. Readers need authors to remember their audience and remember that every book will find its reader. Readers need authors to be sensitive to certain subject matter and know that there are certain lines that shouldn’t be crossed. Readers need authors to keep writing! Keep inventing and keep in mind that what you are doing as an author is important and might just save a life someday.
Janet: Thanks for that, Alyssa. We authors work at our desks for a year or years on a novel, never knowing if a) it will be published or b) if the story will touch a reader. You nailed it that we have to be passionate about our work. For my part I want to hand the readers a gift. Now your turn to share your cats and ask 3.
(My cats Celia and Cordelia — I tell them that they are baby dragons.)
Alyssa: I always find it fascinating to talk to authors about their process. I have heard many authors say that their characters were loud in their head telling their stories and others saying that their characters don’t “talk” to them. What is your process like?
Janet: If I’m writing in first person, the character talks to me at odd times. But whether I write in first or third, the more I talk to a story, the more it talks to me. Hmmm let me explain. I listen as I write, letting the words and images pour through me. There’s a great deal of planning and brainstorming in the early stages beginning with exploring the story’s core question and watching characters evolve from there.
Example: In the Time of Dragon Moon. I explored the question: What if you get your heart’s desire but it’s answered in the wrong way? More than anything, Uma wants to be a healer for her people. She gets her heart’s desire when she’s allowed to heal, but it’s only after she’s abducted and forced to heal Queen Adela, the enemy of her people.
(Uma and the dragon Vazan)
I work in the morning, then flip-flop around in the afternoon catching up on the myriad chores of daily living. But while I’m sweeping or tossing laundry into the washer, I hear the next scene (oh and the dialogue is so perfect when I first hear it). Then I rush up to the office and write it – or if I’m driving, I pull over and jot it down on a scrap of paper. This kind of madness stops if I stop working on the book. But I’m working on a new YA fantasy right now that takes place half on land and half in the sea, and I’m always working on a book so . . .
Alyssa: What is your favorite fantasy land, and why?
Janet: Oh, this is ponderous! I have so many authors and lands that I love. I love Ursula K Le Guin’s Earthsea, and Juliet Marillier’s world of Sevenwaters. But if I had to pick a place, I would choose Middle-earth for its magic, its lushness, many landscapes, varied peoples, and its complex history. Humans are but a small part of Middle Earth, where elves, hobbits, giants, wizards, dwarves and dragons dwell. The world is imbued with a natural elemental magic. I could go on but, I’ll spare the Dreamwalkers.
Janet: Well, I already hoard stories, so I’d hoard manuscripts. My dragons speak DragonTongue, but they also know many human languages, so I’d have manuscripts from all over the world that I could read at my leisure.
Thriss, named after a dragon in one of my books.
Alyssa: Thank you for this opportunity!
Janet: This was a blast, Alyssa.
Find Alyssa on the web:
@ Books Take You Places