Sunday, June 17, 2012

Priceless: The Author-Reader Bond

By Barbara Kyle

There's a giveaway on this site of my novel The Queen's Gamble this week, and it got me thinking about the bond between reader and author. Most of us vividly recall a book that changed our lives, whether as young adults or at a crucial moment later in life. That moment makes us feel a special kinship with the author. It's a meeting of minds - even of souls. A potent bond, indeed.

Ask any author and they'll tell you it's always a happy day when a reader gets in touch to say how much that author's book has meant to them. Sometimes the message is moving, like the Yarmouth museum curator who told me The Queen's Lady helped him as he mourned the death of his father. Sometimes the message brings a laugh, like the lady who cheerfully told me she got The Queen's Captive out of the library because she remembered having loved a similar book, and then realized, as she was enjoying The Queen's Captive, that this was the very book she'd read and loved!

Here are three readers whose messages to me were special.

The Colonel 

Some years ago I was in England researching The Queen’s Lady and spent a day exploring Hever Castle in Kent. This was the home of the Boleyn family, and Henry VIII came here to court Anne. That tempestuous affair, as we know, changed the course of England’s history.  

Hever Castle
As I strolled the grounds in a happy haze of imagination, I picked up an acorn. What a lovely feeling to hold in my hand something living from the so-called "dead" past. I squirreled the acorn away in my pocket and brought it home to Canada, and it sat on my desk beside my computer, a sweet reminder of its place of birth as I wrote The Queen’s Lady. The acorn was still on my desk when I wrote The King’s Daughter. It had become a touchstone that spirited me back to the Tudor world. I was very fond of it. 
 
Then my husband and I moved, and in the shuffle the little acorn got lost.

A few months later I got a cheery email from a reader telling me he was on his way to England for an Anne Boleyn Tour during which he’d be staying at Hever Castle. There would be dinners in the Great Hall where Henry and Anne ate, plus lectures, plays, and demonstrations – “A once in a lifetime experience,” he said. I replied to wish him a happy trip and told him about my acorn. He is a retired air force colonel and lives in Tennessee.

Four weeks later a small package arrived in my mailbox. It was from the Colonel. Inside was a note: “I looked for an acorn to replace the one you lost but couldn’t find one.  I did get you this.” Nestled under the note was a pine cone. He had scoured the Hever grounds for it. “It’s from the area where Henry courted Anne, according to the castle staff,” wrote the Colonel. 

I was so touched. The pine cone now sits on my desk beside my computer as I write the next “Thornleigh” book. Thank you, Colonel, for what you gave me. A once in a lifetime experience.


The Embroiderer

A music educator in Ontario recently emailed me with praise about my books and told me she was part of a sewing club of about three dozen ladies who get together at the delightfully-named shop The Enchanted Needle. She said they were working on Tudor period sewing techniques, and she attached images of historic Tudor-era embroidery. Now, I know little about sewing, but I know beauty when I see it.  

Edlin Jewelry Case

Parham Park House


Wollaton Cap

As she waxed lyrical about bygone sewing techniques like "stumpwork" and "Assisi," "blackwork" and "bargello," "cross-stitching" and "the morphing power of color," I could only, in ignorance, try to keep up, but when she said my books inspired her in this Tudor-era needlework I was moved again by how glorious and various are the connections between author and reader.


The Boy

That's what I'll call him, the gangly pale-faced kid who showed up at a public reading I did from The Queen's Gamble and listened so intensely. He looked about fourteen, the only person there who was so young. After the reading I saw him at the edge of the knot of people I was chatting with. The others all asked lively questions, but he said nothing. He looked like he wanted to, but he never took a step nearer. When I finished talking to the eager questioners, I noticed the boy was gone.

Some days later I found in my mailbox a package: a slender book and a note. The writer of the note said he'd been at the reading, and was a high school student who loved history, and he hoped to one day be a history teacher. My novels were his favorites, he said. The book he'd enclosed was Bloody Tower by Valerie Wilding, a young adult novel in the form of a Tudor girl's diary. It had meant a lot to him when he was younger, he said, so he wanted to share it with me.


There, now I've shared it with you. That's what the writer-reader bond is. We share what touches us. And that connection is what makes the writer's work a joy.

________________________________

Barbara Kyle is the author of the acclaimed "Thornleigh" novels which follow a family through three turbulent Tudor reigns. All are published internationally.

The Queen's Gamble an "Editor's Choice" of the Historical Novels Review

Her upcoming novel The Rival Queens features Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots. It will be released in early 2013. See Barbara's blog post on this site about these two famous rivals.

Twitter: @BKyleAuthor

27 comments:

  1. So looking forward to your up and coming historical novel Barbara. Great post.. Thank you for your great candour and insight.

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    1. Thanks, Elizabeth - I'm so glad you enjoyed this.

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  2. These are all very special memories to cherish, Barbara. One of the reasons we write.

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    1. You are so right, Maggi. As a fellow author I'm sure you agree that we're fortunate indeed in our work.

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  3. Barbara, I love your anecdotes. I've been fortunate enough to have such things come my way, as well. As I'm sure many authors have.

    A reader sent me a wonderful letter and a hand embroidered post-card after reading one of my fantasies.
    Another reader sent a charming letter and a picture of herself reading the book as she leaned against the door frame of her beautiful heritage manor in the UK.
    And the most important reader of all is a woman I subsequently can call a BF, she made a small miniature of a map which finally led us into a creative partnership.

    There have been a number of such things through the last four years. I have a special box to store those memorable receipts. More than any royalties, or even reviews, when these people take the time to do kindly what they do, you know you have achieved something very special: to entertain and make a memory.

    Wonderful post. Thank you!

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    1. What lovely anecdotes! I love your "special box" for such mementos.

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  4. That's so sweet and touching! Thank you for sharing :)

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  5. Lovely post, Barbara. I've had emails from readers, which has been very lovely, but nothing as touching as what you've related here. I do keep a beech leaf on my desk for a similar reason you once kept your acorn. I expect my cats will one day eat it. Or perhaps it will one day be replaced. Who knows. Beautiful, thoughtful post, Barbara. Thank you for sharing it.

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    1. Farida and V.R. it's been a pleasure hearing other authors like you respond with tales of their own reader mementos. (Guard that beech leaf, V.R!)

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  6. Thank you for your wonderful post, Barbara!

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  7. Hi Barbara,

    I love reading your Thornleigh series. You take the reader into a tumultuous period in England's history and wrap them up in a story that makes it so difficult to put down!

    Judy

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    1. Wanda and Judy, I'm very grateful for your comments :)

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  8. Thanks Barbara for getting me on the road to writing. I took a course you taught at Canadore College in North Bay, Ontario a number of years ago. Congratulations on your successes!
    Sandy

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    1. How nice to hear from you, Sandy! On that "road to writing" you mention, I hope you're enjoying the journey.

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  9. What fabulous stories, Barbara. Thank you for sharing them. Books have a wonderful way of opening up new worlds for us.

    Wishing you the best,

    Cheryl

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  10. Hi, Barbara! I treasure my special friendships with authors to whom I have grown close. They are treasures in that we email one another frequently and share funny anecdotes. I think it's so wonderful how authors are always giving away books and other gifts to their readers. It's fun to give back. I have done that with my author friends and am always on the lookout for something special to slip into the mail. It sounds as though you have made some great reader friends as well.

    Thanks for sharing the stories of your special readers today.

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    1. Thanks for your kind comments, Connie. Yes, reader friends are special indeed.

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  11. How awesome that we can in this day and age be in touch with a few keystrokes. I love to read how authors write and communicate with their readers. I think that 20 years ago when I bought a book there would be very little chance to talk to an author about their works. Now with the help of the internet and book tours, we can be on a first name basis with our favorite authors. I also love your books Barbara and look forward to the next one!!!

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    1. You're so right. Paradoxically, the technology allows us to be more intimate. Hooray for that. (So glad you've enjoyed the books.)

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  12. Love these special bonds you shared...especially the boy's! How touching.

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  13. Hi Everyone and Barbara...

    Not only am I waiting for the Rival Queens, the next of the Thornleigh series, I'm waiting for the Thornleighs to come to the big screen. Hugh Laurie and Bonham Carter as never before. Anyone out there got any ideas for Isabel and Carlos? The Embroiderer

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    1. Barbara I have enjoyed all your pages here so far. The Embroiderer, the young boy and the Acorn and the pine cone.

      What about Jane Seymour or Judith Dench , Helen Merin for "The Embroiderer"...
      So happy we have met here. I love to read and will read yours next.

      I live in Las Vegas if you are ever here I'd love to meet you. :)

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    2. I wrote to you here but it did not post it.

      Barbara for the movie 'The Thornleighs" what about Jane Seymour, Judith Dench, or Helen Merin for "The Embrioderer".

      I have enjoyed reading many of the writings here.
      The Acorn~Pinecone story. The young boy and the book. Many reviews and thoughts of your readers. I will continue to read your blog and start reading your books.

      Thank you for friending me. I live in Las Vegas and if you come to town would love to meet you. Hugs, Reina Magedman









      '
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  14. Hi Barbara,
    Thanks for sharing these touching stories. I'm particularly impressed by the last one and that young man for taking the time to follow up and send you a book, wow.
    Evadne

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    1. Yes, it was pretty impressive of him. I'm sure you agree that he'll make a fine history teacher.

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  15. Hi Barbara,
    During the classic movie, "The Wizard of Oz," the first of the movie is presented in black and white. Although enjoyable, it is very drab and dull with its various shades of gray and sepia. However, when Dorothy opens that door and enters the magical land of Oz, she is immediately immersed in a wonderful world of color. There are gorgeous colors of every type imaginable, and it is bright, shiny and sparkling. The same thing happens when a reader opens up a Barbara Kyle novel. They are probably used to the dull black and white of previous books but once they open a Kyle book they are transformed into a completely different experience, a most enjoyable one of vivid color.

    I've said it before and I will say it again, I consider you to be the "Rolls Royce" of historical novelists. Please keep up the good work and if possible, write faster.

    Elmer Follis

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    1. Ah, Elmer, you do have a way with words! I've always loved the moment when The Wizard of Oz movie bursts into color, so it's an honor to have you say my books give the same experience. Thank you for that.

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