10 January 2012

Kristen Chandler on: Fan Mail

As a reader and blogger, I find myself terrified whenever I face the impossibility of emailing an author.  I told one of my favorite authors once that they were like the Olympian gods and I a mere mortal.  I know a lot of bloggers who are on a first-name basis with their favorite authors.  (This is my response to that: O.O)  

After packing up the courage, I found the audacity to email Kristen Chandler, author (of the absolutely fabulous, amazing, incredible *cuts self off*) of Wolves, Boys, and Other Things That Might Kill Me and her most recent novel, Girls Don't Fly.  I asked her a few questions about how she, as an author, handles her email.

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How do you handle the hordes of emails you must get?  Do you answer every single one, or use auto-responders?

I answer all my own mail. I once heard Jean Craighead George, the author of Julie of the Wolves, say she answered all her mail. The woman has written over one hundred books! If she can find time to respond to her own mail, I know can.  
Some of my favorite experiences are with readers that I’ve met at signings and at school visits who write to me on a continuing basis. I will see some of these readers over and over at signings if they're local, or if not, I’ll get updates from them online and it cracks me up. One group of middle schoolers even sent me their album, which was pretty darn good. The one thing I can’t do is read and comment on whole books, so when I give people my website info I like to warn them of that. 
It’s really satisfying for me to interact with readers! I know some authors don’t like it, and some are completely obsessed with “their fans.” I prefer to think of reader interaction as one of the best perks of my job. Then I go off into my study and write what my characters want.

Have you received hate mail?  What's your response?

Sigh. No one has sent me hate mail, directly. Maybe I should tweet on political candidates or something. :) 
After I published both books I worried about repercussions, but not when I was writing and editing them. I’m kind of a jump-and-then-look-girl. The first book is about such a tough subject for people in the American West, the reintroduction of wolves to this area. I thought people might go crazy but overall most, not all, but most, think the book is balanced. 
Everyone seems to have an opinion on the subject however! Wow! The second book has had some very surprising responses, so far from my creative impulse that I am a little baffled by the it, but no hate mail yet. In the end, both books are about girls trying to figure out their lives in tough situations, so if I make readers think about what they would do in the character’s shoes I feel happy about that. That’s one of the coolest things about reading.  
In general, I think hate mail is always more about the person writing it than the person it’s directed at. I know that sounds preachy, but really I can't take people's opinions personally or I'd be paralyzed as a writer and as a person.

How do you act when someone says they don't like your novel?

Of course I'd love it if everyone loved my books! Who wouldn't?! I have to admit that making people laugh is my nirvana. I live for that moment when I'd doing a reading and people snicker. But if people don't like my books I'm really okay with that. Maybe it comes from being the middle child in a family of seven, but I never anticipate that I'm going to please everyone.  
One of the great things about what I see happening in writing today is there is something for everyone. A decade ago it was all about “the next big thing.” Publishers were obsessed with highly commercial “best sellers.” Which really killed creativity. But I think like in retail and other areas of commerce, the internet has helped readers diversify their taste and create niche markets, which have flowered into thriving markets. Viking took a chance on a book about real wolves, and readers have taken a chance on buying it. Then the trusted me to write about birds and bad boyfriends. Crazy, huh?  
I believe that writers should write what they love and fear. If I loved or feared belly lint I would write about that. Lucky for me I’m not that into belly lint!  
What I like to say to myself is this, if I love writing my story, someone else is going to love reading it.

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Thank you, Ms. Chandler for taking the time to answer these questions! :)

Kristen Chandler has been a ranch hand, waitress, salesperson, ice cream store manager, secretary, freelance journalist, and college writing instructor.  She lives outside Salt Lake City, Utah, with her four children, two cats, and a bad dog.