When readers call you on the carpet what do you do?
August 30, 2012
I live in a small town and write books that go up on Amazon. When I look at my sales reports, I can’t tell where someone bought my book except I know whether the reader purchased it on Amazon.com, or in the UK store, or in France, Germany or Spain. Other than that, I don’t have a clue.
Most of the time, I figure no one buys my books.
But, the other day I walked into our local post office to buy a roll of stamps. When it came my turn to approach the counter, one of clerks came out of the back room and assumed her position.
“I have a bone to pick with you,” she said. “A lot of people have been coming in here and telling me that Stephen Woodfin wrote a book about me.”
She caught me flat-footed. I thought about it for a minute, then it hit me that I had a scene in my first novel that took place in the post office in Lafayette, Louisiana. Sure ’nuff, I had used this clerk, who is my favorite postal clerk of all time, as the model for the clerk in the book.
“Have you read the book?” I asked her.
“You’re right. It was in a book I wrote called Last One Chosen.”
She grinned at me.
Yesterday, I dropped a paper copy of the book by the post office. She wasn’t at the counter, so I left it with another clerk. As I started to drive out of the post office parking lot, I saw my friend the clerk outside emptying the large mail receptacles in the drive-through lane.
I whipped in the drive-through and rolled down my window.
“I just left a book for you inside.”
She smiled and shook my hand.
“I don’t care if you write about me so long as you make me smart and good-looking,” she said.
“You’ll have to read the whole book to find out,” I said.
Does it get any better than that for an author?
So write in obscurity and create worlds. But we people them with flesh and blood characters that pop into our lives. I never planned to write that scene with that particular clerk in mind. But when the time in the scene arrived when I needed a postal clerk, there she was.
It never occurred to me that a reader would recognize a character in one of my books and traipse down to the post office to tattle on me.
But it was really cool for it to happen that way.
How about you? Have you seen people you know in works of fiction? Have you seen yourself? Authors, do you have your own stories about things like this that have happened to you? Please take the time to share them in the comments.
Stuff like that makes books fun, whether you are the reader or the author.