Recently I received an email from a fan acknowledging how much she likes my books. And while I don’t get these kinds of emails every day or even every week, I do get them, and they always brighten my day and make me feel good about my writing.
What got me about this letter is that the writer served in the armed forces, as did her sister, and she wanted to thank me for my book Last Salute. She said the novel brought her to tears many times and said how important it was to her that my book paid tribute to women who have served.
I’ve written two romance novels in which a war zone and the military are predominant themes – No Rules of Engagement and Last Salute (Bella Books). Both were Lambda Literary award finalists and both have produced the most fan letters of any of my books. Both novels feature women soldiers, both deal with loss, the hardships of battle, the often confusing and conflicting feelings about going to war. The characters are proud, hard working people. They’re dedicated to their countries, their mission, their jobs. But they’re also flawed, every day characters who sometimes struggle with their feelings, with the demands of their jobs, with guilt and loss and distance from their loved ones.
I’ve never served in the military or been in a war zone, so my research, by necessity, was quite extensive. As a writer and journalist, I, like so many others, have struggled to make sense of the world we live in today, to understand the war(s), and to question how we might achieve a peaceful solution. I haven’t come up with all the answers, or even very many. Just as my characters haven’t either. And neither, I suspect, have the readers who’ve taken the time to write me.
The fact they have taken the time to write me and explain how in some small measure my books made them feel acknowledged and supported, has been a real honour for me. Much more gratifying than a royalty check or an award, that’s for sure.
There are many reasons we read—to be entertained, to escape, to learn about other people and places, and to become (I hope) better people by trying to understand others and their experiences (which novels can help us accomplish).
A key thing readers look for in a novel is for a character (and experiences) that speak to them. That make them feel like they too matter. If my books can do that for some people, then I’ve accomplished far more than I ever set out to do with my writing.
Thank you readers for reading and for reaching out to us (solitary) writers. And please know, we DO see you and you DO matter!
Tracey Richardson’s ninth Bella Books novel, “By Mutual Consent”, will be released in January, 2016. www.traceyrichardson.net; Twitter: trich7117