When we read a book, how much thought do we put into the author behind it? It didn’t just appear from a vacuum. Someone created it. And because a person with their own history and personality makes these books, some part of that author impacts the stories they write.
That’s why we should consider connecting with or studying the authors of the books we read, especially the books we like.
Believe it or not, although they are busy, most authors want to have a relationship with their readers.
As much as we would love it, however, we can’t all be besties with JK Rowling, and we definitely can’t talk to Jane Austen. Dang it! Even though we may not get that close with authors, we still can gain quite a bit by learning about an author’s life and/or connecting directly with the ones we have the awesome opportunities to meet.
1. Get The “Inside” Scoop
Consider finding and following an author’s website or social media page. He or she may sometimes post updates, promos, or other related news to their books. You could get a discount on the newest book or possibly even win a prize. You’re also more likely to hear news about his or her upcoming books sooner than others. And instead of getting your information from a secondary source, which is sometimes suspect, find out first-hand for yourself so you won’t miss out (trust me on this one: personal experience)! If you’re connected, you’ll be getting the information straight from the author.
2. Read Deeper
Every author is somehow affected by their upbringing, education, family background, failures, accomplishments, and experiences. All these things can contribute to the books they write.
By knowing about an author’s life, we can dig deeper into the stories they create. For example, Charles Dickens was forced to leave school at age 9 when his father was imprisoned for debt; a lot like Mr. Micawber in David Copperfield. Young Dickens worked in a boot blacking factory for three years under horrific conditions, which he remembered clearly and used in David Copperfield and Great Expectations.
This information heightens the overall theme of injustice and oppression toward the weak in David Copperfield and nearly all of Dickens’s novels.
A couple years ago, I participated in a book club where every time we met someone shared highlights from the author’s life story. My turn happened to fall on the meeting about Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. All of the descriptions in the story felt that much more realistic and powerful after reading about her family biography on her website and about her research experience of being locked in a train car and interviewing survivors.
3. Get A Signed Book
If possible, try attending a book signing near you. Although the author may not spend a ton of time talking to you, especially if there’s a line behind you, at least you can say that you’ve met a great writer in person.
As I helped my grandmother sort through things she wanted to get rid of, I found a signed copy of the poem Casey at the Bat. Nerd sirens went off in my head. Not only did I geek out over the fact that my grandma had met Ernest Lawrence Thayer, but she let me have that signed copy. I’m never letting it go!
Plus, having an author’s signature could add monetary value to the book, if not more emotional value.
4. Find A Writing Mentor
For those of us who aspire to write, sending an author an email or a message on their website can boost your professional network and help you find a mentor. Be smart about it, but it is possible to befriend and find a mentor in an author you admire.
Sadly, I doubt JK will be returning messages from a lowly writer/fan such as myself any time soon. But I have reached out to several authors simply to tell them what I enjoyed in their books, and they responded, if only to say thank you. One even asked me to keep in touch!
In some relationships with authors, you could ask them for advice. Or when the time comes for your writing to be published, you now have a trusted author you can possibly ask for a review or endorsement. Your mentor can then become a colleague. I’m not there yet, but how cool would that be?
Have you ever connected with an author? Or learned something about an author that changed your reading experience?
YouTube Channel: Epic Reads
Featured image via Laura Lord