It’s flattering to have someone notice your work. The other day I had the very first email from someone who’d read Holy Horror and wanted to discuss it. It was from an undergraduate, no less, who was doing a report on religion and horror. She’d read my book (and yes, it’s undergrad friendly) and wondered if I’d be willing to talk about it. I can’t express how surprised I was (and still am). You see, I have emailed authors after reading their books. Many of them show no interest in carrying on a conversation with someone they’ve “met” through email. I’ve had so many single-sentence responses with no enthusiasm whatsoever that I’ve begun to think of those employed in academia as hopelessly stuck in tunnel vision. If you write a book you’re wanting conversation with those who read it, I should think. At least I am.
Those of us outside academe don’t have tenure committees to please or effectiveness committees to placate. We write books to try to engage readers. Unfortunately Holy Horror is priced for the library market. During our phone interview, my interlocutor asked about the cover. She said something publishers should hear: when walking around with Holy Horror her friends asked what the book was about because the cover is intriguing. (It’s actually based on Chloë Grace Moretz from the reboot of Carrie, discussed in the book.) In the midst of a pandemic, this first show of interest made my day, like seeing the first crocuses after a long, hard winter. I do welcome conversation about my book. I don’t have a classroom of students to force to buy and read it. It’s out there for discussion.
Nightmares with the Bible is nearly finished. Of course, publishers have hit a bit of a slow patch with many of their business partners shutting down. Some publishers have gone into hibernation during the pandemic. Books, though, will get us through. A colleague of mine said the industry reports are showing that novels continue to sell while nonfiction is suffering. Well, I’m no expert, but I do wonder if nonfiction might do better if authors would be willing to respond to this who express an interest in their work. I know it’s a radical idea. I also know that my books reach nowhere near what most publishers consider a viable readership. What people are looking for during enforced isolation is a sense of connection. Reaching out to find someone reaching back. Books can do this, even if we never physically meet.