Archive for Fan Mail

FAN MAIL WEDNESDAY #281: Happy Birthday, Kiera!

Here’s a particularly entertaining letter from Kiera, who is having (hopefully!) a swinging, taco-friendly birthday on Sunday. Hey, Kiera, you don’t look a day over 37. I mean 9!

I replied . . .

 

Dear Kiera,

Oh my, what an entertaining letter that comes to me all the way from Keosaugua, Iowa. Here on my birthday –- number 58! –- it feels like a gift from the universe. Thank you.

When I look deeper into the envelope, I find a bracelet you’ve crafted for me, using Jigsaw Jones’ favorite colors, borrowed from the New York Mets. I’m wearing it right now (see photographic evidence as proof). True story!

How did you know I desperately needed one?

Our kind and shaggy goldendoodle, Daisy, died two months ago. It was heartbreaking for all of us. Like your dog, Daisy was not (at all!) the brightest, but she may have been the sweetest. To ease our pain, we got a new puppy, which my daughter named Echo. He’s a rescue pup, part border collie, part who knows! He’s full of energy and mischief. My days are filled with long walks and attempts to keep Echo from eating the furniture.

I’m glad you are a Jigsaw Jones fan. I love The Case from Outer Space and The Case of the Buried Treasure very much, but I think that the new one, The Case of the Hat Burglar, might be the best of all. It comes out in August.

Happy birthday, Kiera. You are a terrific writer, by the way. Funny, too. Keep it up! I hope there are gazillions of tacos in your future!

Besides baseball, my favorite sport is . . . READING! It should be in the Olympics.

Oh, also: I have a new book that just came out (January 29th), called The Big Idea Gang: Everybody Needs a Buddy. I think you might like it. Did you ever hear of a “buddy bench”? The story is about that, and more! Friendship, kindness, community. And benches.

Thanks for making my birthday a happy one. Your friend,

 

James Preller

FAN MAIL WEDNESDAY #280: Kicking Off the New Year

 

I may not know what day it is, but I do know the year — 2019, people. All. Year. Long. A strange year in my professional life with a wide variety of new books on the horizon: a new Jigsaw Jones, a new series (“The Big Idea Gang”), a middle grade survival thriller (Blood Mountain), and a picture book in haiku (All Welcome Here). Crazy, I know. All over the map. I’m hoping that folks find ’em, read ’em, like ’em, tell their friends.

Today’s letter comes from Lena in deepest Ohio:

 

 

I waited a year and replied:

Dear Lena,

Whew, that’s over. Welcome 2019, glad to be here, happy & alive & writing to you.

Your letter arrived during the holidays, so I set it aside. “I’ll deal with Lena next year.”

Yes, I have a birthday coming up. Soon to be 58 years old. You should try it someday, not as bad as it sounds (or looks!). Maybe like oysters in that sense. But I still refuse to eat clams, no matter what anybody says.

Anyway! I’m as old as your grampa and you and I share a birthday month. When it comes to presents, all I ever ask for is warm socks (a result of a mid-winter birthday) and books –- always books. I guess that’s another thing we have in common, the love of reading.

My favorite Jigsaw Jones title? Hmmm. I love The Case from Outer Space because it’s funny and The Case of the Buried Treasure because the mystery is so satisfying. I have a new one coming out in August –- does that seem far away? -– titled The Case of the Hat Burglar. I’m very proud of that one. I find that my favorite books tug at your heart a little bit. Maybe it’s just a moment in the book, a brief passage, but a true emotion can lift a book into the sky.

I do have a new book coming out at the end of January (that’s, like, soon!), titled Everybody Needs a Buddy. It’s part of a new series, “The Big Idea Gang,” and I’d say it is just a notch more challenging than Jigsaw Jones. Maybe you’ll give it a try?

As a reader, I like all sorts of things. I guess I’m always trying something different: sports, science fiction, biography, mystery, graphic novels. I listen to my friends. If they rave about a book, I’ll give it a spin.

Happy New Year, my new friend!

James Preller

Fan Mail Wednesday #279: Chubby Hubby Edition

Here’s one that came from not far away, via a librarian-friend who lives in my community.

Don’t you like the envelope?

Adelaida wrote:

I replied:

Dear Adelaida,

Well, it seems like we have a nice connection, since I’m friends and neighbors with your wonderful librarian, Ms. Furlong. Her daughter, a senior, is in the same school and grade as my daughter, Maggie. Meanwhile, her husband is a craft beer-loving, long-suffering Mets fan. I’m the same way about the Mets, though I’m not really a fan of fussy anything, including craft beer, haircuts, clothing, etc. Keep it simple.

What were we talking about? Oh, your letter! So happy to hear from you. You asked a few questions, so let’s see:

1) Letters like yours come to me from time to time. It always feels like a gift from the universe, like a new star appearing in the night sky. I’m grateful and humbled and, mostly, just heartened to meet another person, like me, who is enthusiastic about books. Any books.

2) I like “Chubby Hubby” by Ben & Jerry’s.

3) Two of my three children are devout vegetarians, so they’ll hate this answer: If it’s a special treat, yes, I love a good steak. I’m eating less red meat these days, but!

4) My favorite book so far is the one I’m currently finishing, Blood Mountain. It’s due to my editor, Liz, in two weeks. Should be available a year from now. It’s really pushed me to be my best –- I’ve had to learn so much just to write it accurately –- and I’m never been more absorbed in my work. In short: “Hatchet” meets “Misery,” plus there’s a dog. A brother and sister get lost in the mountain wilderness for six days. It’s exciting and suspenseful and, I hope, powerfully written.

5) Oh: I’ve included a gift. Don’t tell anybody!

My best,

James Preller

Fan Mail Wednesday Double Dip: #277 & #278!

 

Two quick ones, featuring Bystander and Jigsaw Jones.

William zinged over a quick email:

 

In my class, we are going to read Bystander as a group activity, and I have one question. How did you become such a good author?

I replied:
William,
Every February I spend two weeks meditating in a yurt in Mongolia.
Pro tip!
That’s pretty much it.
Oh, and: I mostly learn from reading. Slowly, thoughtfully — not blazing through to get it over with, but reading as a writer.
And then, of course, now that I’ve written so many things for so many years, I learn from writing, too.
My best,
James Preller
SPECIAL BONUS MAIL . . .

Rees writes:

 

Hi Mr. Preller,
My mom is letting me use her phone and write to you. I have a book report to do about my favorite character. Mine is Jigsaw. What color are his eyes? What color is his hair? What do you think is special about him?

Thank you for your help.
Rees
2nd grade
(My mom helped with punctuation and capitals.)

I replied:
Rees,
You have a nice mom. Don’t drop the phone in the toilet or she’ll be mad. My wife, Lisa, has done that — twice!
Jigsaw has brown hair and . . . I don’t know what color eyes. If you look at drawing, it’s just black dots. 
You can say hazel and no one will ever know the truth.
There are many things that make Jigsaw special.  In no particular order:
* His honesty.
* His sense of fairness.
* His kindness — he’s a good friend.
* His determination.
Jigsaw isn’t perfect. He makes mistakes. But he never, ever gives up. 
Now give that phone back to your mom before I hear a splash.
Thanks for writing. I just finished writing a new Jigsaw Jones book, The Case of the Hat Burglar. It’s about how items from the school “Lost and Found” begin to disappear. Someone has been stealing them!
Your friend,
James Preller



Fan Mail Wednesday #276: “The suspense is terrible. I hope it will last.”

 

I’ll transcribe this letter from Annabel in Massachusetts. The original was lightly written in pencil and my scanner wasn’t up to the task:

Dear James Preller,

My name is Annabel. I read The Courage Test. William is awesome.

One of the things I like is the adventure. The bear and the water rapids parts have a lot of adventure. In the book it said, “If she is making this display to terrify me, it’s working.” It shows William is scared and has encountered something dangerous. There will be a lot of action in that part of the story that’s interesting to read.

How long have you been an author and what’s your favorite type of book?

Sincerely,

Annabel

 

I replied:

 

Dear Annabel,

I’m so happy to receive a letter from a reader of The Courage Test. With a new book, I’m never sure if anyone will find it. So: yes, thank you and hooray.

I like the exciting parts, too. It’s those moments when you can almost feel, as a writer, the reader leaning in. One of these days I should try to write a book composed entirely of exciting parts, like those movies that are two-hour car chases. Actually, the thought of that exhausts me.

Ideally, I think we want our stories to have shape and pace, quiet moments, important conversations, laughter, insightful description –- and, sure, somebody almost drowning in the rapids. I think when my writing is at its best, all those elements are woven together.

Yesterday I wrote a dramatic scene for an upcoming book, Blood Mountain, that centers on a brother and sister who are lost in the wilderness for six suspenseful days. A lot happens in this book, so if you like exciting parts, you’ll have to check it out. In the scene I wrote yesterday, the boy, Carter, is alone, exhausted, near hypothermia, desperately hiking through a bog. Oscar Wilde has a great quote: “The suspense is terrible. I hope it will last.”

And also, it’s helpful to try to come up with characters that readers care about –- and then do awful things to them. That’s an idea put forth by author Kurt Vonnegut in his famous “8 Rules for Writers.” You might like my newest book, Better Off Undead. It’s about a 7th-grade zombie, Adrian, who meets a girl who can see into the future, along with a beekeeper and a detective, and there’s evil billionaires, and, I promise you, exciting parts.

I published my first book in 1986. The last time the New York Mets made the World Series. And truthfully, I like all kinds of books –- even some of mine!

My best,

James Preller