Tag Archive for James Preller Fan Mail Wednesday

Fan Mail Wednesday #251: Gone Fishing!

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This one took a slightly smelly detour . . .

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I replied:

 

Dear Brandon:

I read and enjoyed your letter. Then, when I wasn’t looking, my wife threw the envelope in the trash.

Don’t blame her, she’s a neat freak. Always tidying up. But I was like, “Honey, dearest, where’s the envelope that came with this letter? I need that return address.”

Anyway, long story short, I rolled up my sleeves and fished it out of the garbage can. Pretty much disgusting, if you ask me. But you’re letter was worthy of a reply.

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You wrote a thoughtful review of The Case of the Runaway Dog. Excellent and observant! I’m glad you liked it.

To answer your question: Yes! There is a new Jigsaw Jones book coming out this August, The Case from Outer Space. And by November, there will be 8 “classroom classics” newly available –- revised and updated.

51i1BhhTBDL._SX318_BO1,204,203,200_You suggested a story where two detectives verse each other to see who can solve the case first. Well, I think I wrote one similar to your idea, titled The Case of the Double Trouble Detectives. In that story, rich-kid Reginald Pinkerton Armitage starts a rival detective agency. But as Jigsaw says to him, “Sure, you’re as rough as a pussycat. Why in the world do you want to get mixed up in this racket?”

Good luck tracking it down! It’s been out of print for a few years. Maybe you can find it in your library or on eBay. But never fear, there’s lots more Jigsaw Jones coming out soon!

My best,

James Preller

 

 

FAN MAIL WEDNESDAY #239: No Cash Prizes for Hashi!

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Every book gets its first piece of fan mail. Eventually! This one is from Hashi after reading The Courage Test. If we gave out automobiles or cash prizes here at Jamespreller Dot Com, Hashi would be a big winner . . . but I’d be broke.

So, oh well, tough luck, Hashi!

Ain’t life cruel?

 

hashi

I replied:

Dear Hashi,

I am glad to receive your letter. My book, The Courage Test, is fairly new to the world. As an author, I often worry about new books, freshly sent out into the world. Will anyone read them? Will anyone care?

Well, Hashi, you did. So thank you for that. I’m truly grateful.

Yes, you are right, the book featured a blend of nonfiction and fiction. There’s the made-up story of Will and his family, his road trip across the country, but there’s also the historical truth that they are traveling along the Lewis and Clark Trail.

couragetestfrontcvr-199x300When I started the book, I didn’t expect for that much of Lewis and Clark’s journey to seep into Will’s story, but as I did the research, I became more and more fascinated. I felt compelled to share what I learned and sought creative ways to push that information across. That’s when I hit on the idea of weaving those two main strands together, fact and fiction, past and present, like the braiding of long hair.

Readers often ask about what happens to characters after a book ends. I take that as a compliment. It means you are still left thinking about them, wondering. I like that about books and don’t feel that authors should attempt to answer every question. It would be like closing a door, and really it’s the opposite that we’re after. We want to open windows, knock down walls. That said, readers should see that Alejandro is a good cousin to Maria, a good man, and I believe he will help Maria and the baby in many ways. As for Will’s parents, my guess is they will stay divorced. Friendly, respectful, kind –- but no longer married.

Thanks for noticing the “good traits” in Will and the other characters. I came to like them quite a bit myself!

EDIT: Click here if you want to see 18 photos of real places featured in this fictional story. It’s pretty cool, trust me. Okay, here’s one photo, just because:

This is from around page 85-85 of THE COURAGE TEST. Same spot, more or less.

This is from around page 85-85 of THE COURAGE TEST. Same spot, more or less.

 

This summer I have a new book coming out, Better Off Undead (Macmillan, Fall, 2017), that’s set in the not-too-distant future. It is also interested in facts about the natural world . . . bees and bullies and climate change . . . and a bit of fantasy too. Okay, there’s a zombie. And a detective-thriller thread, too. And billionaire bad guys. I’m super excited about it. Weirdest book I ever wrote!

My best,

 

FAN MAIL WEDNESDAY #224: Still No Snow, Etc.

As we learned from Susan on Seinfeld, licking envelopes is a dangerous business.

As we learned from Susan on Seinfeld, licking envelopes is a dangerous business.

 –

Just answered a big batch of letters about Bystander.

I replied:

Dear _______:

Here I am, another Saturday. I’m reading reports of snow all over the Northeast, and outside my window: nothing. Not a flake. It’s almost a bummer. Almost.

I’ve got a big pile of 25 letters from Elma, NY, including one from you. This feels a little like déjà vu. It is impossible for me to respond to each letter individually. It would also be dreadfully boring, since many contain similar questions. You all read BYSTANDER. So I’m sending out this single letter, one size fits all!

Proof: The letters on my office floor.

Proof: The letters on my office floor.

BTW: I can’t stand licking all these envelopes. Gross. I feel like I might die, like George’s fiancé on “Seinfeld.”

Anyway: Juliana wondered why Griffin would ditch his old crew. My intention was to show the reverse, that his friends had grown tired of Griffin’s petty cruelties; it wasn’t cool anymore. Research shows that bullying peaks in middle school, and quiets down after that. Partly I think that’s because people wise up. After the conformity of middle school, everyone trying to fit in, dressing alike, a lot of people realize that it’s okay to be themselves. Anyway, that was my thinking about Griffin moving on to new friends. He was forced to, since many of his old friends had drifted away. Remember, Griffin is not without charm. He’s smart, clever, good-looking, charismatic. Attracting new friends isn’t the hard part. The real trick is in keeping them.

Valerie asked about the inspiration for different characters. Most of them were composites -– that is, bits and pieces from real people, things I read, etc. Real people were the starting points for David, and Griffin’s father, as well as Eric’s father, who is based lightly on my brother John, who also suffered from schizophrenia.

Jessica asked for a signature, but was kind enough to add: “If not, that’s totally O.K.” Loved that!

Many asked about a sequel. THE FALL is not exactly that, it’s more of a companion book, but it should appeal to readers who enjoyed BYSTANDER. I hope! My next book coming out is called THE COURAGE TEST (October), about a father and son who travel along the Lewis & Clark Trail. I’m very excited about it. There’s a brief excerpt on my blog.

The new paperback cover to THE FALL (September 2016). Now available only in hardcover.

The new paperback cover to THE FALL (September 2016). Now available only in hardcover.

Braden complimented me with an astute observation. He liked that I “did not rush to get the story over with.” Yes, Braden, thanks for noticing. It took me years to learn that skill, a common mistake in young writers. I try to recall the idea of “downshifting,” slowing down, allowing the moment to exist in full. A lot of writers just want to type “THE END.” And I get that, I do. My editor helps me, too; she’ll say, “Pause a beat. Slow down.”

Jenna says: “School ends in June so please write back if you can!” Yes, booyah, I just nailed another deadline!

Mikayla was interested in my family. I’m the youngest of seven children. I have a lot of information at my blog, jamespreller.com. Check it out 

Jacob’s favorite part of the book was when Eric got beat up. Guess what? It was my favorite part to write! I’d never done that before in a book. I also set that scene at a real place by my old high school in Wantagh, NY. Yes, President Nixon’s dog, Checkers, really was buried by my school.

Lily, that last scene is Eric’s wish, his heart’s desire, the reunion with his father that he longed for. Maybe it will happen, maybe it won’t.

Ethan, no worries, I wasn’t bullied in school. Classic bystander type. But I remember everything.

Alessandro, I would love to travel more, after I get my kids through college. So many places to see, other countries, but also love to see more of America. I really want to go on a river trip by the White Cliffs in Montana. (I recently got obsessed with Lewis & Clark.)

Coming in October, 2016: A father and son travel along the Lewis & Clark Trail, a road trip that offers readers a genre-bending blend of American history, thrilling action, and personal discovery.

Coming in October, 2016: A father and son travel along the Lewis & Clark Trail, a road trip that offers readers a genre-bending blend of American history, thrilling action, and personal discovery.

Aubrey writes: “My favorite character would have to be Mary because she basically changes throughout the whole book.” Yes, yes, yes! Mary may be a minor character, but she is critical and possibly the book’s true hero. She’s key, for exactly the reason you stated. Brilliant, Aubrey!

For those of you I haven’t mentioned: Riley, Ryan, Lauren, Melanie, Ada, Owen, Daniele, Brandon, Mary, Ethan, Cal, Maggie (my biggest fan), Maddy, Anna, and Liam. Sorry, just ran out of time! Thank you, one and all. Teachers, too!

My best,

Fan Mail Wednesday #197: Emily, Age 11, Writes an Alternative Ending to BYSTANDER

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I get a lot of great letters from readers, but this one is particularly awesome because it’s from a future author . . . who maybe already writes better than me. Rats!

 

Hello Mr. Preller,

9780312547967My name is Emily _____, age 11, and I wish to be an author someday. I read your story Bystander and loved it!  Although I didn’t like how the story ended between Eric and Griffin. I was expecting some sort of face off between them but it never happened. So, I wrote my own ending to the story. I go to school in Portland. I handed in the story into my teacher for her advice and she made a note that said (and i quote):

Emily,

There are so many great qualities in this story — wow!

  • really suspenseful and exciting
  • great phrasing description
  • believable plot

You should send this to author to read — really he will appreciate it i’m sure.

Anyway, so i decided to send it to you! here it is:

How Bystander should have ended…

It was November. A couple months have passed since Griffin and Eric interacted with one another. Griffin and his new crew ruled the halls of the school. Eric wished that if he imagined it enough Griffin would leave, but when you enter reality, it’s not something you can expect to happen.

Day by day, the boys exchange dirty looks with one another… until Eric decided to tell the  “Griffin crew,” who was boss.

“Ok, Griffin, I am going to tell you this, and I’m only going to say this once…” Eric said grabbing Griffin by the shirt.

“We need to settle this like men,” Eric spoke with rage.

“On the basketball court. If I win, you stop bullying people forever. But if you win, then I leave the school…forever.”

Griffin almost laughed.

“Really? And who would be on your team?” Griffin snickered. Eric’s face turned pale as sleet.

“I can find a team,” Eric trembled as he spoke.  A crowd of people came fast, swarming like bees. Everyone was there. Then Eric heard a voice he hadn’t heard in a while.

“I’ll be on his team!” shouted a voice. Everyone looked back to see David Hallenback standing, head held high.

“Ha-ha. Are you kidding?! Hallenback you can’t even do a push up!” Griffin teased. Eric knew he couldn’t be a bystander again.

“I’ve seen him do a pushup!” Eric lied. David’s cheeks got less red as if Eric’s words soaked up all the embarrassment.

“Well you can only have two people on your team… who would join?”

Then Griffin heard a voice that he recognized call out:

“I will,” It was Cody. Who knew someone so annoying could be so kind?

“Uhh, dude! You’re in my crew!” Griffin called out.

“I ditched you remember?” Cody said. He walked over to Eric and high fived him. It was then three on Griffin’s team and three on Eric’s team. Griffin was with, a new kid named Caiden, and tomboy named Piper. Eric was with David and Cody.

“I’m going to win this thing,” Griffin said.

“I beg to differ,” Eric smirked.

—–

It was the day of the game and everyone was there. Eric’s team started with the ball. By the time it was almost over, Eric was losing, 39 to 40. There was 8 seconds on the clock. Griffin’s team had the ball.

1280px-Basketball_through_hoopThen the horn blew. Griffin was heading towards the basket when Hallenback made a quick steal from Griffin and was heading towards the basket. 3 seconds, 2 seconds… then you could hear the most amazing sound in the world, the swoosh of the ball going into the net. Eric won. It was like Eric could walk on air.

“HALLENBACK, HALLENBACK, HALLENBACK!” everyone chanted. Griffin’s anger was boiling up more than dry ice in hot water. Let’s just say, sometime’s a fairytale can turn into reality.

Thank you for your time.

farewell,

Emily

My reply:

Dear Emily,

Thank you for sharing your alternative ending to Bystander. I’m really impressed. I feel like a stranger handed me a gift out of the blue. “For me? Thank you.”

You are such a good writer. Great action and suspense. It’s smart how your brought basketball back into the story, a tale of justice settled on the “court.” Best of all, I think, was your convincing use of dialogue. To me, believable dialogue is the key to writing compelling, fast-paced stories with lively characters. 

When I first started writing, I often got stuck writing long passages filled with interior thinking. Nobody every moved! You know what I mean? Those times when we’re trapped inside a character’s head. So he thinks and thinks and thinks, and shares with the reader lots of interior thoughts. But on the page, that can get boring very quickly. Nothing happens. It took me years to learn a lesson that you already instinctively know: get characters talking to each other, create conflict . . . and get out of the way! I guess it’s obvious, really. Good writing does both, it goes inside and outside. It’s important to get inside a character’s head, at least once in a while, but in terms of showing action — that is: showing, not telling — we need to give readers a clear picture of “the outside.” You do that masterfully.

The ending of Bystander has generated more comments than any other aspect of the book. When I wrote that final scene, I realized that it might not be satisfying in the conventional sense, especially to a reader with a sense of fairness. In stories and movies, we like to see the bad day get it in the end. But my ending was anti-climactic; I did not opt for the big dramatic finish (which you accomplished so well). I went the other direction. For me, I wrote the ending that I thought was most true to the world as I understood it, even if, well, it was not a storybook conclusion. But I hear you, Emily, and you are not wrong to feel the way you do. I just wanted you to know why I wrote the ending the way I did. I followed my own idea of true.

Thank you so much for your work. And thanks, too, for your fabulous teacher who suggested that you share it with me. I’m grateful to your both. Great job all around.

I’m sorry that it took me a couple of weeks to get back to you. I could sense your eagerness for a reply, but I’ve been deep into the final stages of a book — deadlines are tough, you know — and it’s been hard for me to address my growing (virtual) pile of letters. Plus, my mother-in-law has been visiting. And, well, maybe someday you’ll understand the difficulty of that particular distraction.

By the way, I have a companion book to Bystander coming out at the end of the summer, titled The Fall (Macmillan, 2015). It’s an entirely different story, all new characters, but in it I explore some of the same themes and issues found in Bystander. It’s probably a little bit darker, a little tougher. I’m really proud of it. As a writer, you probably how that feels.

I wish you a happy holiday, however you might celebrate this wintery season. As the band Devo said, “Merry Something To You!”

James Preller

Fan Mail Wednesday #179: Asking “What If?” Questions

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Uh-huh, yes, you are correct. It is that time again, where I share with you a letter from a fan, along with my answer.

Past visitors might notice that I changed the furniture around, bought new drapes. This blog got its start back in 2008 and it was time for a new look. Some tweaks may still be in order.

Here’s a letter from Natalie, who was kind enough to include art work, which always makes my day.

Fan mail, natalie & art

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I replied:

 

Dear Natalie:

Thanks for your letter and, most especially, your brilliant artwork. I recognized the scene immediately, from when Jigsaw, Ralphie, and Mila pull a prank on Ralphie’s brother, Justin.

“I can make this bucket of water stick like magic to the ceiling. Want to see?”

It’s cool that you make ghost traps, too. Have you ever caught one? That would be pretty awesome. Or terrifying, I’m not sure.

The simple question — “What if?” — is so important for a writer. What if a girl named Natalie set a ghost trap . . . and it worked? Imagine that. What happens next?

Since you like “spooky and action stories,” you might want to check out my new series, SCARY TALES, which should be just perfect for readers who are ready to move beyond Jigsaw Jones. The stories are not hard to read, but I should warn you that there are some thrills and chills and creepy parts. Not everybody likes that stuff, while other people –- such as my daughter, Maggie –- can’t get enough. The creepier, the better! Maggie helped inspire the main character in SCARY TALES #2: I SCREAM, YOU SCREAM.

61javmfg0l_sy344_pjlook-inside-v2topright10_sh20_bo1204203200_2   iscreamyouscream_cvr_highrez-198x300   9781250018915_p0_v1_s260x420  nightmareland_cvr_lorez1   one_eyed_doll

Each book is different, new characters, new settings, but each one promises to make your heart beat faster. Boom, boom, boom. Don’t they look great?

The fourth book in the “Scary Tales” Series, NIGHTMARELAND, is due to come out in June, 2104. The fifth book, THE ONE-EYED DOLL, comes out in October, in time for Halloween.

Be well, and keep reading!

Your friend,

James Preller