Stand back, people. Everybody stand back! It’s Fan Mail Wednesday . . .
Dear Mr. Preller,
I just finished reading your book, Six Innings, and thought it was awesome. I am doing a book report on it. My favorite part was at the end when Sam realizes that Mike wasn’t feeling sorry for him being so sick, but just really wanted his friend to hang out with. I have never had a friend who has been that sick, but I know I would want to be a friend like Mike. I would love to see if you could make Six Innings into another story with Mike and Sam. Maybe Sam could get better and they have another championship game. Maybe have them go to a Met game!
I also have ideas for you for Jigsaw Jones mysteries. The title is The Case of the Missing Shoe. When someone loses their sneaker, Jigsaw Jones solves it by discovering Rags, the dog, had taken it and buried it in the ground.
P.S. Lets Go Mets 2009!
Here’s my reply:
I’ll admit it. I’m sort of mad at you. Here I am, slaving away like a black dog on a hot day, desperately trying to think of ideas, and you shoot off a chatty email with more good ideas in it than I’ve had in a month!
Tell you what, let’s make a switch: YOU write the books, I’ll send the fan mail (but I’m not doing your homework, those days are gone).
Seriously, thanks. I liked your observation on Six Innings. You know, that was definitely an important moment in the book for me, too. When it all kind of flipped. As you may know, there’s a core of true experience in that book. My oldest son, Nick, age 15, is a two-time cancer survivor, five years of chemo. Hard, hard times. I was moved by the friendship he shared with another boy. Nick’s friend would visit, the boys would hang out together, do quiet things, talk. And somewhere it dawned on me that it was tough on both of them. That it’s hard to be sick, yes; but in some ways, even harder to be the steady, reliable friend. Grandma isn’t sending him presents in the mail, you know what I mean? But he’s still got to carry that weight, uncertainty, fear.
Back to your ideas: Maybe a sequel, but I don’t see it right now. Most times one book is enough. I would like to try another sports story one day. Ice fishing? Cliff diving? I can’t decide.
For Jigsaw, that’s a pretty solid premise for a story. If I were to pursue it, I might begin by asking some of these questions: Who would the other suspects be? Is it an important shoe? Does Jigsaw really need the shoe for something? A race? Or a wedding? It’s always good when the clock is ticking — it’s called the “ticking clock” technique — when the hero of the story has to find the solution by a specific time. You see variations of this technique in stories all the time. In its extreme form, for example, the world blows up at exactly noon if the hero doesn’t find and detonate the bomb. It gives the story urgency. Only five minutes left! Three, two, one . . . .
I tried to use that approach in Jigsaw Jones #20: The Case of the Race Against Time. And given that premise, I like how that story begins: “You’re late,” my mother snapped.
Just to be clear: I am NOT sharing the royalties with you. Your ideas are now officially my original ideas and I’m keeping all the money for myself. Or maybe you could keep the idea. Write it yourself. Remove the character of Jigsaw, make it somebody else. Hey, Billy, write your own story! Why not? Go for it. You might enjoy it.
Thanks for writing. And yes, absolutely, “Let’s Go Mets!”