Recently, I received an email from a teen reader, who was beside herself after reading The Fountain. Her letter read:
SUZY VADORI YOU DID NOT END THE BOOK THAT WAY NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! ! Okay, I know that this isn’t really a “professional ” email but I just finished your book and my heart is DYING!!! you have hurt me, you have created the most wonderful romance I could ever imagine! ! No you did not go there!!! I can’t help but ship but, arrgggg you are tearing my world apart!! Now excuse me while I figuratively cry under my covers… HOW DARE YOU!!
(DARN THAT BOOK GETS TO ME)
I was puzzled by this letter. The book has a happy ending. Or, at least, a “Happy for Now” as we say. Who knows where the rest of the series will lead? The thing was, I couldn’t tell from this letter whether or not she actually liked the book, or whether she was disappointed with it, so it got to me. (I got another letter from her later – she LOVED it, and enthusiastically so).
But it got me to thinking about why I write, and what the point of it all actually is. And what I realized is that I think a book’s job is to make us feel. In The Fountain, sixteen year old Ava has choices to make throughout. Tough choices, just like the ones we have to make everyday. It’s not always obvious to her what the “right” choice will be. I’ve had readers tell me that her choices are obvious. And I’ve had readers react like this amazing teen – because they wanted her to choose something different. A different life, perhaps. But we’re all different, really – and thankfully so.
Tough choices are why Young Adult books like The Hunger Games and anything by John Green are such sensations. We want to feel. We want to know what it would feel like to be in a really tough situation. What would we do? What is right, and what is wrong, and what choices do we sometimes have to make to just get through the day?
The Fountain works because it does just that. It carries the reader on a difficult journey, where Ava does the best she can with what she’s handed. For the time it takes to flip its pages, the reader faces the same choices as Ava – and it’s not always obvious what’s right. So I feel I’ve done my job. The story gets colored by the readers own values and experiences – and that’s very exciting to me, whether or not readers agree with the choices my characters make.
I am working on the next two books in the series, and readers’ reactions have become my guide. Every edit I do, I make sure that the feeling is there. Sometimes this takes a little longer to achieve, but it’s worth the wait. The magic that makes a reader want to reach out and discuss my book is something I hope I never lose in my writing.
Now excuse me while I figuratively cry under my covers… (Though they may be happy tears) 🙂