Saturday 11 October 2014

A Reader Develops a Crush on You

Signs of a problem: increasingly frequent emails; gushing reviews that use the word ‘alluring’ and the string ‘<3 <3 <3’; the creation of fan fiction.

The symptoms: feeling flattered (at first); feeling disturbed (second); feeling deeply alarmed (final stage).

Although you can guess a lot about an author from his or her books, most people’s concrete knowledge of an author is based on one two-dimensional photo and a brief biography. Yet it seems to be relatively common for people to develop crushes on authors. Don’t get me wrong, writing is a talent and talents are attractive, but there’s a line. Sending an author a vial of your spunk crosses that line.

Most reader crushes only get to stage one: mild appreciation – a few emails, a wacky ‘impulsive’ invitation to meet and some pleasant reviews. These are harmless – pleasing, in fact.

However, when a reader crush extends to the reader writing spin-off fan fiction, you need to pay attention. An innocuous sonnet about your protagonist is nothing to worry about. If, however, you’ve written a gritty crime thriller about body snatching and the reader re-writes a chapter so that a character based on himself gets to bone your rotting corpse, you know the crush has progressed to the downright disturbing stage.

It is important to know how to handle a reader crush, so that it never progresses to the sperm-in-the-post stage.

Here’s what not to do: don’t express an interest in being sent sperm in the post; don’t agree to meet him or her; if he or she buys anything from you that needs to be posted, don’t include a return address.

Always make sure that your emails are shorter than his or hers, keep emails polite but professional, and invent an imaginary partner. Even if you are married, you should make sure that the partner you report to fans is imaginary, just in case a jealous type tries to seek him or her out for a little afternoon slaughter. I currently have a small, blond boyfriend who’s not classically dangerous, but knows a trick that can render a man impotent with one simple wink. I haven’t had a single reader turn up on my doorstep since I started dating Wee Willy Winky.

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