I have exchanged emails with a number of authors over the years. For the most part, it's been fun and, in a couple of cases, actually rewarding. For those of you who have heard these stories, bummer. These first two are the most interesting (for me).
Christopher Reich - He publishes one book each year. Back in 2008, I was reading his latest one (#7, I believe) and noticed that he used "just then" quite a bit. I didn't pay much attention to it and forgot about it the minute I finished the book. One year later, his next one came out. When I saw "just then" in the first couple of pages, I decided to start counting them. He averaged about one for every ten pages. For me, it really affected my enjoyment of the book. I know that seems a bit petty, but I couldn't shake it. I finally decided to send him an email. I told him how much I enjoy his books, but that he seemed to be using "just then" an awful lot. Because I'm such an "expert" in the English language (my regards to Roseann and Gail), I had the misguided notion that I was entitled to tell him about his writing flaw. I tried to couch it in conciliatory language but probably failed there. In any case, he (or someone) wrote back and said he didn't realize he was using it that much and would be more careful in the next one. So, when his next book came out, last summer, I was, of course, quite interested to see what he would do. It turns out that he only used it a couple of times the whole book. I felt vindicated. Whether this happened because of the email or due to other factors I didn't really care.
P.S. I wrote him another email after reading this last one (2010) and told him how much more I enjoyed the book without all of the "just then's" in it. He did not write back!
Sheldon Siegel - I first sent him an email in September of 2008. He lives in Marin County and has always answered my emails almost immediately. Over the course of the next two years, I probably exchanged a half dozen emails with him. Finally, last year, he came to "M" for a book signing. It was like seeing an old friend. There weren't many people who attended, so we got a lot of up-close face time with him. At the end of his presentation and signing, I told him that Rich, Joni, and I were going around the corner to eat dinner at Kingfish if he would like to join us. He said he wouldn't mind an iced tea. I'm sure he was hedging his bets in case he found us boring (I know, impossible). It turned out that he had dinner with us. We were together for over an hour. It was very cool. We learned a lot about him and about the book publishing industry. Rich (who introduced Siegel's books to me) told him that Leslie was out of town and was sorry she couldn't be there. Sheldon called her on the phone from the dinner table and spoke to her for a couple of minutes. It was really neat.
P.S. I last emailed him in April to check on the progress of his latest book. He said that he was almost done with it but that it wouldn't hit bookstores until 2012. Again, he wrote back within the same day.
Those are the two most dramatic exchanges, but there are a couple of others to tell you about too. A few years ago, I emailed John Lescroart and asked him in what order I should read his books. He sent me a big 3-paragraph answer, with great detail. I really appreciated that (I've only read a couple of his books, which is not due to his writing, but I'll know which one to read next when I get back to him).
Just this week I exchanged emails with an author who has just published his first book. The book is called Spiral and is written by Paul McEuen. I went to a book signing at "M" and the bookseller there, Lisa, said she likes to try new authors. She highly recommended Paul's book. It was really good. So about half-way through, I emailed him one night and told him how much I was enjoying the book and how I came to be reading it. I asked him if he was planning to come to the Bay Area for any author events. He emailed back the next morning and said he lived in SF/Berkeley for 10 years and always comes back once a year to visit. He expected to be here in August and would see about setting up an author event. I told him that when he comes back, and even if he doesn't have an event, that I would be happy to come where he is and meet him for lunch, coffee, or a handshake. I tried (I don't know how successfully) to assure him that I was not a stalker (not too tough) or a reprobate (much tougher). He emailed back right away and correctly, I thought, gave a vague, don't-commit-me-to-this, gesture. When I eventually do meet him, it will feel more like a reunion than a first-time meeting - if you're into that kind of thing.
Other authors that I've exchanged emails with -
I've also sent emails to authors who have not responded. I can't tell you who those are because I only save the ones who answered me (I don't need to save my own emails, as well-written as they might be!) For me, emailing authors definitely elevates the whole reading experience.
Upcoming Author Events:
Daniel Silva - coming to Book Passage, Corte Madera, Saturday night, July 23, at 6:30. If you haven't seen him, and like his books, he's a very interesting guy. His stories about research are riveting.