A Book and a Letter

Being an author is about connections – with other writers, with people in the business, and most of all with readers.  Today I’d like to share the story of one special connection that has enriched my life in measureless ways.

My first novel, MISTRESS OF THE MORNING STAR was published in 1980.  A few weeks after the book’s release, I received my very first fan letter.  I was so excited.  The letter, beautifully and intelligently written, was from a woman named Barbara.  She ended the letter by saying, “If you ever get to San Diego I’d love to have you come to dinner.”

It so happened that my then-husband had a brother in Southern California, and we were planning a visit.  I accepted her invitation.  I’ll never forget walking into that charming Spanish-style home to be greeted by a lovely, slender woman with a long blond ponytail, who cooked the best vegetarian lasagna I’ve ever eaten.  A friendship was born.  We kept in touch. 

We’ve kept in touch for the past thirty years – through multiple moves, successes, heartaches, bereavements, divorces, new beginnings and all the ups and downs that are part of getting through this crazy life.

Let me tell you a little more about my friend.  Barbara survived a nightmarish childhood (her mother was mentally ill).   Barbara married young and had four children, whom she mostly raised as a single parent, with the help of a long-time boyfriend, Gary.  Along the way she discovered some special gifts – a head for business, a talent for making friends and a way of turning whatever she touched into something beautiful.  She used these gifts, and her amazing strength, to build a good life for herself and her family.

We’ve spent just a little precious time together.  About 1990, after the loss of her partner, I invited Barbara to visit me.  I had a brand new Honda Civic, and we took a road trip through the southern Utah parks – two middle aged broads in a hot little red car.  Despite the fact that the weather was miserable and Barb’s back went out on the way, we still laugh at the memory.  Thelma and Louise minus the Grand Canyon.

A few years ago, newly single and starting over yet again, Barbara started her own web design service.  I needed a web site and was delighted to become one of her first clients.  Over the years, the beautiful site Barbara Castleman created for me has grown to 42 pages, and www.LadyWebPro.com has become a thriving business.  Check it out.  Or click my name on the list of Fillies to see her work.

Have you, as a writer or reader, found a friendship that grew from a connection to a book?  There must be some great stories out there.  I’d love to hear them.

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I'm an internationally published romance author, coming up on 40 novels and novellas. Most of my stories have been Westerns for Harlequin Historicals, but I set stories in other times and places as well. I'll also be writing contemporary stories for Harlequin Desire, with the first release in January 2013. You can learn more on my web site.

20 thoughts on “A Book and a Letter”

  1. Oh, Elizabeth, this is fortuitous as I just started reading The Horseman’s Bride. Have been glomming you since the First Line contest a few weeks back. What a great post.

    I have developed friendships just by discovering the romance genre. I read little fiction, mostly stuff for work or other non-fiction. I started reading romances for the HEAs after my mother died unexpectedly from cancer. I did not want a surprise sad ending or reality! I went to a website, glommed all their 5 star suggestions and asked on the message boards for others. That was five years ago and I have developed friendships with not only other readers but also authors. We email about books but about our lives, talk on the phone, and let each other know when life gets tough.

    In an age where pen pals seem antiquated, I have realized that they still exist, though they are rhrough electronic rather than paper means. Not only that but my daughter here in NC just told me that she is writing “real” letters to her friend who is working on a ranch in Wyoming this summer. They think it is cool to do so. Hope it is a trend.

    Love the website too BTW!

    Peace, Julie

  2. Your comment just made my day Julie. Your story is an inspiring example of why we keep writing romance. Here’s a long distance hug.
    Love it that your daughter is writing “real” letters. So glad letters haven’t become an entirely lost art. Have a great day.

  3. The friends I’ve made since I began writing are some of the best friends I’ve got.
    Online writer friends mostly but some readers, too. I spend so much of my life alone, behind a computer, that I wonder if my online life is more real than my real life. 🙂

    Having people an email away sure helps me to not feel sorry for myself and isolated.

  4. Great point there, Mary. Writing is a lonely profession and having online friends a click away can make a real difference.
    And the Filly friends I’ve made on this site are the best!

  5. When my son was in college and participating in a singing group of all ages, he brought me a book that he said I must read. It was the first book by a member of the City Singers. He had told her of my love for reading and she had autograhed the book for me. I read the book but dreaded the day I might run into the author because it was a parnormal romance and I was just not into that kind of book. Her husband and her became very good friends with my son and was in his wedding so we did meet many times. I made appropriate comments and prayed she never found out my true feelings. She went on to write for Harlequin Intrique and I became her biggest fan. It has been fun to discuss writting with her and her husband who is also a writer. The book I didn’t like? After 12 years I recently read it again and found that my taste had changed somewhat, I enjoyed it immensly and plan to pass it on around my book reading circle of friends.

  6. The internet has been a way for people to connect with others of similar interests. In a time when we are becoming more isolated due to work schedules and other involvements, e-friends and acquaintances are becoming more common. I lost my library job and no longer have the contact with co-workers and patrons that was so important. The rural community we live in is nice, but friendships are surface and just in passing (even after 18 years of trying). If you aren’t family or don’t go to their church, you don’t belong. Following websites of authors and the research they do has been most interesting. The discussions that take place may not be the same as face to face chats, but when there are no others around who share similar interests it is all good. When I have tried to talk history or discuss some of the interesting things I have found out about on your and other sites, I get “Whose interested in that crap.”
    We are down to one car right now, but I know there are programs at the college and some local historical societies that I’ll be checking into.
    I was hoping to at least meet some authors at the RWA signing, but that won’t happen. We have reservations (nonrefundable) in Nashville for RWA week. Surprisingly, our place was able to reopen this week, so I can’t switch my reservations to Orlando. Maybe another year. RomCon is another possibility and it is held in one of our favorite places. I’m sure you ladies don’t need anymore stalker fans, but it would just be nice to be able to say in person thank you for the interesting posts and research links.
    Hope you all have a great week.

  7. I never would have thought that I could have found some wonderful new friends through the bookchats that I belong to. At a time i found myself house bound because of illness, and investigated some author websites and found their chat groups, I have found some wonderful friends. Not only does our love for books bring us together but we have many common interest. I feel there joy, pain or sorrow through our words and the words of the authors we all love so much…
    What a wonderful way for you to have become lasting friends with Barbara… May your friendship thrive..

  8. You make a great point, Patricia. It can be so discouraging when you bring up a topic that sparks your interest and your listeners’ eyes just glaze over. It’s wonderful to find friends on line who share that interest.
    Have fun in Nashville. I for one would love to meet you in person some day, and I’m sure others feel the same.

  9. Inspiring words, Kathleen. When you’re housebound on line friends can mean a lot. And I know what you mean about sharing more than books. In difficult times I’ve received a lot of emotional support from people I’ve never met face to face. Thanks for posting.

  10. What a sweet, tender story, Elizabeth. I have made many cyber-friends through books and writing, and a few real ones, too. Through a local community college workshop I met a terrific poet who went with me to a book festival just last Saturday. And Charlene Sands is one of my dearest…we met years ago at our local RWA chapter. She’s mentor, critique partner, shoulder to cry on, travel partner, filly-sister, wedding guest, and so much more. Loved the post. oxoxox

    Ps. Your website is awesome…all those book cover. Yowza!

  11. About seventeen years ago, I joined my first creative writing group, which started as a course. I’d written all my life, but never connected with other writers. I was too busy and transient. This group gave me a taste of what it was like to be part of a writing community, but sadly it was short-lived. I didn’t see any of the members again until two years ago, when I bumped into the course instructor at the grocery store. I’d just finished my first novel, so I had plenty to tell her. She introduced me to our local RWA chapter,which I didn’t even know existed, and she has become a critique partner, supporter and good friend. You’re right Elizabeth, writing is all about connections.

  12. My writing friends are some of my dearest. And I’ve been blessed to meet readers at signings and conventions that I love to see again year after year. I never dreamed, when I started writing, that special friendships would be one of the rewards.

  13. I knew you and Charlene were friends, Tanya, but I didn’t know how the connection came about. RWA has led to a lot of friendships. I have two writer friends who live within blocks of me, and we met through RWA.
    Glad you liked the website. You’d think with all those books I’d be rich and famous, but I’m just old. 🙂

  14. Great story, Jenny. What a coincidence that you’d run into your old instructor. It’s tough writing alone with no friends to support you. Being in touch with other writers can make all the difference.

  15. Very nice that you connect with readers again and again, Tracy. You must mean a lot to them, too. I was in a writing group thirty years ago, and even though I’ve moved to another town, I’m still in touch with some of the people in it. Friendships are truly one of the rewards of writing.

  16. Elizabeth, how neat the way you met your friend Barbara. I have a great friend who lives in Australia. We’ve never met but might some day, the good Lord willing. Her name is Elizabeth and she wrote me a fan letter when my first book came out also. We share our family news, trips, photos, new books we’ve found, and tons of other things. I’ve really enjoyed knowing her and can’t imagine my life without her.

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