Letters to authors: Neil Gaiman

Writer’s Digest magazine gave me a really insightful tip: “Write the author… Doesn’t matter how famous… The more you pay it forward, the more people will know you.” So I’m making a new series all in a chain of posts in the form of letters. Starting with…

Dear Mr. Gaiman,

As a newly converted Whovian and struggling writer, I just have to say, I apologize for my horrible Twitter post about my paperback copy of Neverwhere.

I have read the entire book, cover to cover, and I strongly believe that the eight dollars that I used at Barnes and Noble was money well spent. The novel was a delicate dance of dark characters and surreal scenes where Richard Mayhew’s world was turned upside down when all he did was help a young woman. Other than Neverwhere, I have also read Ocean at the End of the Lane, which I feared ended too quickly as I would have loved to have read more.

Very recently, I picked up a copy of Trigger Warning from my local library, as I did the same for Ocean. When I checked it out on my library card, I got a comment on the book from the librarian, who had already read it.

She said, “Just to let you know, there’s a reason why it’s called Trigger Warning. For a second, while I was reading it, I thought he was writing in the same style as the man who wrote Fight Club. I was like, this isn’t Neil Gaiman at all!”

I smiled at her and told her the real reason why I picked it up: I really wanted to read “Nothing O’Clock”, the Eleventh Doctor story featured in the collection Doctor Who: 11 Doctors, 11 Stories. Right now, I’m in the middle of reading the Sherlock Holmes story “The Case of Death and Honey”, which vaguely reminds me of an episode of Pushing Daisies, where Charlotte “Chuck” Charles smells of honey and death. Not just because the Pie Maker touched her dead body to bring her back to life.

Not only have I seen your great works such as “The Doctor’s Wife” and my favorite Gaiman episode “Nightmare in Silver”, I have also listened intently to your podcast that you had with Chris Hardwick on The Nerdist. I remember when you said that building a novel is just like building a stone wall as they do in the English countryside. Writing one word in front of the other is like making one stone fit next to another.

That inspired me. Sadly, I haven’t finished any of my novels or collections of short stories yet, so I should be kicking myself for putting things off for so long. You also said to writers that “You have to finish things” in order to be a writer.

Did you know someone made a beautiful video featuring your message that you said in that podcast? It has video clips from different movies where Nicholas Cage and other actors are sitting behind typewriters, while the song “La Vie En Rose” by Louis Armstrong plays over the montage. Google it.

My favorite quote is: “There are other writers who are better than me… But there is no one who can write a Neil Gaiman story like I can.”

To be honest, I’ve pictured Jennifer Lawrence with red hair, sitting on her bed typing a novel out on a purple laptop, if there was a movie being made based on my life.

I am trying to get more readers on my blog. I went to a smaller science fiction convention last month, to which some writers gave me some advice. Write about the things you love. Post things about things that interest you.

Though really, the only things that interest me are crochet, dancing, karaoke, reading, movies, and writing. And Doctor Who. I live a sheltered life in Maryland and I desperately want to travel, even with my lack of funds.

I have never been to New Orleans. I desperately want to go. Both jazz musicians Louis Armstrong and Harry Connick, Jr. were born and raised there, continuing their craft influenced by the birthplace of jazz. I’ve never had a beignet, even though the Boston cream donuts at Dunkin probably count as those, filled with yellow custard and covered in chocolate. I want to visit at least once by the time I’m 30, or at least get there the week of my thirtieth birthday.

I’m sorry, I’m rambling. All I can say is you’re one of those authors I admire. Please ignore that terrible comment I wrote on Twitter; it was uncalled for.

But I do have a question for you: Does it take long to get at least noticed?

I’m 27 and struggling with a mental disorder. Being “stressed” is a relative term for me. My bedroom is a mess, I’m still living at home without a driver’s license, and all of my friends have more success and things going for them than I have. All I have is a useless Bachelor’s degree in journalism, which I have given up the dream of eventually becoming a rock music journalist for Rolling Stone.

All I want to see is at least one of my novels or a collection of short stories in print, on the shelf at Barnes and Noble, not just on Amazon.com. I could care less about self-publishing, which basically consists of doing everything, editing and revision, book cover design, marketing, promoting, and selling the book all on your own. I want to apply to book awards on GoodReads and other platforms, but the New York Times bestseller list is the goal I’d like to aim for the most.

I dream, but I don’t do enough doing. I should listen to that and just do. That’s what author Elise Schappell told me at Baltimore Writer’s Conference last year. “Stop dreaming—Do!”

For now, I’ll keep writing, even in my writing journal, the one with a holographic picture of Venice, Italy on it, which I’m using as a mousepad as I’m typing this letter. And I hope this thousand-word letter stays on my blog where it should be.

You are the greatest. Bestselling author looks good on you.

Regards, Rachel Beth Ahrens



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