After I was published a few years, I noticed people reading in places where I had to wait like airports, doctor’s offices, etc. I’d noticed before but now it had a whole new meaning. With a little daydreaming I thought how neat it would be if I saw someone reading one of my books. Not under any circumstances did I ever envision that happening. Most of the people I saw were reading single titles by best selling authors. But it was nice to dream.
Then one day I had a doctor’s appointment. I signed in and spoke to the receptionist. She asked if I had any new books coming out. Everyone in the office knew I was an author because I had given them free books, and I was lucky that several of them continue to buy them. My cousin, who was with me, and I found a place to sit. I look up and a woman across from me was reading one of my books. I could hardly believe it. I blinked and looked again. There was my name right on the book.
My cousin saw it too, and elbowed me. “Say something,” she whispered. The woman was reading and I didn’t want to disturb her, but how often was that going to happen in my lifetime? I screwed up my courage and leaned forward. “Are you enjoying the book?” I asked in the sweetest voice ever.
“Yes,” she replied so low I could barely hear her. She didn’t raise her head or look at me.
That threw me. Now I had my courage in never-give-up-mode so I tried again. “I wrote that book.”
“I know,” was her surprising answer, and again she didn’t look up.
My ego was starting to take a beating. Did she hate the book? Where was the gushing or praise or something beside I know? I waited a minute and then asked, “Would you like a bookmark?”
“No, thanks.” Again she didn’t look at me.
Now this was just weird. This certainly wasn’t turning out the way I was expecting. Before I could gather my courage to ask another question, she was called back to see the doctor. She gathered her book, her purse and quickly left the room, never looking my way. At this point my ego was in the dumpster. Maybe that dream wasn’t so great after all.
When it was my turn to see the doctor, I planned to ask the nurse about the woman, but I never got the chance. The nurse said, “Linda, you have to stop scaring our patients.” And then she told me a shocking story. The woman was in her late thirties and she was born to parents in their late forties. She was an only child and home schooled. Evidently she had very little contact with the outside world. Her parents had passed away and her guardian was trying to introduce her to the real world by encouraging her to go out in public, on the advice of a therapist. The woman is painfully shy and has a difficult time talking to people. ( I knew that) Her passion is books, books are her friends, and she reads all the time.
The nurse went on to say that the woman had ordered all my books and had really wanted to talk to me, but she couldn’t. I felt so bad about persisting with questions and I asked the nurse to apologize for me. She said that she would, but the doctors wanted people to talk to her. That made me feel a little better. I left a signed bookmark for her and the nurse said the woman would be excited to get it.
Things certainly weren’t what they seemed and I, for one, came away with a deep appreciation for other people’s feelings. I can’t even imagine living in that kind of anxiety and fear.
I never saw her again after that day. Later, I learned that the guardian had moved her away to be near a therapist more familiar with her problem. I hope she's doing well.
What would you have done in that situation? As a reader or an author? As for what I’d do if that ever happened again, I’m not sure. I think I had my fifteen minutes of whatever. But I know one thing—at the first sign of resistance I’d shut my mouth.
P.S. Like I said, I’ve often thought about her and thought she’d make an interesting heroine in a book. But I felt it would be unbelievable in a category romance in this day and age and I could never pull it off. So I did the next best thing—created a similar heroine, Jessie Murdock. She’s the heroine in my second book (Oct) of The Hardin Boys series. I hope I did her justice.