Sunday, July 4, 2010

Piers Anthony

I was reading Piers Anthony's online newsletter yesterday, and it made me remember how much enjoyment his books have brought me over my life. I read the book Heaven Cent.
when I was eleven. I got it as one of the random sci-fi fantasy books chosen by a library worker. The Portsmouth Public Library had a service that would send you library books at no charge. They even sent you a pre-paid envelope to return the books to the library. You could list specific titles that you wanted or you could write "brown bag" and pick a genre. If you picked brown bag, someone at the library would choose some books in the genre you picked. I think they'd send around four to six books at a time.

Anyway, that's how I was introduced to both Piers Anthony and David Eddings. Both are awesome writers. Both have primarily published fantasy novels, but they've also published some other genres as well.

Back to Piers Anthony. He is very straightforward and doesn't mince words with his newsletter (or anyone else for that matter). He goes all out for what he thinks is right and he doesn't tolerate ignorance or greed.

One of my favorite things about him is that he spends lots of time on his fans, even though he complains that it takes away from his writing time. Which I'm sure it does since he answers some emails and letters personally and writes a monthly newsletter that is quite lengthy (several thousands of words each usually).

I first wrote him a letter when I was 14. I was very depressed as well as experiencing a religious fervor. I was trying to be Christian, but I think I was mainly becoming a super judgemental jerk (Is there a difference, you ask--yes, I think there can be). I wrote to him about how I really liked his books and how they were one of the few things I enjoyed in life. I also told him about my disturbing self-injury habits. And, the real kicker, I included some religious tracts.

I received a letter back pretty soon after I'd mailed mine. I still have the letter, but I don't remember his exact words. He gave me some positive things to think about and that I was young and life would most likely improve. He then went on to caution my about religion and people trying to brainwash me. Or something along those lines.

Around the same time I'd become penpals with another older man who'd told me about the same thing as far as religion is concerned. I met him by writing a letter to Rock'n'Roll Comics about how I liked the Queen comics they'd made. I don't remember what else I wrote, but he wrote me back and we started an ongoing dialogue.

Back to Piers. I also asked him to name a character after my other penpal's son, who had been murdered. Piers occasionally named characters for readers, but not usually. In this case he did, because my penpal's son had liked Piers' books and had met an untimely end. That character is in Faun & Games.

When I was 24 I wrote to him again. I told him I'd refrained from writing to him for ten years so I thought maybe it'd be okay to pester him again. I asked if he would mind naming a character after each of my daughters since they have autism (characters in Xanth have often crossed over from Mundania--often when they die--and they get to live on in their afterlife or without their disabilities). He was very kind and again agreed to name characters for me. The girls are in Stork Naked.

Besides his fiction, he's also written a few nonfiction. Two of those books are autobiographies. I really enjoyed those books, although they made me a little sad at times. He has collaborated with writers who were fans of his books, and he had to go through publishing bureaucratic hell to get the books published. Even though he had multiple bestsellers published, his publisher didn't want to take a risk on the joint project tanking. He eventually got them published, but I believe he had to switch publishing houses to do so.

Anyway, I think he is an awesome writer and person. He has published around 140 books to date. I wish I could finish writing just one! I seem to get paralyzed at a certain point in the process. I don't really know why. Writer's block? (don't get Piers started on that--he'll say it's more of my next guess) Laziness? Lack of talent? Lack of ambition? I don't know. I fell positive that I will eventually finish a book, but whether or not it gets published is another matter.

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