Tamora Pierce

Hi Tammy,

Remember that time you laughed at a badger meme I posted? You probably don’t, and I don’t blame you. You probably see a lot of badger memes. But I remember, and I was proud of myself for that for, like, a whole day afterward. Not to get too sappy, but bringing some small amount of joy to someone who had brought me gobs and gobs of it was a really good feeling.

The first book of yours I read was Wolf-Speaker.

I know, I know, it’s a weird place to start: a second book of a second series. I didn’t even have the decency to start at the beginning of the Immortals quartet. I was thrown into a story already begun, meeting a protagonist who had already begun her arc, spending time with characters who had already been introduced and elaborated on.

I regret nothing. Part of this is because of your writing, Tammy. Despite coming in partway through a 4-book arc, starting with Wolf-Speaker just felt like another entry point into the story. You weave in the salient details of past events without belaboring them, hint at larger happenings in the world, and further develop your characters all within the confiens of a single story. Wolf-Speaker doesn’t feel incomplete, though I would also argue that it fits perfectly into its niche in Daine’s timeline.

I also don’t regret my decision at all because being introduced to a protagonist who can communicate with animals, and having her first major interactions be with a wolf pack was the perfect point to enter a story for my 12-year-old self. Regular readers of the BWP blog may recall that I wrote of the Redwall universe that a universe full of talking animals was everything I wanted. I may have to slightly tweak that statement, because even better was the possibility of a universe where animals were still animals — not living in buildings and farming the land, but living as animals do — but some people could talk to them. Rather, some people could talk to them, and they would answer.

From Wolf-Speaker, I finished the Immortals quartet, and then went back to read your works from the beginning. Over time I got to meet all of your heroines, and I am so glad I spent time growing up with all of these women. From bull-headed temperamental Alanna to calm unyielding Kel, to snippy people-averse Tris — it would take too long to describe them all, but suffice it to say, that when I try to determine a single favorite, it’s nearly impossible.*

There are many things I can be thankful for in your writing, Tammy, but the greatest thing is that you showed me unequivocally that women in fantasay could be as real and varied as the women I know from reality. They could show full ranges of emotions, had their own ideas, and made their own decisions. They could be sad, angry, brave, quiet, brash, thoughtful, giddy, and everything in between. Thank you for their stories.

-Louisa

*Nearly. (I’ll give you one guess).

Gail Carson Levine

Dear Ms. Levine,

When I was a kid, there were three things that I knew about myself: green was my favorite color, I ate too many things deemed inedible, and that I had an unhealthy want for adventure. This unchecked desire often got me in trouble and my early elementary years were full of time outs from recess and being chased by kids I had pranked. I wasn’t a bad kid, but I was bored and this boredom got me into trouble. Often. Then there was a day, I think in 3rd or 4th grade that I found myself forced to choose a library book in school. I happened to pick up Ella Enchanted, and I honestly believe that I was never the same.

I never thought I would fall in love with a book based on Cinderella . The funny thing is, I never liked Cinderella, but I love your version of her. I mean, I guess Cinderella was okay as a Disney movie, but I just didn’t get it. She was just so darn nice, and then everything kind of magically worked out for her. I felt distant from Cinderella as a character. Reading about Ella, who was so painfully real, who experienced the world around her as I might have in her position, made me able to accept and immerse myself in the magic from fairy tales. Your book captivated me in a way that I had never experienced before. I remember reading about Ella’s curse, seeing her similarities to Cinderella, both knowing her story and having no idea what would happen. There wasn’t a character in Ella Enchanted that I didn’t feel personally connected to, and you made it so easy.

The truth is, if I hadn’t picked up Ella Enchanted randomly in the library that day, I don’t know if I would have become hooked on reading. It was because of your book that I dove into literature hoping to find characters like Ella that could show me what it means to be a heroine. Now, years later with an English degree and several years of teaching under my belt, when my baby sister was looking for a bed time story I knew exactly which one to start her on. Oh, and she is addicted to reading now too. I don’t think ‘thank you’ will quite cover it, Ms. Levine, but I’m going to say it anyway. Thank you for everything.
Your biggest admirer,
Ayesha

Patricia C. Wrede

Hi Pat!

I just want to take a second to thank you for the Enchanted Forest Chronicles. I know, I know, they’re not your only books, and certainly not your most recent, but they were staple reading of my childhood, and staple rereading well beyond.

I actually read Searching for Dragons first, not out of any kind of strange desire to read books out of order, but because it was one of the books featured in my middle school class’s “Battle of the Books,”  where we were put into teams to collectively tackle a list of novels and then answer trivia questions about them (yes, I went to nerd school, which is for nerds). From BotB’s latest list, it looks like they have since corrected their oversight, and are including Dealing with Dragons instead. Phew, glad they figured that one out.

Still, Searching being my first encounter with your work was hardly a negative. After all, who’s to say the best introduction to the enchanted forest couldn’t be meeting its king (and his steward, of course), followed by a host of varied, lovable, and not-so-lovable characters?

Speaking of characters, I need to thank you particularly, Pat, for your female characters. I was going to make this section of my note exclusively about Cimorene, but upon reflection I think that would be a mistake. Don’t get me wrong, Cimorene is a great character — a girl who rejects entirely and repeatedly what society expects of her? who pursues her own wants and needs? who makes her own decisions and advocates for herself?!? yes, please, I’ll take fifty! — but she’s hardly your only one. There’s Morwen: practical and unapologetic; and Kazul: a responsible but fiery (har har) leader, among others.

Thank you for all of them, from giantesses to fire witches. Thank you for making so many other YA fantasy novels disappointing when the ladies in them fell flat by comparison.

-Louisa

Diana Wynne Jones

Hi Diana,

I have a confession to make: I’ve never read Howl’s Moving Castle. I’ve never even seen the Miyazaki film.

I’ve had both the book and film recommended to me countless times by friends, family, acquaintances, and posts on the Internet where I’ve recognized a reference without the benefit of knowing the full context, but somehow I’ve never gotten around to it. So, while many people I know have always first and foremost associated you with Howl, I still don’t know much about him or Sophie (her name is Sophie, right?), apart from his being a wizard with a tiny fire demon (is the fire demon in the book?), and a strong association with crows (or is it ravens?).

Cat Chant is a different story. My copy of Charmed Life is worn from years of reading and rereading. For a long time it was the only piece of your work I’d ever read, and I went back to it whenever I wanted to reenter that world, or rather those worlds, the richness of which you only get a small peek during Cat and Gwendolen’s story. Charmed Life sat on my shelf among a mishmash of other novels, fantasy or not, and I well remember several times walking up to that bookshelf having finished a new book, looking for the familiarity of an old friend, and pulling that slim purple volume out from between The Gammage Cup and one or another teen angst novel.

I don’t know why it took me so long to branch out — maybe it’s because I am very much a rereader at my core — but it wasn’t until I was probably 16 or 17 that I realized you’d written other books, and that I could obtain those other books, and read them. I found the collected volumes of the Chrestomanci series in a bookstore and snatched up the first two, devouring The Lives of Christopher ChantThe Magicians of Caprona, and Witch Week immediately. And while I loved all of them, I kept going back to Charmed Life.

Every time I pick up that tired paperback, Julia spreads far too much marmalade on her toast. Every time, I re-encounter the word “widdershins,” and remember again what it means. Every time, I am reminded of the cat who was a fiddle and the dragon who is, well, dead and not-dead. And every time, all these things are comforting and comfortingly strange. I hope I go back to The Lives, because I love Christopher dearly, and I hope I meet Howl sometime in the future, but I have a feeling I’ll be rereading Cat’s story for a very long time.

Thank you for everything,
Louisa

J.K. Rowling

Dear JKR,

Thank you. I grew up reading any and all books I could find, but none left such a mark as the Harry Potter series. Harry Potter gives me a feeling unlike any other. I would say it’s almost magical, but that would be cheesy. When I opened Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for the first time, I got bored and set it down. It collected dust for about a year before I picked it up again, and then I couldn’t put it down. I attended all the midnight book releases, movie premieres, and had all the merchandise available at the time. I dreamt in Potter, and was convinced that I would get my letter each summer. I have laughed, sobbed, and screamed during my readings.

When I was diagnosed with depression, Harry Potter was there for me. No matter how little I am able to feel, Harry Potter allows me to feel. When I was hospitalized multiple times, I still had Harry Potter. Every bad day, break up, fight, or loss was lessened by the presence of my HP books. The last book came out nine years ago, but I will never stop rereading whether it be in print or audiobook. Harry Potter gives me life, hope, and happiness unlike anyone or anything I’ve ever known.

To say that Harry Potter saved my life would be an understatement. Thank you, Ms Rowling, for creating the most amazing universe for me to escape into when real life gets tough. Thank you for allowing movies to be made even if they don’t always match the brilliance of the books. Thank you for giving me a fandom where I feel so comfortable. Thank you for giving me friends in Hermione, Neville, and Ron; role models in Ginny and McGonagall; everlasting laughs from Fred, George, and Harry; and self-assurance and confidence from the examples of Luna and Tonks, who stayed true to themselves regardless of what the rest of the world had to say. I couldn’t imagine a world without Harry Potter in it. Thank you for giving me a way to turn on the light during my darkest of times.

Sincerely,
Juliana (Ravenclaw)

Terry Pratchett

Dear Sir Terry,

You showed the world that fantasy, long dominated by backwards-looking escapism, has as much to say about modern society as science fiction does. I had enjoyed one of your children’s books, so after coming across a couple television adaptations a decade later, I decided to give your Discworld series a try. The first book, The Color of Magic, was a blast. I wasn’t hooked, however, until Jingo, which taught me as much about geopolitics and civil-military relations as a semester at Georgetown. (Ok, maybe not quite as much, but it was certainly a better value.)

You helped teach this once cynical and dismissive atheist the value of religion by showing the goodness religious belief can inspire, even as you never ceased to poke fun at pompous or absurd religiosity. Perhaps the most beautiful scene I’ve ever read was when Pastor Mightily Oats, the overeager, literal interpreter of scripture, finally realizes how to save his companion using the words of the prophet – by burning his holy book as kindling.

Belief in your books isn’t passive, but a tool to shape the world. In Hogfather, it’s the ability to believe in the Santa Claus-like title character – basically, to find meaning in stories – that lets us believe in intangible things like justice and mercy. That became how I think of human rights. They exist only because we choose to belief they exist, and the world is a better place for that.

Best of all is the sense of decency that pervades your books – and the reminders never to take one’s own goodness for granted. Like the witches who watch over one another lest one of their number ends up cackling and baking children into pies, we all need good people around us to tell us when we’ve gone too far. Otherwise, we may start to think we’re kinder, smarter, better than other people and that that gives us the right treat them however we want. On the Discworld, as in our own, not everyone is good, but anyone could be good. A goblin. A vampire. An all-powerful dictator. Even an elf.

Thank you,
Lisa

Brian Jacques

Dear Mr. Jacques,

Can I call you Brian? It feels weird to call you Brian. I’m gonna skip over the name issue for now. Maybe I’ll adjust. Speaking of names, though, I’m guessing you’ve never heard of Shadow and Sprinkles. Let me tell you, Brian – no, it still feels weird to call you Brian. Let me tell you, Mr. Jacques, about Shadow and Sprinkles. Shadow was a black lab; Sprinkles was a Dalmatian, and Shadow’s best friend. And they were some of the first characters I came up with in any sort of formal writing as a child. Though they were preceded by some very memorable elephants in large-print short stories, Shadow and Sprinkles were the stars of my first novel, written when I was about 9 years old, which apart from the dogs themselves had pretty much all of its elements ripped directly from your books.

Yes, Shadow and Sprinkles were transported – magically of course – from their suburban backyard to the forests of the Redwall universe, where they encountered a small baby mouse who became their traveling companion, and went up against rats, ferrets, ermines, and – of course – stoats. Thanks for that vocabulary boost, by the way. Throughout their journey to defeat the awful varmints who ran amok in the forest, Shadow and Sprinkles defended the local population of mice, otters, badgers, and other friendly creatures, worked to settle disputes among some moles, and remained strongly focused on food. You taught me well there, Mr. Jacques.

While the escapades of Shadow and Sprinkles will never again see the light of day – due not only to my embarrassment at the writing of my nine-year-old self, but also because I’m sure they violate several copyright laws – I’d like to take a moment to thank you this November for introducing me to the world of Redwall and all its treasures. A society of all animals was everything I wanted as a kid, and Redwall had the added bonus of being set in an era of history I have since (perhaps, unsurprisingly) grown to love. So thanks for the Abbey’s mouse friars and the gentle burr-accented moles. Thanks for Log-a-Log and the ranks and ranks of shrews. Thanks for the Skipper and all of the otters – cherished representations of what was and will continue to be my favorite animal. Thanks for the badger lords of Salamandastron and their warrior hares. And thank you, from the very bottom of my heart, for Shadow and Sprinkles. They owe every single last one of their forest adventures to you.

Love from all my past and current selves,

Louisa

P.S. I know you were never a fan of video games, but I hope you would be delighted to know that a circle of my friends and I are planning a Redwall-based tabletop RPG campaign. Unsurprisingly, I’ll be playing an otter, a character who will hopefully fit into the world of Redwall a little better than Shadow and Sprinkles ever managed to.

(n.b. Header image for this post is from The Great Redwall Feast, illustrated by Christopher Denise. See more of his work here.)

Juliet Marillier

Dear Juliet,

I was eleven years old when I stumbled upon a display at my local library that contained both Daughter of the Forest and the newly published Son of the Shadows. At the time my reading palate consisted entirely of Harry Potter and historical romance novels. And yes, I do mean romance novels. Like the really bad kind, the kind that my friends and I would read out loud to each other as we hid under the blankets with a flashlight at sleepovers because we couldn’t get over how gross and silly it all sounded. I can’t say what initially drew me to Daughter of the Forest, but I do know that I ended up picking both of the books up because there was a review from the Romantic Times on the book which praised it as being “surprisingly romantic.” I can’t know my eleven year old mind, not entirely, but I can be certain that this review is the reason I decided to give your books a shot.

At 3 am that same night I was awake in my bedroom, pacing back and forth, talking myself through everything that had happened, everything that could happen, and wondering how in the world Daughter of the Forest could possibly have a happy ending and why anyone would call it romantic. Earlier in the day I’d been deeply traumatized by early events in the book but had persevered with that promise of romance, and had somehow become so entirely engrossed in the tale that it wasn’t until the infamous burning day that it even occurred to me that I might not actually be reading a romance novel.  

The sleep I lost that night finishing Sorcha’s journey was absolutely worth it, and I ordered the soon-to-be-published Child of the Prophecy before I even started Son of the Shadows. Since then I have been an avid follower of yours, pre-ordering each book as soon as the pre-order becomes available, and even ordering some books (such as Foxmask) from Australia since the US edition would be released nearly a year after its Australian counterpart.

Daughter of the Forest is the first book, aside from Harry Potter, that I absolutely lost myself in. It sparked my love of the fantasy genre and encouraged me to broaden my reading and writing horizons. But what always gets me about it (and most of your books, honestly), is that no matter how many times I read it I still have the same overwhelming tide of emotions that absolutely stunned eleven-year-old me. My first copy of Daughter of the Forest is filled with post-it notes and the cover on it has long since fallen off from fifteen years of love and avid use. When I read it again several months ago, for what is likely the 500th time, I still cried at some of my favorite parts, still felt that intense need to finish it, to see the story through, to find out what happens next even though I could probably quote the thing line-by-line at this point.

Sorcha and her story marked the beginning of a lot of things for me, and I love that she was the beginning of your writing journey as well. Thank you so much for bringing her to the world, and to my world. Thank you for years of intense love and joy, and for every story you’ve written since then. I never hesitate to name you as my favorite author, and I am grateful every day for that one Romantic Times review which brought you to my life.

Many thanks and all the love,
Rebecca (aka your actual biggest fan)