I don't get a lot of fan mail. I'm not well-known enough, or successful enough, and I'm the first to admit that most of the e-mails I receive saying someone enjoyed one of my books, are from friends and family who know how much I need the boost!
However ... it does happen. Occasionally, and unexpectedly, I get a response from one of my websites, and I'm always terribly thrilled and excited, probably out of all proportion to the actual event. The thing is, I recognise that for somebody to take the trouble, after reading a book, to look up the author on the internet, browse their website and then go even further and send a message - they must have REALLY enjoyed the book! I treasure those messages, because (sad and desperate though it sounds!), it means there are actually strangers out there who appreciate my work - they're not all friends of my daughters who have been cajoled into supporting me (bless them) or local people in Essex who got curious after reading my 'bit' in the local paper - they're genuine fans! Whoopee!
Amongst the messages I've treasured most, are those coming from abroad, and (this might sound odd) those that still occasionally come in on my Sheila Norton website about my earlier books - because it's so nice to think that they're still being read and enjoyed.
A particularly gratifying message recently came from a 21-year-old, who said she loved 'The Trouble With Ally' (very first book - middle-aged heroine), because reading about an older woman having so much fun, made her feel better about the thought of getting older! Ha! So much for younger readers not liking to read about older heroines!
And best of all (and probably most surprising) are those - like one I received yesterday - from male readers. This nice chap - again commenting on www.sheilanorton.co.uk - said that although I described my books as women's fiction, he had loved reading them, and was pleased to see that I'd written some more as Olivia. That was another very satisfying thought - that there are men out there enjoying the books. What a pity we have to categorise all our fiction these days in order to market it!
The only other guy that ever got in touch with me out of the blue was an American, who said his wife had made him read books like mine in the hope of 'making him more romantic'. He wrote to tell me that he did identify with one of my male characters - but didn't like reading about wives leaving their husbands and hoped that wasn't going to happen in my next book. The next book was already written - and I wasn't about to change the plot. So unfortunately, I never heard from him again!