Most writers don't even come close to making a living with their writing. Almost all of them have a day job or a husband or wife who supports them. Many write for the joy of seeing their work in print. Or they write because it feels wonderful to create something. These people often don't mind giving away free books or to entertain an audience for free. I envy them, but alas I am the other kind of novelist. I depend entirely on selling books for my income. When my family moved from Zimbabwe to the United States, we were only allowed to take $500 with us. While we were very happy to be in the U.S., it meant several years of frightening poverty. This ended when I began to sell books.
Yet we have never become rich. We are like the people who run the mom-and-pop store on the corner. Expenses are high and one bad year can ruin the business. I am trying to explain why I don't give away free books. Many people have written to me for them, expecting me to pay the postage as well. I can't do this any more than a grocer can give away free hamburger. So please don't think I am being heartless turning you down. It's simply how the business works.
I was probably the only author in the world, except those living in central Tibet, who didn’t have a website. Until now. There were a couple of reasons for it. I didn’t understand how to make a website. I didn’t know how to blog or to get onto other people’s blogs. I didn’t know what a chat room was, except that people got into mischief there. Let’s face it, I was firmly grounded in the 19th century.
The other reason was that I am an intensely private person. I have spent my whole life fading into the wall paper. Protective coloring has saved me from many dangerous situations, and believe me I have been in them. Nor do I like to talk about personal problems. This seems to be popular now and is supposed to make you likable to other people with personal problems.
One of the stupidest statements I ever heard as a child was this:
I was unhappy because I had no shoes until I met a man with no feet.
All this meant to me was that there were two unhappy people out there, one with no shoes and another with no feet. I have a very literal mind.
I can’t think of a worse activity than a bunch of unhappy people getting together to share misery. I do suffer from depression. It runs in my family. Through the years I have learned to recognize when I’m spiraling down and to stop the depression in its tracks. I exercise, force myself to visit people (cheerful ones, that is), and to do things for others.
When I was younger I used to break a depression by doing something dangerous. You’d be surprised how a genuine physical danger sweeps away all the cobwebs. When London was being bombed during the Second World War, the number of suicides went straight down. It went up after the danger was past. I learned this interesting fact when I was about fifteen. I’m not going to tell you what I did because I don’t want anyone copying me, but I got rid of quite a few depressions.
There. I’ve told you one personal problem. You’ll have to be satisfied with that.
But just because I don’t reveal feelings doesn’t mean I don’t have them. I have a crystal-clear memory of my emotions as a child and a teenager, which is why I can write the books I do. Young people feel things more strongly than adults. Their fears are more intense. They have vivid nightmares. They get into wild fits of joy. They fall in love.
An adult reader once criticized The House of the Scorpion because he didn’t believe that Matt and Maria could fall in love at age fourteen. I don’t even know where to begin with that idea. Dante (an Italian poet who wrote The Divine Comedy) fell in love with Beatrice when he was only nine. And he stayed in love with her for the rest of his life. Juliet was only thirteen when she met Romeo. I know several people who fell in love deeply at a very early age. It happens.
I’m not talking about sex here, but love. If it were up to me I’d keep a lot of people away from sex until they’re at least thirty-five. It’s much more important to learn how to love and many people never figure it out.
I want to thank all of you who have left a message on the website. I am truly touched that you found it and took the trouble to write. I have been terrible about answering letters and hope that I can make up for it here. Most of the time I am so swamped with work I don’t have time for anything else. Until two days ago I was writing the third Troll book, The Land of the Silver Apples. This meant working every day without holidays or weekends for nine months and now I am so exhausted I can hardly see.
But I know I’ve been shirking my duty to you. I will answer questions on this website and also provide more information about my books for those who are writing school papers. I will label the topics and later figure out a better way to organize them. Look for them on Q & A.
P.S. I wouldn’t have a website at all if my husband Harold hadn’t worked out how to do it. He’s as thoroughly stuck in the 19th century as I am, but he’s smarter.