On writing a letter to readers

Writing is nearly always hard. Capturing inchoate ideas and feelings and experiences, forcing these into precise words arranged intentionally, demands fierce psychic energy: more with every passing year. It is tempting to say that the drain comes from all that is not expressed, all the ways that the words are less than what I feel or think, and yet I’m not sure this is true. What keeps me writing, what draws me back to it, is the way that the words suddenly become more than what I knew, the way a sentence will take off and reveal so much that I had not realized was so.

Almost anything is easier to do than write.

Recently, my publisher asked if I would compose a letter to send my readers. I didn’t give it a second thought. Of course. I could dash it off in a few minutes. But then several gently-expressed deadlines passed. It was crunch time and I’d spent hours wondering what I could write that anyone would possibly read. I would laugh when a funny line came to mind (but I didn’t include any . . . ) and twitch uncomfortably at one that seemed too personal (but of course, I included those).

As it turns out, I don’t often write letters anymore. Which seems strange. A writer who doesn’t write letters. Once I wrote so many. Tens of thousands of words crawling across hundreds of pages: idealistic, romantic, excited. Enraged, loving, perplexed. In those letters, I felt my way through life.

I teach my composition students that writing is audience (so a letter to readers would include my sister, my college roommate, my neighbor, many strangers, perhaps a few reviewers, my nephew, my closest friends, my work colleagues) and purpose. The audience for my publisher’s letter was not simple, but the purpose was: to announce that my second novel ‘Round Midnight would soon be out in paperback.

So that’s the purpose of this blog too. On August 21, ’Round Midnight will be released with a new cover and a new title (what?), as well as a lot of publicity from my wonderful team at Touchstone Books and Simon & Schuster. Here’s the big reveal!


I’ve come to appreciate paperback books: light and squishable, easily folded into a carry-on or tucked into a beach bag, perfect for leaving behind on a park bench as a little karmic gift to whomever follows you there.

When I wrote In the Midnight Room, I was thinking about courage. I was thinking about how life demands it of us, and about how powerful it can be. I was also thinking about my home town, Las Vegas, and its boomtown hodgepodge of people. I was thinking about the possibilities –beautiful and explosive – that such a place presents. And I was thinking about how quickly folks might dismiss this hometown, how they think they know what it is or why it exists, and how much more interesting the reality is.

I wrote about June, who travels to Nevada in the 50’s for a quickie divorce and winds up founding a casino empire. I wrote about Honorata, a mail order bride who wins a jackpot, and about Coral, a Vegas native whose birth is shrouded in mystery. I wrote about Engracia, a young immigrant whose impulsive act of courage intimately binds all four women together.

I wanted the story to pull you forward quickly, so you would read it on a beach, and I also wanted the words to feel like music: to surprise you and move you and remind you. I hope I succeeded. I hope it brings you joy.

(For more information on In the Midnight Room, click here or on the book image above.)

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