I get letters
The Most Interesting Question I've Been Asked in a While
Dear Ms. Henry,
My language arts teacher is constantly going on and on about how there's no way that the sole purpose of an author writing a book is to entertain. She says that there has to be deeper meaning for writing the story other than to entertain or inform. I was wondering if you have a reason for writing your books other than to entertain readers. Why do you do what you do?
Your question is an interesting one! I think the answer lies somewhere in between. But I fall more on your side. When I first sit down to write a story, it’s totally to entertain. Usually I’ve come across a real-life scenario and think it will make the perfect jumping off point for an exciting story. So that’s a point for the entertainment-only idea.
And there’s an “inform" aspect to it, too. For example, in Girl, Stolen readers learn about what it’s like to be blind. I try to research things and make them as real as possible, so the reader is not only entertained, but also learns something, too.
However, I’m also a person who has all kinds of idea about how the world should be. So I might work in little messages about, say, a gay teen being kicked out of the house and being homeless through no fault of their own. Also in most books, the main character usually undergoes some kind of transformation. Often they learn things. That change is called a character arc. For example, in Girl, Stolen, Cheyenne realizes she can still lead a full life even though she is blind. In the book I’m working on today, Olivia realizes she does need people after all.
But those aren’t the main parts of the book, and they certainly aren’t the reason I write. I never sit down thinking I’m going to write a book with a certain theme, or to prove a point. While that may happen, it’s not why I write. I have a sort of meta-reason why I write. I want more people to enjoy reading. It always makes me happy to hear from someone who normally doesn’t like to read.
Some more of my favorites:
As I sit and write this letter in English class, I wonder about what life as an author is like. Is it a quiet, un-famous road, or full of glamour and Ralph Lauren handbags?
I just want to say, I loved Girl, Stolen. I had finished a book but still had time to read in class, and a girl said I could I could read her book for the last 10 minutes we had. I loved it. I thought it would be boring, but I read it just to read, and I was instantly hooked. I couldn't put it down.
The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die is the first novel I have finished reading in my whole life!
I'm reading more, thanks to you."
This is the first book I have truly enjoyed.When I first heard I had to read a book i was dreading it. After I read the back of the book my interest spiked a little. After 40 mins when the class was over I was sad I had to wait another day to read the next few pages.
[From a college student who is blind] I recently reread Girl, Stolen and I was just as pleased with the portrayal of blindness as I was a few years ago on my first reading (maybe even more so, because I'm a guide dog user now, and the way Cheyenne talks about Phantom was just sooooo right).
Your books are so interesting and I always want to read now. Before I wasn't a fan of books but now you got me hooked.
One of our middle school students came in the library today and shouted "I read the whole thing! It's the first book I've ever read cover to cover! I can't believe you were right Ms B, April Henry is a fabulous writer. I couldn't put the book down -- I've never done that!" (She read The Night She Disappeared.)
After I calmed her a bit I asked if she wanted the rest of your books put on hold (they are never on the shelves) and I thought I would have to peel her off the ceiling "She has more! I want them all!" I then said that I could put the ones we have on hold but you have a new one coming out in June. That was a mistake because then I heard "I'll be gone, I won't be in school to come here to get it." So I reassured her that more than likely the public library will have it or even her high school when she gets there in August. This is when she said my favorite line -- "You don't understand Ms B HER BOOK CHANGED MY LIFE -- SHE MADE ME A READER! As I smiled. she said "Oh yeah you helped by telling me about her."
I told her I would let you know what happened. Another outburst -- "YOU KNOW HER!" "Well not really but she's on Goodreads with me -- OMG YOU HAVE TO WRITE TO TELL HER PLEASE!!!! " Thanks for making her a reader!
I read a lot of books but I have never in my life read an entire book cover to cover in one day. This is by far the greatest book I have ever read in my entire life. I am now recommending you to everyone I know! I just got done reading The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die. I just could not put it down. The plot twists kept me hooked all the way through and I had to know what was going to happen next.
I love your book Girl Stolen. It is one of the best books I've ever read. I used to hate reading and my mom always told me it was because I couldn't find the right books, until i found this.I now love to read. Thank you so much for this gift to love reading.
When I got to the end [of Girl, Stolen] I was screaming! I actually woke up my parents screaming of happiness and joy .
I am a 7th grade writer and I love reading your books because they are so inspiring. I just can't get my eyes out of your books.
I loved Girl Stolen! My mom had to take it away from me for a few days because I read it everywhere. I even read it in the grocery store!
Thank you for showing me that reading is fun and NOT stupid.
I am a senior in high school. I stopped reading in the 8th grade. Even then I NEVER read. Now since I'm a senior, I have to read. The cover of Girl, stolen caught my eye. I love like horror, thrillers, stuff like that and I can't stop reading it. This will be the FIRST book I will ever finish on my OWN. I'm so proud of myself."
Just wanted to let you know that my fifteen year old niece, who rarely ever reads anything outside of facebook posts and texts, is over 100 pages into your new book. I gave it to her a few hours ago, and she hasn't stopped reading since. Not even to eat dinner. She's read most of your young adult books, and you are her favorite author. And I thank you for writing a book so great that she just cannot stop reading
PS She says you SUCK because she really wants to eat dinner, but she MUST find out what happens.
[About The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die] I actually was at my local Barnes and Noble waiting for them to finish unloading the truck so I could have this book the moment it was put on the shelf.
"I just wanted to thank you for changing my life! I actually enjoy reading now and I'm sure anybody would be surprised to hear that from me!"
Thank you for writing -- You are my Written Word Goddess.
I am in high school and I have read two of your books and I'm trying to find some more. They are thrilling and I personally don't like to read but your books just draw my attention!
How old where you when you knew that you wanted to be a writer because your books are amazing. If you wouldn't have made this choice i would never have read a book.
In class today my friend had to shake me and poke me 1,000 times just so I could look up from the book! My life would chage if you sent me an e-mail back!
Thank you for writing Girl, Stolen! I am a literacy coach at a middle school... This book has ignited a love for literacy in several students and teachers in my building. I have witnessed students hanging in the classroom after the bell to read just a few more sentences before having to move on to the next class. This week I have overheard students excitedly sharing which page number they were on and searching for others as far as they were in the text so that they could talk about what had just happened! One student, knowing that I had read the novel this summer, mouthed to me "Mrs _____ page 183 O-M-G!!" To which I whispered back "Keep reading! It gets even better!!!" We now have a waiting list of students who want to read Girl, Stolen next in their literature discussion group. A teacher who is retiring this year thanked me for sharing the book with her and endorses it to her students as the best book she has read in her career as a Language Arts teacher.
To be honest, I was never, ever interested in books, or anything school related. I found Girl, Stolen in my school library, and the cover looked interesting, the one where she has her hands in front of her face. That was the first time I've ever read a book without being told to by a teacher. You've really inspired me to read, and now I'm taking home books from different libraries everyday! Thank you so much, I can't believe I've been missing out on books through out school, now I'm in love with them.
Dear April I Hate Reading So Much But I Fell In Love With Girl, Stolen!
Sometimes in math class I get in trouble for reading [Girl, Stolen] because once I read it I am in a whole other world. My friend has to shake me just so I will pay attention but I am still getting good grades.
"My niece said that her teacher was saying that you disapeared and know one in the world knows where you are anymore. Is that true? Is it just a rumor?"
If only my life were that exciting! Just imagine all the publicity. All I can I think of is that they got me confused with The Night She Disappeared.
And in case I get a big Head:
Hi, my name is S----, I am nine years old. Just a few years ago, I decided I want to be a writer. I am a part of a book club and one of the last books we read was your book, Girl Stolen. While most of the kids dropped the book, I was one of the few that read the whole thing.