It's the emails from Aspies that I probably cherish the most.
When you write a series about a man who has Asperger's syndrome (there is NO "b" in it--this is not a sandwich!), you expect to hear from people who share those traits. Mostly, you expect to be told precisely when and where you have been inaccurate in your depiction of that end of the autism spectrum.
(Yes, I'm writing this with the full knowledge that the second Asperger's mystery THE QUESTION OF THE UNFAMILIAR HUSBAND will be available in bookstores and elsewhere this coming Thursday if it isn't already. If you consider this a cheap bow to commercialism, so be it. The electric bill isn't paying itself.)
And to be honest, there has been the occasional piece of negative feedback from someone who identifies as an "Aspie." Not much, and never really bruising, but it happens once in a while. The worst part is that they're usually right and I have made an error somewhere along the line. It's a reminder to be more diligent next time. They keep me honest.
But then you get the others. (And this is where I'll say I am not going to quote from anyone's email because I have not obtained their permission.) The ones that talk about finally seeing a work of fiction that understands what it's like to have the rest of the world misunderstand you. The ones that say your work has given them courage to go on after a setback. The ones that, frankly, make you tear up a little bit.
There are times on the 1000-word-a-day diet when the words aren't flowing quite as easily as others. Times when I honestly don't know what the next plot turn is going to be, or when it should come. For a writer like me who likes to paint himself into a corner, there are days when the paint is a little wetter and the corner a little tighter. It's not always easy to get out.
But--and this might sound corny, but it's true--those are the times when one of those Aspie emails makes me plod on. And plot on, too. Knowing that there's somebody out there who really does care about what happens next and can make a personal connection from the story that came out of my head to his/her own life is an amazing feeling. It's a huge implied responsibility, too--to get it right and not let the community down. I don't want to be known as the guy who wrote that stupid book about an Aspie and got it all wrong. That's important.
Just a couple of days ago I got a very thrilling, touching email from an Aspie which, again, I will not quote here. But I did forward it to Terri because she is the editor on these books and she has some inside information on the spectrum herself. And when she replied she summed up perfectly how I felt when I read the email this person took time out to send to an author who'd never done anything but write a story that seemed cool to him.
"Reviews are great," Terri wrote to me. "Awards are fantastic. But this... this is why I love what we do."
You can't do better than that. So I'm going to keep trying.
Thank you, Aspies.