Piers Anthony, My Favorite Author, Likes My Book Title!
I wrote one of my favorite authors an open letter, wanting to thank him for his impact on my writing. He offered some sage advice to me, many many moons ago. It took some time, but with some persistence, I made my little dream of becoming an author come true. Here is the reply from Piers Anthony, author of the Xanth Series. Here is my note to Piers and his response that I received just today.
It has indeed been a very long while since I last wrote you. In fact, you actually replied to me in a written letter which was both wonderful and nostalgic at the same time. I don’t expect you to remember me, as it has been years. I wrote to you asking for advice. I was a restaurant manager, struggling to find time with my writing. You offered me the most sage advice. Keep snippets of paper, or even a tiny notebook in my front pocket. Write down ideas and scenes in my head quickly, just the bones of it. Take time to explore the ideas in my off time.
I am here to tell you, that I followed your advice, and often. This helped me spawn many, many ideas for stories. I had many characters running around in my head, bumping around, doing things, going places.
Restaurant management only got harder over the last 15 years. More complicated. More rules. More micromanaged. When my two little boys were old enough to not quite take up so much of Daddy’s time, I finally got a swift kick in the butt from an old high school friend, and I was off again, writing down my adventures.
My sister and I had talked about writing a novel together for years, since we were kids even. We broke down and made a decision to team up after I read to her a couple pages of a fantasy novel I had started. She liked the voice I had discovered within myself and we set to debate what kind of book we wanted to write together. Mind you this was three and a half years ago. We started to hash it out. Vampires had been done to death, literally as the sparkly ones had taken over and marred the vampire universe, possibly irrevocably, forever. We were not much interested in what everyone else was doing at the time:Fairies, Shifters, Erotica. That sort of thing. One genre, or sub-genre, that we kept returning to was Zombies. We had watched our share of movies and knew that Zombies was perhaps something which we could bring something new, something different.
We had written for a couple of weeks, hashed out main characters, names, personalities, and three chapters. What we had not done was decide on a title. It ended up being a heated argument. We threw each other names over the phone for hours. It was maddening! My sister lived pretty far away, Wisconsin, and I was still here in North Carolina, yelling over the phone. My sister had been visiting with her high school best friend Amia that night. Amia was sitting in her chair, crocheting, I think, a blanket or a scarf. The item escapes me. However, it was at this point I was fed up with the idea of even having a title and I just blurted out “Screw it, Let’s just call it Zombies Don’t Ride Motorcycles then!” I was trying to just think of the stupidest, most ill-fitting name I could think of.
My sister rolled. She laughed so hard at me, as she often did when I tended to speak random nonsense, that she nearly fell out of her chair. If I remember correctly, she DID drop her phone. Amia looked up from her crochet and asked Melissa what was so funny. She told her. “My brother just told me the most retarded thing we should name our book!” To which Amia asked, “What?”
“Zombies Don’t Ride Motorcycles,” my sister said, still snorting with laughter.
Amia rose slowly out of her seat and dropped her crochet needles. She lifted her arm slowly, like a goddess about to send an energy ray into my sisters forehead. She pointed and shook her finger at her and said almost as if it was a command. “That. That is the name of your book.”
And thus Zombies Don’t Ride Motorcycles was born.
It took us three years to complete the book. My sister ended up getting dragged off to helping my sister in law and edit her books. I had been writing off and on, life at the restaurant still getting in the way. Still, I remembered what you had said, so many years ago, and I stayed the course.
There is much more, but my letter to you is already quite long. Let’s just say that I am blessed to have such wonderful people in my life to help me get this book completed. My sister did a wonderful job formatting for all the different platforms, and I had some really good friends help me with a zombie apocalypse photo-shoot for my cover, and a wonderful cover designer friend I met that helped make it work. I refused to finish writing it until I felt the initial story had been told. Having 11 principal characters made this a very daunting challenge, as I had to make sure each character had some good ‘screen time’. I have learned a lot just from writing. My style continuously evolved with each word that I wrote.
However, the purpose of this letter is to personally thank you. Piers, your books were my schooling. Yes, I have read many different authors, but from you I learned the importance of change in my characters. Change itself tells a story. Helps move things along. I learned that directly from your Bio of a Space Tyrant Series (The first book being my favorite).
I may not get rich of writing. Hell, I would just be happy paying the bills with it. But, I am not naive. I will continue to write for the love of it. It is my great stress reliever. I create worlds with the stroke of my pen and swipe of my fingers. And I got a handful of people that seem to like what I do. I am blessed.
I want to thank you yet one more time for being such a integral part of my exploration of worlds unseen, woven from your wonderfully imaginative ogre mind.
I hope perhaps one day you’ll get curious and spend a few days in one of my worlds and see what grew from the seeds that fell out of your pockets.
Matthew C. Leo
Thank you for your note. We have printed it for Piers Anthony and he gave us the following answer for you:
You have the right attitude, and an excellent title. I'm glad you found my advice helpful. I wish you good success. And who knows: There may be a zombie who can handle a motorcycle.
I guess he will just have to read the book to find out. ;)