We are best friends who’ve been co-writing women’s fiction for twenty of our twenty seven years of friendship. Uptown is our seventh novel. For more information about who we are, what we do and/or to read an excerpt of Uptown please visit http://deberryandgrant.com.

About 100 years ago, or more accurately in1996, when we were in pre-pub for Tryin’ to Sleep in the Bed You Made, which was technically our second book, but the first under our own names, we decided to include a letter to the readers in the back. It was our way of extending what we’ve always viewed as a communication between writer and readers. We wanted to assure that if someone was actually motivated to write back, they had a way to reach us directly. This was a lesson we learned after our first book, Exposures, (written as Marie Joyce, both of our middle names) came out. About nine months after publication we received a large envelope from our publisher. It contained several letters that had been sent to us, in care of them, by readers. Clearly they had been moved around somebody’s desk until, in a fit of organization, this somebody stuck them in an envelope, actually looked up our address and sent them to the mailroom. No matter how purloined our “fanmail” had been we were grateful to receive it and because our mothers had taught us well, we wrote responses to each one. But we also decided that in the future, if indeed we had a publishing future, we wanted a direct line of communication with our readers.

So we headed to the post office and rented ourselves a PO Box. And we got our first email address—back when Prodigy and Comp-u-serve were still prominent. We opted for the upstart AOL. Our editor was mystified. “Why are you including an email address?” At that point the publisher didn’t even have email (this really does seem like 100 years ago, doesn’t it); all of our urgent communication took place by fax. We didn’t expect more than a Publishers’ Clearing House entry, but we decided to go with the experiment.

And to our delight, there was a flood of mail! Our postal folks wanted to know who we were and what we did because there was so much mail coming to the box. Readers were excited to have a way to reach the writer and tell us what they felt. So many started their notes by saying, “This is the first time I’ve ever written an author.” It was like a great catharsis and a way to verify that writers were actual people. In the beginning, snail mail far outweighed email, but the electronic connection was steady and continued to grow.

Flash forward into the 21st Century (there’s some kind of whooshing sound effect or those stars zipping by at warp speed that goes with that. You get the idea). Virtually all of our reader correspondence is via email (much of the remaining snail mail comes from correctional facilities and from people with loopy Palmer Method handwriting who still have a fondness for lovely stationery). It may have taken publishers a while to realize the value of the internet, but we got that one up front. We have changed publishing houses, but because of the direct hook-up with our readers, we were able to take them with us.

Now, reaching out to The Peeps is commonplace, and increasingly important. So, we have the obligatory website, Myspace, Facebook, and Twitter pages. We blog and regularly do Q&A’s for online book clubs, literary blogs, a wide variety of book and writer sites, newsletters and journals. These days publishers expect us to find and maintain ways to reach out and touch our fans and to cultivate new readers—it has become as much part of our authoring job as writing the book.
And readers expect a way to let us know how they feel, send casting suggestions for the movie they would like to see made from our book, and generally tell us what’s on their minds (we just got a request to know how we condition and color our hair!)

It all changed in a hot damn hurry!

At the moment, we’re trying to figure out a way to do a live webcast of our launch party for Uptown…we’ll let you know how that goes…

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Comment by Victoria Mixon on February 16, 2010 at 3:21pm
What a great story about publishing only 14 years ago. Yes, my co-author and I included email addresses in our book, too, but that was because it was a book on computers. I would not have expected that electronic availability from fiction authors!

I'll be looking forward to hearing more about how the writing/editing/publishing process works with the two of you. It sounds as though you've created an amazing organic experience that grows and evolves along with your relationship throughout the years.
Comment by Carleen on February 15, 2010 at 5:50pm
Y'all are funny! Can't wait to see if you pull off the webcast.

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