I recently started reading Terry Pratchett’s latest book ‘Raising Steam’, with a slightly heavy heart. Not because I didn’t think I’d enjoy it, I knew I would, but because each new book brings us a bit closer to the time where there will be no more new books.
He has a very rare form of early onset Alzheimer’s and it’s meant that it’s becoming harder for him to write. He can’t type anymore and now dictates his books to his assist Rob or uses voice recognition software. With luck he can carry on for a good few years and he’s also said that he is happy for his daughter Rhianna to carry on writing his famous Discworld series so his legacy is safe. Still it will be a very sad day when he can no longer write books himself.
For years I’ve wanted to write him a fan letter and now, finally, I have.
Dear Sir Terry,
I’ve been meaning to write this letter for a long time. I’ll get to why I didn’t do so before, later. In the meantime, I’d like to try and impart the importance you have had in my life.
If someone asked me what my favourite book is I’d say…Alice in Wonderland. But if someone asked me who made you want to be a writer, I’d say…Enid Blyton. But if someone asked me who’s your favourite writer, who made you believe you could write, I’d say Sir Terry Pratchett obviously!
The first book of yours I read was Truckers and after that I was, as they say, hooked. Oh I still loved my Blyton and my Dahl and my Jacques but in your books I found something new. A voice I connected with. When my Mother deemed me old enough to be introduced to Discworld (after years of hard training down the library you understand), I found a whole new side to that voice.
Here was a fantastic but believable world full of characters coloured grey rather than black and white. Here were female characters that were bossy and determined and funny who didn’t get punished for it. Here was humour and sarcasm and truly ordinary people who were heroes without having special powers or even much of a reward at the end of it.
Here was someone who wrote like I wanted to write. Better still, they were actually published.
I knew then that I could write exactly how and what I wanted. So I did.
One day, I hope to finish a my own book and send it out into the big bad world. It may not do very much, but the fact it will be wholly what I want to write will be a huge achievement.
So, why I didn’t I write this letter earlier? Simple. I couldn’t find the words and that’s a pretty terrible thing for a writer because you know, words are kind of our ‘thing’. A writer without words is just a sad person bashing their head on a keyboard (okay that’s also what writers do a lot too but you get my point). And yet when it came to this letter…
There just aren’t the words. I’d have to make up new ones and Shakespeare I’m most definitely not. But now, as part of The-Year-I-Do-Things, I have written this letter. And in doing so I realise I don’t need to write War and Peace in order to explain. There is a word that does it perfectly.
Fondest regards from one of your millions of fans,