But these last few signings have been interesting. I've met quite a few people who have made me stop and think about my role and my responsibilities an an author. This isn't something I wanted. I didn't write these books to be famous or to be listened to— I wrote them to write them. That's it. By my reckoning, I shouldn't have any responsibilities towards any of you. I just write books that you happen to read. Why should I care about you beyond you reading my work and giving me your money?
But of course, I do care. Quite by accident, I assure you. This was not planned. I've met a few of you, I know a few of you, and I've heard from even more of you. I read your comments and your tweets and your letters. Some of you have stories to tell, and I end up listening.
These past few months, since The Maleficent Seven has been released, I've met a lot of new people. I met a girl who thanked me for mentioning the fact that Tanith once had a thing with Aurora Jane— and she thanked me again for not making a big deal out of it. I met a girl with selective mutism who, by the end of our encounter, was chatting away and grilling me about plot details. Then I met a girl who thanked me for Clarabelle.
I smiled and told her how much I loved writing that character. The girl nodded, smiled, told me again how much she loved Clarabelle. Then she told me she had mental health issues, and sometimes she found it hard to separate what was real from what wasn't, and she loved Clarabelle because she saw in her a person who was different from others but who was loved, and accepted, and allowed to thrive.
And I looked at this girl and I didn't know what to say. I came up with Clarabelle because I needed a certain kind of warmth and a certain kind of quirkiness. Never in a million years did I think that someone out there would relate to her.
These three girls have all sorts of pressures on them that I can't understand, and all three of them have a handle on it. The Clarabelle fan was getting the help and support she needs. The girl who couldn't speak was speaking, and she even fist-bumped me on her way out. And the Tanith fan was as strong and confident as anyone I'd ever seen. And as each one of these girls walked off, I realised that they were my readers. These girls, and boys and girls and men and women like them all around the world, are my readers, and if I can do anything to help them in any way, even if it's just to raise a smile when they're feeling low, then I have managed to do something that I never thought I'd be capable of. I'd be able to help them.
We all have problems. We all have issues. We all have pressures. If you don't seek the right kind of help, if you don't know where to look or you don't have the friends and family to support you, things can go wrong. But there is help out there. There are people, unlike me, who know what they're talking about. Every country will have its own helplines and websites, sites like SpunOut.ie here in Ireland. Search for them. Find them. And for god's sake use them.
I am now going back to being selfish and egotistical, and absolutely sure that Holly Smale fancies me.