Last week Natasha Oakley wrote a piece about Dedications for The Pink Heart Society blog. It struck a chord with me because sometimes I like reading dedications as much as I like reading books.
Well, maybe that's an exaggeration, though sometimes -- albeit rarely -- the dedication is the best part.
Still, a lot of work goes into a book that readers never see. And while some authors habitually dedicate their books to their spouses or their cats, others often use them to connect to people who are significant either specifically to that book or to them in their lives at that moment.
Dedications are connections. They tie the book to the larger world. They tie authors to people beyond the characters they create. Sometimes dedications are simple and straightforward, sometimes they are moving, sometimes they are funny.
Whichever, they are a little extra bit of insight into the author's life. Lots of readers may not care about that. As a reader, I do. As a writer, I like the opportunity to mention people who matter.
And my experience is that people like having books dedicated to them. It says to them, You matter. You're special.
When I was writing The Santorini Bride, I made contact for the first time in forty-odd years with Haine Crown, a friend who was dear to me in junior high school. It was a joy to have her in my life again. And besides the other wonderful things she brought into my life on her return, she brought a knowledge of French bulldogs.
As it happened, I needed a dog for Martha, my heroine, to bond with while she was on the outs with Theo, the hero. She ended up with a French bulldog named Ted.
Every time I finished a scene with Ted in it, I would send it to Haine for vetting. And she would write back and say, "French bulldogs don't do thus and such. They do so and so." She was quite adamant.
"French bulldogs have Opinions," she told me. And they aren't reticent about expressing them. So when Ted peed on Theo's foot -- his first impression of Theo not being the best -- and my editor suggested maybe he shouldn't do that for delicacy's sake, I said, "But he has to. Ted would!" For the sake of authenticity (and because both Haine and I both thought it was exactly what Ted thought of Theo -- and because the editor was kind) it stayed in.
For that and for many reasons, I dedicated that book to her.
We were both crushed when the book appeared and the dedication didn't. Through some mysterious glitch, it got lost from the front matter. "We can put it in the next one," my editor offered. And they did.
No French bulldogs in the next one. But we both knew life wasn't always fair.
And I couldn't let it go without having the dedication somewhere. I wouldn't have had the same book without Haine's input. My life as a whole wouldn't have been as rich without her.
I'm sorry the dedication didn't get in the book where it belonged, but I'm glad it got there eventually. It mattered.
Dedications are a way of saying thank you to people, of remembering people -- like Nancy the cat slayer with whom I visited Ireland, or my son Patrick who, at age 14, was deputized to make a list of details for me about a wilderness camping expedition to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan so my wildlife biologist could know what she was doing, or my daughter the athletic trainer who has mended so many heroes.
They are a chance to say how much I've enjoyed Kate Walker who has shared so many adventures with me and bull rider Brett Leffew, who got my hero and heroine down the road in The Eight-Second Wedding, or Ronnie Rondell, the stunt coordinator, whose knowledge helped me realistic write a disaster for my hero to spend years having to deal with in Cowboys Don't Quit.
They are a way of touching base with people who have mattered along the way, of saying, "I haven't forgotten."
Sometimes I think I write books so I can write dedications in them. In writing there are always so many people who are behind the book, who helped to bring it to life, who should be thanked.
I'm thinking maybe, since it takes so long to write a book, I should start putting dedications on blogs. What do you think?
It also occurs to me that I don't think I put a dedication into the last book I sent in -- and it's probably too late now. So I guess I'll have to say it here: Thank you to my friend Jason who lent me his last name for one of my characters. He never imagined I'd create a family dynasty. Neither did I, my friend!
If you're a writer, do you labor over dedications, trying to make sure you've got it right? Or does your cat -- or your husband -- get it every time? If you're a reader, do you read them? Do you care? Have you ever had a book dedicated to you?
I have. Thank you, Anne Gracie! You just made my day.
Stop by my blog and take a look at Anne's new cover and her book -- dedicated (in part) to Yours Truly (by another name).