Friends From A Rainless Year

I’d just given my name at the authors’ check-in tent at the New Mexico

Child of a Rainless Year with Kaleidoscopes

Women Authors’ Book Festival when a tall, slim woman with brown hair impulsively turned and embraced me: “Jane!” she said. “I love your books! I read Child of a Rainless Year two or three times a year. It’s such a spiritual book.”

Looking back, I’m more surprised that I wasn’t more surprised, if that makes any sense. This lady was so warm and so spontaneous that, even though I wasn’t certain if we’d met before, it didn’t really matter. We had met. We both liked the same book and apparently for the same reasons. The fact that I’d written the book didn’t really seem to matter. It belonged to both of us.

We chatted a little and I discovered her name was Natalie Reid and that she was a non-fiction author presenting in the Spirit/Health pavilion. She also is an English language skills teacher. Her most recent book (which I haven’t read yet) is The Spiritual Alchemist: Working with the Voice of Your Soul.

However, it wasn’t similarities of profession that drew us together. It was our mutual fondness for some fictional people in a fictionalized version of a very strange, very odd town in New Mexico.

(I’m fond of noting that, while Child of a Rainless Year is indeed a fantasy, all the really weird stuff is true history. Okay. Everything but the house. And the silent women. But everything else).

Later that day, after I’d given my talk (which was titled “How Not To Get Your Novel Published”), two women (Kayt and Maggie) came up to talk to me. They live in Las Vegas, New Mexico, and Child of a Rainless Year is one of their favorite books. They cheerfully detailed how they’d both read it repeatedly, given copies to friends, and bought new copies when friends had walked off with their copy.

I was delighted. I told them the story of the really strange thing that happened when I went to Las Vegas (New Mexico) to sign Child of a Rainless Year shortly after its release. Shall I tell you? Why not?

Las Vegas is a good two hours drive from Albuquerque. We were heading there in spring – which, I must stress, is not a rainy season in northern New Mexico. The skies were bright and clear as we drove north. They remained bright and clear when we arrived in Las Vegas and walked around a bit. They were clear when I settled in at the bookstore and did my reading.

We were reaching the question and answer stage of things when I realized that the sky outside was now dark and lowering. I was answering a question when, without much warning, the skies opened and rain began to fall. Hard. Sheets and streams coming down and overflowing the gutters.

Now this is a book in which rain is rather symbolic. The first section I wrote for the book (later moved at my editor’s excellent suggestion to the second section) began, “My mother said there was no rain the year she carried me, the year I was born.”

Drought and rain provide pulse points throughout Child of a Rainless Year. And here the rain came, pouring down when all should have been bright and sunny. It was as if the resident spirits of Las Vegas, New Mexico, were putting in their applause.

True story. Good memory. Sharing it with those two nice ladies so long after it happened (Child of a Rainless Year was released in 2005) made me smile.

The experience of meeting them, of meeting Natalie, gave me a real insight into how stories connect us. We all liked the same book. We must have something in common.

I understood how early SF/F fandom must have felt, everyone having read the same books, knowing the same characters and situations, having fun discussing them. It also made me understand – a little sadly, I’ll admit – why certain media fandoms thrive when print fandoms seem to be fading.

After all, a media production is – especially at first – a closed unit. There are too many books for all of us to be certain we’ve read the same ones. We may like the same genre, but I may be a huge fan of McKillip and Powers, say, while you prefer Weber and Heinlein. (Actually, I like Weber and Heinlein, too).

But this Sunday, for a few short moments, I talked to friends who’d been introduced to each other by friends – friends who just happened to be characters I had created.

Very cool, huh?

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7 Responses to “Friends From A Rainless Year”

  1. Patrick Doris Says:

    I have read everything that I could find that you have written and Child of a Rainless year is my favorite also.

  2. Heteromeles Says:

    I like Child of a Rainless Year too. I’m not sure whether I like it better than Changer, which caused me to chortle in grad school, or Through Wolf’s Eyes, but those are the three of your books that I reread and give to others.

    In the latest Terry Pratchett, one of the repeated motifs is that “omens are everywhere. You’ve just got to pick the ones you can use and run with them.”

  3. Alan Robson Says:

    Child Of A Rainless Year is my second favourite of your books. It’s quite strange (I hesitate to say untypical, because I don’t think you have a type; you spread your literary wings quite widely). But nevertheless it is definitely one of your odder books. I’ve read it twice and loved it each time.

    And so as not to keep you in suspense, my first favourite of your books is Changer.

  4. Paul Says:

    It’s one of my favorites of your books, too. And it fascinates me how a piece of work created totally by one person’s imagination can resonate as it does to build conversations and friendships among such diverse people. I totally agree with your comment about the instant friendships in SF fandom back when the SF genre was small enough that everyone could read everything and could talk (or write in letters or magazine letter columns) about them. A friend of mine and I were driving on the interstate to a city an hour and a half up the road and were so intent on such a conversation that we nearly passed our exit. It’s good to know your book revived some of that feeling. Such moments are to be treasured.

  5. janelindskold Says:

    What fascinates me is that everyone responding here is male!!

    And all of you like CHILD. Yet I’ve been repeatedly told this is such a great “women’s” book.

    Thanks for breaking the stereotype…. I knew I was meeting up with great, diverse people.

    In case you’re wondering, I don’t have a favorite among my books. Each on the 21 published (and a couple not yet published) had taken me places and introduced me to people and events I would not have otherwise encountered.

  6. Ann M Nalley Says:

    I have a question for the author… and any others out there who would like to add their opinions… I know “public ” people (authors, musicians, artists) sometimes feel awkward or uncomfortable when fans feel like they are close to the artist… but the artist is a person with a real life, etc. which is entirely separate from the fan’s imaginings. When an artist’s work (be it music, writing, painting) resonates with me, I feel that the creator might be a kindred spirit of some sort. I am not in any way a public figure. How does that make you (all) feel? How does one keep the balance? *** And I love all of Jane’s books!

  7. janelindskold Says:

    Hi Ann —

    I can’t answer for anyone but me. I know that in a blog I did for Tor.com, one author who commented mentioned she loved to do signings and stuff because she’d been an actress and loved showing off.

    I remember is a book festival I once did with Stephen R. Donaldson, who wrote the Thomas Covenant books. We were watiing in the green room to go on-stage (literally) and Steve commented: “They don’t want to see me. They want Tomas Covenant. I always feel I’m a bit of a disappointment.”

    I certainly figure that I probably disappoint those readers who show up hoping for Firekeeper… Been a long time since I was fifteen and I never had a wolf companion.

    But I don’t write autobiographical fiction — probably to the relief of my family.

    Probably to the relief of my readers, too, since I haven’t had a very dramatic life.

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