Of Bookstores and Fictional Characters

I have always been a fan of bookstores. Today, I daresay most readers purchase their books online—either as paperbacks or ebooks. Kudos to brave independent book store owners who try to save their businesses.
This morning as I was perusing my local newspaper—The Camp Verde Bugle—I was touched by a letter to the editor written by the owner of “Hooked on Books” in nearby Cottonwood, Arizona. Circumstances forced him to either close his store or relocate to something more economical. Fortunately, he found a smaller but less expensive location and was helped moving and setting up 45,000 books to another spot by a host of volunteers. The following thoughts are excerpted from his letter:
“Books, their preservation and availability, are extremely important for mankind. Books are low tech; tangible; easily used and stored; can last for centuries; and have the distinction of being unalterable once in print and distributed. They are made of fibre and ink, but with their common availability the last 500 years even the poorest individual has access to them.
“For me books are more than objects to buy and sell and make money. Books represent the stored thoughts of people. Those stored thoughts are manifested in the books in many ways. [L]ook at words on a page and travel anywhere, even to places and settings that exist only in the mind of the author until the thoughts are put to paper. Once on paper the thoughts can be embraced by millions of people even to the point where people in conversation will talk about the characters and places mentioned in the book. The characters have now been embued with life by the creator, being the author. That is tremendous power a skilled writer with an imagination has. The characters can inform, stimulate, enthuse, bring tears of joy and sadness.”

During a recent car journey to Utah, along back roads where radio broadcasts were nonexistent and cell phone service sketchy at best, my husband and I had uninterrupted time to just plain converse. As the miles passed, our discussion turned to the characters in my novels as if they were living, breathing human acquaintances.
I confessed how difficult it had been to write about the deaths of some of my favorite characters in Lucina’s Destiny. It had taken a toll on my energy as author and creator of their lives. I recalled tears streaming down my face, dripping on the keyboard. Even during the rewriting and editing of those chapters, I understood the necessity of “doing away” with these characters but even so, my emotional response was sadness. (No spoilers here if you haven’t yet read the book. The novel is thought-provoking and some scenes will bring a smile to your face.)
In any case, I am glad I decided to release my novels in paperback, as well as ebook format. I take pleasure in knowing they “have the distinction of being unalterable, once in print.” Some day in the future, a dog-eared used copy of my work may end up for sale on the shelves at “Hooked on Books.”