One of the conferences I'm attending in Australia is the Romance Writers of Australia annual conference, which is being held in Fremantle this year. Western Australia! Here I come! The headliner is Julia Quinn, who is giving the keynote address. I like Quinn's books a lot, in particular because the most popular of her series, the Bridgertons, is about a family that, while annoying and often overbearing (the dudes, anyway), clearly loved one another. Her portrayals of each sibling, plus their mother were endearing to me as a reader, and I love re-entering that world to visit with all those characters. I joke sometimes that the Bridgerton world is one of the safest worlds in the Regency: So many of the ancillary characters are past heroes and heroines that there's no way anyone can get killed off!

Julia Quinn also has the distinction (in my mind, anyway—it's not like this is a big laurel-wreath-covered, horn-tooting distinction) of being the first romance author I wrote a letter to as a reader. I used to write letters to authors when I was a kid. I remember writing letters to the authors I loved in elementary school, including Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume. Cleary and Blume were the first authors I glommed. I owned everything they wrote (that was age appropriate, anyway).

Once I was out of elementary school, I don't think I wrote to another author. It wasn't a writing exercise that I was being encouraged to complete, and it never occurred to me to write to the authors of the romance novels I was reading—in part because I suspected I wasn't supposed to be reading them as a 17-year-old, and I was afraid they'd tell me so. 

Quinn broke the odd streak of "no letter writing" with her book Splendid. The hero meets the heroine when she dashes in front of a carriage to save a young boy who has run into the street after his puppy. The carriage hits the heroine, she's knocked out, and the boy is saved—and the meet-cute occurs. 

I was troubled. Hugely troubled. Like, it kept me awake and made me ponder: What about the PUPPY?! There's no mention of the puppy. Did the boy find him? Was he ok? Was he hurt? Did he get extra treats and a soft bed that night? What about the puppy?! 

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So I wrote to Quinn and asked that very question. By this time—this was about 2001 or so—there was email, so I didn't have to write a letter and find a stamp or send the letter to her in care of her publisher. I can't tell you how many times as a grade schooler I wrote to authors in care of their publisher at "Dag Hammerskjold Plaza." Not having to triple-check that I'd spelled "Hammerskjold" correctly was a revelation! And with email I could write to Quinn personally! 

I was a little intimidated to be honest. 

So I wrote a quick message saying how much I enjoyed her books, and asking, if she didn't mind telling me, what happened to the dog. I sent the email and then promptly forgot about it. 

Imagine my stomach-dropping shock when I had an email in my inbox some time later from Julia Quinn. I got chills. I'm not even lying, I shouted at my husband, "JULIA QUINN WROTE ME BACK!" I was more than a bit giddy. 

It turns out, as she put it, she wrote Splendid "so many versions of Word ago" that she can't find the file, but is absolutely sure the puppy is fine. (Thank heavens.)

I still get chills and a dropping stomach feeling when I talk to some authors (such as when I attended a session with Julie Garwood and Jude Deveraux at RT in Kansas City and could barely control my inner teenage self) but I will always remember that feeling of absolute shock and joy that Julia Quinn wrote me back. (And when I get the occasional email or tweet about my books, it's just as thrilling—someone wrote to ME!)  

What about you? Who was the first author you wrote a letter to? What romance authors have you written to, if any? Why?

Sarah Wendell is the co-creator, editor and mastermind of the popular romance blog Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. She loves talking with romance readers, and hopes you'll share your new favorite romance reading recommendations. You can find her on Twitter @smartbitches, on Facebook, or on her couch, most likely with her eyeglasses turned towards a book.