There are different kinds of fans. Most fans, you will never meet and never hear from. Other fans may reach out on social media and tell you they enjoyed or hated something. A smaller subset will follow you with fervor. And there’s an even smaller subset that you get to know so well — you find yourself becoming friends with them, or at the very least, familiar acquaintances whom you recognize right away and perhaps exchange holiday cards with. That’s how it started with people like Mark ‘Dezm’ Sylva, Stephen McDornell and Tod Clark. They were in that last subset at one time. Now, I consider all three friends. I trust them enough to let them pre-read everything I write. The same happened with folks like Valerie Botchlet, Paul Synuria, Mark Hickerson, and Deb Kuhn, who moderate the forum. I met them as fans, but over the years we’ve drank together, shared hotel rooms together, gone through divorces and break-ups together, and genuinely become friends.
Mark and Paula Beauchamp fall into that final subset, as well. I’ve known them since around the time THE RISING first came out (so 2003). I’ve talked with them many times, hung out with them many times, and signed many books for them. I haven’t hung out much with their daughter though, until last year.
I’m not going to mention her name or age here, because she’s a little girl and I want to protect her privacy, but Mark and Paula brought her to last year’s Scares That Care charity horror convention and I got to spend a few minutes being nice to her, and being a clown, and making her laugh, and signed a book for her. And the charity’s organizer, Joe Ripple, gave her a Walking Dead photo signed by some of the cast. And this little girl has carried those two moments with her throughout the year, telling classmates that she’s “friends with Brian Keene and Joe Ripple”.
She recently had a birthday. She asked her parents if, instead of presents, she could ask for money for the charity. And as a result, she raised nearly $350 for Scares That Care.
All because of five minutes of kindness from Joe and myself.
The moral of this story for you, the new writers, actors, musicians, artists and other entertainers reading this, is to make those five minutes count for the person on the other side of the signing table. It’s not always easy to do that. If you’re at a convention, and you’re seven hours into signing books and you’d really just like to go up to your hotel room and call home and maybe order some room service and just sit very quietly and not answer any more questions about when you’ll write another zombie novel — it’s not easy to remain on and affable. But do it anyway, because you’ll meet some great people out of it. Make those five minutes count. And the person you do it for? They’ll carry it with them long after those five minutes are over.
THE COMPLEX is out now in paperback and Kindle. GET SOME.