The Writing Life
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The Writing Life
by Hazel Edwards

Get Hate Mail: Write a Book!

One day, I received an anonymous threatening letter. Hate mail. Bewildered at first, I began to think about the mind behind the hate letter. I generally write for children in non-controversial areas, although I've appeared on both radio and TV frequently.

Why had the letter been sent? And who sent it? Most frightening of all, I started to suspect people in my circle. A writer takes pride in being observant. Obviously I'd got it wrong somewhere. Could it have been him, or her? And why?

I told a few close friends, but then kept quiet. A stalker wants to hassle the "victim." If I talked about the incident, the anonymous writer might get some vicarious thrills through sensing my anxiety. So I switched from an emotional to an intellectual response. If this happened in a story, how would the character feel? A good mystery revolves around motive, method, and opportunity.

I did some research. I spoke to a psychologist friend, who told me, "It could be someone who thinks they know you, but you don't know them. Perhaps the person feels slighted. And they blame you. Or it might be jealousy. They blame the 'image,' not the real you."

Hate mail falls under the category of stalking. Legally, it is an offence. Through an Internet search, I found "The Stalker's Home Page--No More Privacy." It was a warning page that told how a potential stalker might gain information to manipulate, scare or destroy.

How could a stalker be stopped legally--not in my case, but for my potential character? I asked my neighbor, a magistrate with whom I've checked legal details regarding forensic research. He told me about restraining orders.

For my story, I decided on a radio setting. Often, radio personalities don't behave like their voices. What if a listener became obsessed by a voice? I'd been featured on several radio stations as a guest author and also produced the RPH Children's Hour. I knew about radio stations and their terminology. I did more research. Unwilling to discuss "celeb stalking," radio stations admitted to taking precautions.

Most writers build up a list of experts they can call upon to check facts. Gerry, a security expert, went through a hypothetical scenario of a media personality being stalked. From him, I learned about the latest in electronic surveillance. Gerry recommended having my character, Lily, report the incident to the police. But I decided not to have her do so. It added the heightened drama of feeling "alone."

A "puppet-master stalker" likes to control by gathering information about the stalkee's habits. He manipulates by entering the victim's home, reading private letters or information, and taking or leaving significant objects.

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