HOT MAIL by Tessa Duder and William Taylor
This book began when I chanced upon Longer
Letter Later by the American writers Paula Danziger and Ann E
Martin, and began to think of how a similar format could work for
myself and William Taylor, using the increasingly popular medium
Two obvious differences would be that the characters would be male
and female, and that they would not be two best friends wrenched
apart as in the American book, but two young people from completely
different backgrounds and situations discovering each other on the
Net, as millions of them around the world are apparently doing.
Our publisher at Penguin was enthusiastic, though emphatic that there
had to be three stories going on simultaneously over a period of
time - their individual stories and the story of their developing
trust and friendship - rather than simply a single story of friendship.
(Two recent New Zealand adult novels in e-mails have been poorly
reviewed because of their insistence in making them 'love stories',
with little attention paid to their daily on-going lives.)
Writing the book took about three months and was a most pleasurable
experience for us both (unlike, apparently, Danziger and Martin,
whose notes at the back of the book indicated that the writing had
not been without its difficulties and even put their friendship at
William Taylor's one condition was that we write it, naturally, on
e-mails, but not discuss the story beforehand. So we discovered our
characters' backgrounds and problems bit by bit, as in real life;
receiving a new email became quite a feature of our daily lives during
After the first draft was completed, some editorial tightening-up
was required, and some checking by a nautical adviser who had in
fact done a cruise very like Jess's, and had made his logs, diaries
and letters available to me.
We have both read extracts in schools in Australia and New Zealand
and been delighted by the students' spontaneous and positive response.
Most reviews in both countries have been enthusiastic, but predictably
a few have found the occasional bad language and the e-mail vernacular
rather too 'un-literary,' occasionally 'tiring to read,' even 'offensive.'
To many of these people, the presence of even one mild swear word
is one too many! Yet we were to a degree, stuck with it - to have
had two teenagers e-mailing in 'good English', even the English of
essays or letters written for schools assignments, would have been
totally unreal. Dan's voice, particularly, is probably the first
time that the written vernacular of a young New Zealand male has
been portrayed with such accuracy. William Taylor was a teacher of
eight to 13-year-olds for many years and continues to visit schools,
as well as meet his son's friends.
It has been pleasing that the book continues to sell well in New
Zealand and unexpectedly well in Australia, where their own young
adult genre is a highly developed, even crowded, market.
We see this as a book which underneath its humour and rough vernacular
is actually quite a poignant story of two lonely young people making
the best of their unusual situations, for good 11-year-old readers