In the summer of 1976, by childhood’s magic train, I went from reading L.M. Montgomery’s Anne books to Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. An old red copy at the cottage called me to pick it up, and when I opened it, the spell took hold. By the time I entered 6th grade, I’d fallen in love with every du Maurier book I could get my hands on, which meant exactly two. But I was set on reading everything I could find by this author, and my collection was growing. I also knew I wanted to be a writer.
That October my teacher asked us to write a fan letter. Despite a brief impulse to pen a love note to Robert Redford, I knew my intended recipient. Who else?
Daphne du Maurier.
She was the Lady at the Gate. I could hear the wind and the sea, and her whispers in my ear: “You can read adult books now. No one can stop you. You can write them, too.”
Beyond expressions of adoration and a dream of one day seeing my own work in print, I have no idea what I communicated to her. Like the other kids, I gave my best shot to finding my chosen star. Off went my message in care of her UK publisher.
One cold fall day, an unusual envelope arrived in the milk box of our suburban Toronto home. Bearing the postmark “Cornwall” and the wrong house number and postal code, by magic it must have reached me, just like Rebecca.
Now, 44 years later, I share this letter from Daphne du Maurier because of the love and reader support that live on for her. I’m inspired by my good friend CFitton (on Instagram) who reminds me to cherish my passion, not just for writing, but for being a fan of writers and role models. I also commend Dr. Laura Varnam for bringing a new biography of du Maurier into form, and Insta’s contraryreader and pigeonpostbooks for promoting this beloved grande dame of suspense fiction.
Daphne du Maurier taught me the value of creating tension in a story, regardless of genre. Moreover, with grace, she took time to type encouraging words to a girl who’d shared her dream.
Her gifts changed my life.
When I need a boost, I still pull out her letter. Daphne du Maurier is, and always will be, my first writing love and miracle.