Reader’s Mail

Letter from Sophie

Many thanks to Sophie for her interesting letter. Good luck with the writing, Sophie

Dear Mr Burgess,

Well, to be honest I have no idea how to start this email! You probably get so many emails from so many teenagers but I have to say that as an aspiring writer I honestly look up to you! I’m only a sixteen year old girl, like many other girls her age wants to be a writer, but I always have wanted to be a writer, and I always will. I have to say that your book ‘junk’ is honestly amazing. I look up to you because you’re not like every other adult, adults views are perceived to be biased against drugs, but from my point of view as a reader, you told me the truth, just how reality is by that book, and I have to say it really made me realise that even though people may deceive themselves and think that by taking drugs they can escape the reality of it all, they can forget everything, but then when the drug wears off, reality starts to dawn on them, and they sort of realise to themselves how their throwing their life away, but they don’t want to let themselves admit it, so they take more to live in their fantasy land.

You may get people saying ‘oh I can relate to that’ but I honestly can, I had a best friend once called keeley, she was two years older than me, and she had been kicked out of her house in which she lived with her grandparents. Keeley and I, from the first day we met we got on like sisters, we reminded me of lily and Gemma to be honest, I looked up to keeley like she was this alien being who didn’t care what people thought, and I admired her for that. Even though Keeley looked fine on the outside, of course she had deep cracks that sometimes showed through, sometimes she’d appear to me as just a frightened girl who wanted an escape from her life, she felt neglected you see, her mum abandoned her when she was little, so she’s always had to fend for herself really, her grandparents looked down on her because they were disgusted in their daughter really, and I know they knew, just like I did, that Keeley would turn out like her mum one day. I could relate to your story so much, I know what it’s like to look after an addict, I looked after keeley so much, I’ve had her double cross me, go behind my back, she even stole money from me a few times, and from reading your book it made me think about all those times, and how its true, a junkie is just a junkie, they care about themselves getting the drug they want, and they don’t realise the pain they’re inflicting on themselves and others. In your book, when you said that they’re not in love with you, like I thought kee had sisterly love for me, they’re in love with the drug, she’d choose it over me every time, yet I’d help her out of whatever mess she was in. By being with her through all that I knew never to get involved with drugs, no matter what crap she’d tell me, I’d always say no because I saw things for the reality of what they are.

I haven’t spoke to kee for a year now, she’s currently living in a bedsit in Ellesmere Port, I have an amazing boyfriend called zach who just knows me so well, he took me away from all that, he lets me just be me around him you see. He’s not only my boyfriend but my best friend too, he’s the closest person to me, I can confide in him with anything and he doesn’t ever judge me, he’s got a*’s in school and I’m on my way to achieving high grades too! Hopefully in English, but my enlgish teacher is a lovely teacher, she’s a bit older than the other teachers, but she knows I’d love to be a writer, and she told me she felt privileged to write one of my pieces about zach, you see when I write about him, I don’t have to think about what to say, it just pours out, that’s the amazing thing.

So really I just wanted to say how your book junk just showed things how they are, if you ever got bad criticism from that, please don’t listen to them because as a teenage reader I loved that book, it even made me cry, and you can see how the character of David, or ‘Tar’ changed throughout the book, I could also relate to that, through drugs you see people change, they’re not who they were,it’s as almost as if they’re just the drug in human form to be honest. Zach’s reading your book at the moment, he took it on holiday with him and I know he’ll understand it just as much as I did. Junk is the first book I have read of yours, and I’ve reserved others from the library. I just wanted to say that you have a skill for writing, and your ability to tell things as they are and not to mask things is amazing.

I hope that I’ll hear a reply one day, I’d love to talk to you because all I want to do is become a writer when I’m older and it would mean so much to me to have a reply from such a gifted writer like you!

Thank you for taking your time to read this,

Letter from Kay

I’m a massive fan and have read nearly all of your books in the past few months. Bloodtide and Bloodsong are a favourite.

Just one question:- Saras Face Book Fact of Fiction? Found this book really interesting as have just finished it. Confused as to whether a real story, if it is where could i read about it? Let me know. Thanks for keeping my bus rides to work enjoyable.

Kay from Cheshire :-)

Letter from Sara

Dear Mr. Burgess, I have never sent an email like before…. I wanted to explain to you the overwhelming excitement I am experiencing right now! Back in 1999 I watched a film on television that has stayed with me for 8 years, I have searched for this film countless times, and I have often wondered if it was based on a book. I cannot tell you how frequently over the years I have Googled what I remember of the film in hopes that somehow I could locate it. I still clearly remember the day I watched it, I was hooked on it immediately, unfortunately for me I was extremely ill and had been watching from the comfort of my couch, until just before it ended – I have not seen the last five or ten minutes and have always wanted to know how it all ended.

Today has been a fantastic day because I finally found a website that contained information on the film, I found your name and Googled you, which brought me to a website that provided your email address. I am now leaving my home headed to a bookstore in hopes of purchasing your book (Smack) and although I am sure there are differences between the film and your novel, I know I won’t be disappointed.

If you know how I may purchase the film I would appreciate if you could forward the details to me. If not I just thought that I should share some of the joy I have and will be experiencing by finding a perfect stranger on the internet.

I wish you a beautiful day!

Miss Sara McNamara


Hi Sam – well, what a nice email! All those years and you never found the book! I only hope it’s not going to be a disappointment, going back there after so long … I always felt that the BBC film wasn’t quite hard hitting enough, myself, but I’m delighted you enjoyed it so much.

Can you let me know which website you found the information about the film on? People are always asking me about the film and I never can tell them very much – the BBC never released it and people can only hope to pick it up when they broadcast it, as they still do from time to time, I believe.

The book, by the way, is called junk here in the UK and Smack in the states.

Many thanks for writing to me – Melvin Burgess.

Letter from Anonymous

Hi Melvin,

Just to let you know that ‘even in this day and age’ I have had one really horrible parent of a boy who bought ‘Doing It’ and ‘Junk’. Seems that he was ‘forced’ into coming to the session and ‘made’ to buy the books! She had no problem with ‘Junk’ but took exception to ‘Doing It’ big time. He wasn’t allowed to read it, but she did, how surprising.

The truly amazing thing is that anything to do with sex is still so much worse than drugs!?

Guess there had to be one. Cheers

Letter from Kate

Hey, my names Kate.

I met you once at a booking signing at Canon Slade School, and remember being more than fond of you for making our school librarians scowl at your hilarious choice of language for the event. Clearly they need to get out more xD

Anyway, to the point. Junk is my favourite book, always has been, probably always will be, and last night I decided to have the sleeping pattern of a nocturnal hamster and stay up to write this. Reading it through again, it’s pretty shite, but thought you might like to read it if you found the time. It’s about Junk, obviously, and is entitled Hero-in. As you are a writer, and a bloody good one at that, you will probably see through the fact it isn’t really about the physical drug, but injecting a glimmer of something amazing into you, but are overwhelmed by the effects of it all around you. I’ll stop blabbering now :)


I watch as the marker steers past zero
And breathe as the pump pulls from full
Can you feel That intense syringe of hero
A kaleidescope of feeling thats far from dull
High’s defined by the raising of mentality
And yet this depth is so far from reality
I’ve gone so far now, cannot you see
This chemical’s bound to the bones inside of me
My breath is so rapid and my voice is spun
The weight on my shoulders is lifted, no more a tonne
And yet you’re still blind to the way I live my life
Can’t you see i’m the body, you’re the knife?
This highs expiry date is approaching fast
I turn to more just to make it last
I bleed, I scream and scratch
Yet my weak and frail body’s finally met its match.

An email back would be great, but I know you’re probably really busy, so thanks anyway for taking the time to read.

Kate, an entertained reader and school librarian hater.


Hi Kate – thanks so much for sending me this – it’s great! – not shite at all. Late nite stuff is always fun. Only bit I didn;t get was the body/knife image, but the rhythm and the rhymes are fantastic. Glad you liked my choCie of language. what on earth did they expect? but I’m afraid it always goes above my head when they don’tl ike it – I only notice people loking happy, right up until they ask me to leave …

Best, Melvin

Letter from Hannah

Hello! I always feel awkward when I write emails/letters to people I’ve never met. That’s just a warning, I suppose, for the tense sentance structure that may be found with in.

I read ‘Doing It’ the summer before I started my freshman year. It was the first book about sex I’d ever read, and man, I was shocked. Like, I had to put the book down and leave for a while. Then I realized I had to keep reading. I was hooked. I think I read it twice before I took it back to the library. A few weeks later I went to camp and met one of my best friends. We kept in touch, and one day she told me she was reading the greatest book ever, and that I would totally love it. It was about sex.

“I read a book about sexonce,” I said. “It was called ‘Doing It’ and I loved it.” “Oh my goodness! That’s the book I’m reading!”

We talked about it every now and then, but I largely forgot about it until my birthday a few weeks ago, when she asked for my address. I realized she was sending me a gift, and wondered if it might be the book. It wasn’t, and I was dissapointed, but I wasn’t really expecting it. The point is, it got me thinking about your book again.

That day also happened to be the last day I had to get a required reading book for school, so, while in Hastings, I decided to search for Doing It. They didn’t have it. I was upset. But I did find Smack, and read it in one day. That is a really incredible book, as well, though I still think Doing It is better.

I’ve gone back to the library and looked for Doing It countless times, by the way, and I can’t ever find it. I’m not sure if someone decided to keep it, or if maybe the library decided it was too controversial. But I’d like you to know that Doing It is on my Christmas Wishlist. So is Lady, because it sounds killer interesting.

I hope you write more, because you’re right, there aren’t enough books for people my age. The closest I can think of are Sarah Dessen books, but those are a bit more preachy. Actually, a lot more preachy. I like the way you write. The end.


Hi Hannah – well, that’s a very lovely email. You know, I get more people writing to me about Smack than Doing It, so it’s a real pleasure ot hear that Doing It is getting through to people. Sex – well, it’s quite a thing, isn’t it? I wanted to writ esomehting that described that it was funny and rude, andpossibly even filthy and hilarious, as well as the thing you do when you fall in love and have to be all responsible about. I’m really hapy that you found it and that it meant a lot to you.

Thanks so much much for writing to me about it – it means alot when people let me know the book got through. Amazing coincidence, you and your freind both finding it.

I don’t know Sarah Dessen but I’ll look out for her from now on.

Best wishes, melvin

Letter from Anka

Hello, I’m an English teacher from Slovenia and it’s the first time I’ve conntacted a writer. So, hi, melvin. You’re a fantastic writer! Respect!

A couple of days ago I came across your novel ‘Smack’ in the library. I loved it!!! I liked the style, the topic, the attitude, and the characters are amazing! And most of all I think you brought the addiction and what it does to a person closer to the reader. It feels like, ok, I’ve seen it, I’ve read about it, i’ve heard it … but I’ve got a much better idea about it now that I’ve read the book as I had before.

I love reading and I don’t often come across novels that make me think for days. ‘Junk’ is something rare! And it made me type in your name in the google and find information about you. That’s a first for me. I teach teenagers from the age of 10 to 14 in the capital of Slovenia. Of course there are drugs around but among the kids I teach I don’t think there’s anything more powerful that hash or ecstasy. Still, you never know. But I wanted to say that I agree that teenagers should read this book. It’s better to know about drugs than to be tempted out of ignorance.

I also wanted to ask you who your favourite authors are and which novels made you say, ‘waw!’

And once again, WELL DONE!



Hi Anka – Well, thanks you so much – what a nice email! I’m delighted you got so much out of it. I supose you knew I was actualy in Slovenia the week before you wrote to me .. can’t be coincidence …? Hope the situation with your kids stays the same – hash and ecstacy aren’t such bad things, comparatively speaking – I belive ecstacy is offically safer than asprin! Amazing, really.

Thanks for writing to me.


Letter from Joshua

Dear Melvin Burgess,

You are my all time favourite author. i thrive on the text upon your book’s my all time favourite book is bloodsong to me it is one of the greatest books of the 20th century i am contempt on your next book.

i wish to know is there any chance of a third book after bloodtide and bloodsong. i have one idea for the next in the series called blood-generation about the gods Odin, Loki, Allah, Jesus and finally Sigurd following the lives of the nibblins and others alike. i gain this idea from bloodsong on how Sigurd thinks to himself on how the gods live. this book will be the chance for you to express how you see the god’s while you were writing bloodsong. i myself wish to hear how you see the god’s. If not the book write to me and inform me on how you imagine the god’s…

Yours Joshua M Wigg (age 16)


Hi Joshua – sorry to take so long getting back to you – I was so busy in october and now I’m just catching up.

Glad you liked the Bloods so much – they’re my favorites of my books, as it happens. Not sure about following ALL the gods, though – I based Bloodtide and Bloddsong on pagan and christian mythology, and I think you need to stick to something specific. If you try and do everything at once, you come a cropper.

There is more of the story to tell. As you may know, the books are loosely based in the icelandic Volsunga story, and that saga does go on to tell what hapened to the Nibberlins. Not sure if I’m gong to try and tell it though – I think it looses some of its strength once the Volsons are all dead.

Thanks, Melvin

Letter from Aoife

Hi Melvin, As you can see from my email address I’m a student at Trinity College. At the moment I’m in the process of writing an English Research essay based on none other than, you guessed it, you! If you could answer one or two questions for me that would be absolutely brilliant because I’d love to add it into my essay and put my lecturer in a good mood!

To be honest with you I have to admit I have been a little narrowminded. I feel i should apologise to you because i feel like I’ve judged you before i even got a chance to read your books. Which now, of course, i have! One word: amazing. I was hooked right from the beginning. I’ve been walking around college with my nose stuck in your books and have even been known to hide them under my desk during lectures. but lets keep that between ourselves! They are addictive. I really enjoyed them and found myself quite upset when i realised I had come to the end! Personally, I’ve never been the most academic of souls. Maths did my head in all the way through primary school. And I’m still struggling with them over a decade later in college (I’m training to be a primary teacher!) But when it came to english, aahhh i could work all night on an essay for days on end and be utterly blissful! But thats going off the point now. isn’t it? What I’m trying to say is, I’m in my final year now. I worked doubly hard to get here and now I find myself writing my last english essay. It’s due next Wednesday (the 9th of April) and I want to make it amazing ~ go out with a bang! Really impress the lecturer and, of course, myself!

I know your very busy and I promise I won’t be your sworn enemy if you don’t have the time to answer these questions, but I’d really appreciate it if you could.

1. In your book ‘Junk’ you are acclaimed for understanding but not condoning drug abuse. I for one know i felt no inclination or longing to go and stab myself with a needle of heroin after reading it! However, do you feel it is suitable for readers as young as 12 and thirteen? Put yourself in my position, in front of a class full of children with ages ranging from 11 to 13. Would it be appropriate for me, as an educator, to have this book on the shelves of our classroom library?

2. Your book ‘Lady’ got a lot of publicity for its frank exploration of the sexual behaviour of a teenage girl. Do you, personally, approve of or condone sexual promiscuity among teenagers in an age where sexual diseases are rampant? And was it your aim to subconsciously carry a message of approval in your book?

Thanks again for your time, I really appreciate it. Kind regards,


Hi Aoife,

A convert! How fantastic, I’m delighted. I hope your degree goes well – I guess you’re coming up for the hideious finals., eh? I was in Dublin last weekend, and visited Trinity to see the book of Kells. It just bowls me over every time.

In answer to your questions … first, most of my books from Junk and after are really for people who have their full set of hormoes present and correct. People who are about twelve are still on the road so to speak, and although they can often understand all the language and issues perfectly well, I feel quite a bit of it goes over their heads. Of course they can still get a lot out of it, but without the full impact. But that’s not really what you’re asking me, is it? You’re asking about the moral effect of such a book, or if it might lead them into drug taking. The answer is, I don’t feel that it would lead them into drugs, and I don’t think it would or could in any way corrupt them.

The real issue of you standing in front of a class is not the kids, but the parents, or perhaps the management of your school. The issue for me isn’t kids as young as twelve, who in general have the books in school they need, but kids aged fourteen and above, who rarely do. People of that age who read are very, very baddly catered for in schools. If you see the kind of thing they read in their own time and compare it, you’ll see what I mean. As far as sex is concerned, I think it’s a wonderful and healthy thing and definately to be encouraged. If people want to be promiscuous, that’s up to them. But they need to know that there is a huge, often unseen, emotional weight attached to sex – you get so close to the other person (Needless to say!). You can hurt yourself baddly if you’re unwise about that side of it – boys as well as girls. In that sense, I don’t think it’s a good idea to get into it when you;re too young. Poeple who do are usualy doing it for other reasons than sex, I think. Late teens or early twenties is soon enough for most of us.

Lady wasn’t realy abotu sdex – it was about what is important and what isn’t important, and also about the ethics of being bad. Everyone is being trained how to be good from the word dot – well all know that one. But being good is easy. The fact is, most ethical decisions are about being bad. If you decide to only have sex with the person you get marrie dto, that’s being good. All the res tof it is about how bad, how often, with who? .. and so on. Good luck, Melvin

Letter from Josh

I know you probably get thousands of these so I won’t beat around the bush.

I have just finished ‘Junk’ this evening and it is an instant modern classic. I have recently read the book “Mandy” which dealt with similiar topics, however nowhere near was it delivered with such heart, momentum and believability as ‘Junk’ had. It is rare that a book can bring you to tears- a fantastic, brilliant, poignant and appropriate ending I am undoubtably going to be reading your other books, though I feel that Junk will be tough to beat.

Josh, 15

P.S it’s probably been said a million times, but Junk would make an awesome film, if done properly- you should definatly approach some independant film-makers.


Hi Josh – thanks so much for your email – delighted to hear that you got so much out of the book. Hope you enjoy the others (almost) as much!


Letter from Phoebe


I wrote a while ago, but you never replied.I just thought I’d try again. I just love Junk!
I was… about 11 when I first read it. I’d read a bit of Bloodtide before it and I enjoyed it, but to be honest I lost interest. I’m dyslexic so I’m a slow reader, so I think blood tide disturbed me a little cause i was so young.

The thing, is despite the fact i am incredibly slow at reading i could read very young. I was reading Harry Potter (with help) at 7, so by the time i was 11 I’d read nearly everything in the children’s section; I had to move on to the teenage. I loved Junk even when I was that young.

I bought the book when i was shopping with my brothers. I knew my mother wouldn’t allow me have it, but I was sick of stories about princesses and fairies. To be honest with you I didn’t no what Junk was about when I read it, I simply picked one with a ”grown up” cover. I took it home and hid it in my bedside locker. I kept it a secret even from my friends and my brothers. I wasn’t embarrassed, I just couldn’t bear to have it taken away!
From the very first moment I read it I loved it! It was grown up, it was fun, it was exciting. It beat the hell out of princesses!!

At start i loved Tar; there is something lovable about him isn’t there? But lately (in the last 2 years) I stared to love Richard. He’s just so cool. I dunno I can’t explain it . i think he’s soooo loveable, he’s so decent or something… he’s good, I think that’s it. I understand some of the characters in Junk are based on real people: was Richard one of them?

Oh i forgot to mention I’m nearly 16 now and i’m Irish, so I’m sitting our jnr cert this year kinda like GCSE’s I think. Anyway I am being forced to read How Many miles to Babylon? by Jenifer Johnston. Now don’t get me wrong, it is a wonderful book: its very well written, the imagery and characterisation is brilliant and vivid. but we are reading it to get a glimpse of harsh reality, so why aren’t we reading Junk?

Something relavent today! I mean they close use off from reality, in order to protect us? We’ll only try for ourselves. if someone doesn’t show us.

I just wish that people would realise Doing It and Junk aren’t about getting high and having sex, but about friendship and people. Your book teachs us about life now. Not about what life was like for an amazing princess, or in world war 1. I want to know about people in the here and now , people like me!

To me you are an amazing writter and i really respect you.
Please don’t stop writing no matter wat the critics or parents or teachers say I think i speak for young people everywhere when I say we need someone like you, someone who gives us credit to make our own choices….

Phoebe…… xxx

P.S…i love dandelions


Hi Phoebe – what a nice email! So sorry I never got back to you last time. I do try to get back to everyone who writes, but I know some slip through the net, cos I’m fairly trash and getting on top of my emails and they do back up. |If you wrote not so long ago, it was probably because I was moving …

Anyway, I’m on to it this time. I realy happy you enjoyed the book so much – it’s just great that you got on to it when you were so young and still like it now. I like to think the book is written so people of any age can enjoy it, but I think there’s stuf fin it you can;t really get on top of unless you;re that little bit older – so maybe you got another layer or two out of it when you came back to it.

I agrtee about Tar – he is loveable, but weak, realy, although in many ways that’s not his fault. I felt that if Gemma hadn;t been a bit of a cow at first, he might have managed better – perhaps the fact that he’s so vulnerable is what makes him loveable. As for richard, well he was based on a freind of mine, so I can;t but agree with you – gret guy!

Thanks once more for writing – and I hope you do really well in your junior cert – good luck!

Best, Melvin