Driving to meet friends for dinner tonight, I heard an interesting discussion on NPR’s Weekend Edition about writers and websites. It confirmed what I’ve observed among my own writing friends. That websites are becoming seen as more and more essential for writers. And that writers are using websites not just as static promotional pieces but as a dynamic way to engage in a dialogue with readers and to expand the world of their story beyond the pages of the book itself.

One of the things I love about my website is the way it allows me to play in Charles & Mélanie’s world every week. With the Fraser Correspondence I can explore events that happened in the past or “off camera” or get the POV of a minor character or even an historical figure on the action of one of the books (this week’s Fraser Correspondence addition is another letter from Emily Cowper to Harriet Granville about the events of the Glenister House ball which opens Beneath a Silent Moon). I love talking to readers through this blog about my books and other books and book-related topics. Choosing pictures for the Gallery lets me showcase settings from the books and Charles & Mélanie’s world in general. I’m excited to have the Works in Progress section to talk about my books and share bits of them as I write.

I know so many writers who use their websites in creative ways to explore the world of their novels. Candice Hern has a Regency World section filled with fascinating Regency historical information, Collections that showcase Regency clothing and accessories from her own collection, a Regency Glossary, and Discussion Boards. Veronica Wolff also has Forums and a Gallery, with photos of the settings of her books and her own writing life. Monica McCarty has a Special Features section that she describes as “like extras on a DVD.” It includes Cut Scenes from her books, a Picture Book, a Timeline, a Glossary, and other great fiction that bring to life the sixteenth-century Scotland of her books. Lauren Willig has a Behind the Scenes section, Outtakes, and Historical Links.

All of these features allow the authors to enrich the world of the books and sometimes embellish or continue the story beyond the novel (as the NPR story pointed out, a novel has a beginning, middle, and end, but websites allow the author to play with the story and character in myriad directions). What features on authors’ website do you particularly enjoy? What are the implications of websites for the ways authors tell stories and readers respond to them? What would you like to see added to my site? What would help you go through the internet looking glass into Charles & Mélanie’s world?