Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Oh, the Places You'll Go

Last week I had a milestone author moment. The much looked-for box arrived on my doorstep. I opened it up to have my first glimpse of a thick beautiful stack of STORYBOUND ARCs. What a thrill! There's nothing like holding an actual book in your hand and thinking: This is really happening. People will be reading STORYBOUND.

I know, I know. That's the point, right? Get the book into the hands of readers. But as new readers have their first look at STORYBOUND, I've found myself transitioning into a different phase as an author. I feel like a mother-hen sending her chicks out into the wide, wide world, and I've been very surprised to have a twinge of empty-nest syndrome going on.

Hearing readers' impressions of STORYBOUND's characters is this strange mix of delight (Yes! This imaginary world is becoming real in a new way) and surprise (No, no. That's not what that character would do, be like, think, etc.). And I think it's that second thing, more than anything, which makes this a milestone transition.

I've had to bid my characters a fond farewell. They don't belong solely to me anymore.

Sure, Una, Peter, Indy, and Snow will always be my friends. I've been in their heads for too long for us to be strangers now. But they are graduating beyond our little circle. Readers will see the story's plot in a new light, filter the setting through their own imaginations, and know the characters in a different way. It's my chicks' first fledgling flight from home, and now my job is to step back watch how everyone will get along.

This stepping back seems to be a key piece of the author-reader relationship. Just last week, I listened to someone speculate about the back story of one of my characters. It was extremely interesting and not at all what I had originally conceived. I had to squash the impulse to clarify every detail and instead just listen to a totally new perspective on the story. And that's the way it should be! Readers engage the story on their own terms, even if it's different than the way the author fully imagined it. Part of the magic of reading is that book-worlds take on a life of their own.

As a reader, my favorite books are the ones that transport me in just this way. As a writer, it's wonderful to create that magic. I just had no idea it would feel so odd to stand at the crossroads of writer and reader and welcome my new book while at the same time bidding farewell to it.

What about you, fellow writers? Do you resonate with this transition? Any tips for a slightly teary-eyed debut author?


  1. Congrats on the ARCs! How exciting. Sorry I can't give you any tips. I haven't debuted yet. Maybe you'll be able to give us some after you go through the process.

  2. Ummm...where's mine, Marissa??? ;)

    It is weird to think of the characters you created not being yours anymore, but I figure as long as we're doing the writing they are still our babies. :) My editor for Nightshade City was really great about reminding me it was my book, my story, and I don't have to make every single change they want. I thought that was really wonderful of her, though I made all the changes anyway! I knew the story would be stronger for it and my babies didn't mind a bit! ;)

    Great post and we are all so happy for you!! Go STORYBOUND!!!! :)

  3. I've never been published, but I would imagine that having your characters out there in the real world, with people actually reading their story, would be a lot like being a parent. It's a beautiful, heart-wrenching, bittersweet thing to send your child out into the world to fend for herself, but the universe won't have it any other way.

  4. Congrats on receiving your ARCs!!! I've had a couple of poems and a journal article published but never anything where I got to hear what random readers think. (I really love what Hilary and Matt said above!!) :-) :-) :-)

    (I have no idea why Project Mayhem only lets me comment with my wordpress ID even though I'm an author on the blog...hmmmm....)

  5. I could just email you, Paul, but when you comment, does it not have a drop down menu right below (says "Comment as: [box: Matthew MacNish (Google)] for me)?

  6. Jeeze, I am so jealous of your "opening the box" moment you have no idea.


    Depressed Copywriter

  7. Hilary - Hopefully you'll open up a package in your mailbox sometime soon...:) And that's a great reminder that they're still "our" babies.

    Matthew - Yes! It probably doesn't help that this is all happening when my youngest boy just turned one. I'm a mess of nostalgia these days.

    Copyboy - I hear you! During the whole querying/submission process, I read so many "road to publication" stories it made me sick with envy...and then fired up to keep at it. Write on!

  8. I said before, but I'll tell you again I LOVE that cover. Can't wait to read it.

    I don't know about the idea of turning your characters over, since I don't have anything published yet. But I would imagine it would be like letting your grown-up children go out in the world on their own. No?

  9. Congrats Marissa! I'm looking forward to reading it.

  10. WHEEE MARISSA! They look gorgeous! You must be the proudest mother hen ever. :D

    About the characters -- I think every reader has their own version of your characters in their head. Your job was to plant them there, and now it's up to your readers to take them and grow with them. :)

  11. Keep looking forward! I don't see this title on Follett's Titlewave yet; just wait until everyone knows that it is out and people start reading it and commenting on it!


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!