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?