THE MAN WHO NEVER WAS has been out for a few weeks now. Even though I’ve released plenty of books over the years, it never gets old to get the first few responses back from readers. There are lots of things that run through a writer’s mind at that point…
The main thing is apprehension. Authors hide at their desks, away from the rest of the world. They get lost in their own heads, bashing away at their stories until they finally find something that might be worth sharing. The first step after that is to share it with people whose opinion you respect – those able to give honest feedback about the story, and enable the author to get back under the bonnet and give it another few turns of the wrench. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have built up a wonderful and diverse group of advance readers who examine and appraise my stories with honesty and even-handedness, with a view to giving me some idea what works and what doesn’t – hopefully more of the former, and less of the latter.
Even then, after going through that process, there’s worry. Maybe this will be the book that will cause the wheels to fall off. Maybe all my expectations and hopes for the story were misplaced. That’s a good thing, though. I’m old enough and ugly enough to be unsurprised that I would feel that way about my writing, and, if anything, I consider it healthy. Worry and apprehension are good motivators – they keep me on my toes, and make me work twice as hard to ensure that I write the best stories I possibly can. Maybe the old maxim about actors getting butterflies even decades into their careers holds water?
It’s always a great relief when a book launches. Then comes pride and satisfaction when readers tell me that they’ve had fun with it. Writing for a living is a huge privilege, but sometimes, even knowing that, some days are harder to work than others. Encouragement from readers is a huge fillip. It gives me a real impetus to get down and start work on the next story, then the next, and the next.
In fact, it feels like I have more in the pipeline than ever. I’ve been delighted at how THE HOUSE IN THE WOODS and Atticus have been received, and am looking forward to getting back into his world. If anything, introducing a new character and a different tone of story has also helped fire my imagination for new Milton stories, with elements from each world cross-pollinating as I dig deeper into the research and find new areas of inspiration.
Thanks for sticking with me. I’m always humbled that you take the time to read my books. I’m thankful for the support and encouragement you give me to get back to my desk so that I can cook something new up for you.