So there I am, thinking up grand and important topics for the first post of the year, when messages begin to come in – proof copies of Fallen have landed on people’s doormats and desks. It’s impossible to concentrate on just about anything else. It’s a thrilling, terrifying moment, equal parts excitement and dread. Worth paying attention to, if you’re a writer.
Novels don’t come to life until someone opens them and starts to read. After that – well, all bets are off. Whatever your intentions for your brainchild may have been, they’re pretty much irrelevant now that it’s out there doing its own thing. All the bluffs you’ve ever dreamed of have been called. You’ve started something and now it’s in the wild, out of reach, way beyond your control. There’s no knowing how far it will go, what ripples or downright mayhem it might cause, or if it will simply wither on the shelf.
Writers don’t bring words to life, readers do. Writers put hours, months, years and even lifetimes into creating conditions that we hope will sustain the life of a novel. The worlds we make are vivid and alive in our own minds – but until a reader enters the terrain of a book and takes that first sweet breath, all you have are patterns of marks on a series of pages. Until it’s read, nothing will move or breathe there; it’s a distant landscape viewed from the windows of a passing train.
This is the magic, the alchemy of fiction. Also the source of its terror – and its justification.