56 Days Later

The night before THE COLD BETWEEN was released, I jotted down some of my eve-of-publication impressions.

I’m glad I did that, because my memory of feeling that way is entirely intellectual. That odd sense of pre-vulnerability is lost to me now, and I’m here, in the world where the book has been out for eight weeks today. The book I wrote and rewrote and despaired of and wept over and finally saw published. This thing I’ve wanted since I was a kid: my name on a book in an actual bookstore.

At my local B&N, the book was on the new paperbacks table next to Joe Abercrombie. JOE ABERCROMBIE. How is that not awesome?

book_table

Later, on the SFF shelf, it was shelved facing out next to Robert Jackson Bennett. It is hanging out with some serious writers.

So, Liz, how does it feel now that the book is finally out there?

Mostly…weird.

It’s one thing to have these people living in my head. It’s another to have them immutably on the page for the first time in their imaginary lives. It’s quite another to hear what other people find in the story, and I’m often surprised by my own reaction.

Here’s where I admit I don’t generally read reviews. Someone (can’t remember who) referred to reviews as a dialog between readers that doesn’t include the author. In one way, I feel reviews are none of my business. In another…the book is what it is, and it’s not going to change, and there are things I don’t need to know.

But despite that, I’ve had questions from readers, and I’ve run into the odd internet comment here and there, and it’s…weird, even when people like the book. I’m constantly surprised by what people think to comment on. People find themes I didn’t intend (or that were unconscious), make assumptions about my intent, respond differently to different characters, have guesses about What Happens Next.

Like reviews, I don’t respond to comments unless they are addressed directly to me. (In one particular case, that was really, really hard.) For people to be talking about the story is wonderful. For people to be talking about my characters is wonderful. Even when I disagree, even when people are bothered, strangers discussing my story is a good thing.

But also: weird.

And yes, I’m fragile. But mostly? This is the book. If someone produces a detailed critique of everything wrong with it, the book won’t change. Also, REMNANTS OF TRUST is pretty much locked down, so it won’t change based on anyone’s critique of THE COLD BETWEEN either. And given where I am with Book 3…well, you get the idea. Reviews are for readers, and I shall leave them there and hope people find them useful.

I think, sometimes, about where my characters came from, these people whose histories I have now put into print. Elena was created first, but she hasn’t always been Elena, and she’s still hard for me to know sometimes. Greg was two people, and ended up with the best and worst bits of both. Trey started out thirty years younger and much less jaded. Jessica started life as an extra with no lines.

But nobody reading the book knows any of this. (Well, you do, if you’re reading this.) To them, my characters started out exactly as they are. The readers don’t know how the characters came to be who they are in this book, and sometimes I’m surprised by what people assume. (Trey gets younger when people talk about him. This is okay with me, because I adore him and he is a hero. But for the record, he’s 57 years old.) It’s like edits, sometimes: Come on, you know s/he isn’t like that! But of course they don’t know, because that’s not what’s on the page. In my head, the evolution of these people started a long time ago; for the reader, evolution begins on page 1.

Intellectually, all of this is fascinating. Emotionally, it gets difficult, and I’m still processing all of that. Of all the stories I’ve noodled with throughout my life, this is the one that made it into print. If I could go back and choose, would I choose this one? If I had known, when I started writing it, that this would be the one I’d keep and polish and query, would I have kept on writing? Would I have tried to write something Significant instead?

Why this story? Why now?

Six years ago we went to Disney World and blithely climbed aboard a ride called Expedition Everest. (I had investigated it enough to know that it didn’t go upside down, which is my dealbreaker for coasters.) The Kid and I ended up in the front seat. It starts out as a pretty typical coaster, with the swoops and the drops, and I screamed my head off for all of it. And then you get to the bit where the track ends, and the coaster stops, and then it goes backwards in the dark and makes some twists and turns before you emerge again.

Which is an imperfect analogy for how I’m feeling, so I think I’ll just stick with weird.

(By the way, the automated photo of me and The Kid on that coaster is the one coastercam shot my spouse has ever purchased of me, and it was absolutely worth the bucks.)

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