Publish – then let go?

16 Jan 2014

The Missing One is published today, and I’m thinking about an email I had this week, from a well-known writer – a woman whose work I admire enormously. She sent congratulations and then she said that she really felt for me right now, because publishing a novel can actually be quite daunting. In fact, she went on, warming up somewhat, ‘there’s nothing worse than having a book out (except of course, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, not having a book out).peter's foggy island

I love this honest appraisal of a longed-for situation. I could not possibly – not ever – complain about seeing my novel on the bookshelves. But it’s true, this feeling is not as straightforward as I’d imagined.

I’ve published non-fiction books before but this feels different. Seeing The Missing One in print feels like the end of a huge, and complicated journey (or maybe – if the email from this writer is to be believed – the beginning of one?). And it is definitely a bit disconcerting that this thing, which has been incubating in my head for so long, is now actually going to be out there – being loved or loathed, talked about, or (worse still!) ignored.

This summer I went to the South Bank Center to hear Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat, Pray, Love fame) talk about her writing career. She was smart and funny and wise. Someone asked her what she felt about writing a novel after Eat, Pray, Love, and she sort of shrugged, and said, ‘Well, you have to send it out there and then you have to just let it go. You can’t control how people respond. It’s nothing to do with you any more’.   She’s right of course, the only way to do this without going totally bonkers is to try to let it go. But I’m guessing that level of detachment might be easier to achieve if you already have a multi-billion dollar blockbuster under your belt….

Beautiful pacific northwest image copyright Peter Harris.