3 weeks, 3 months
So as of this week, Meet Me in Another Life has been out in the UK + Commonwealth for 3 weeks, and the US + Canada for 3 months.
It's been an amazing, tumultuous, sometimes nerve-racking, mostly joyful ride. I knew in the abstract that once you put a book out into the world, it stops being yours. Readers are going to have their own versions of the story and the characters. That's the entire magic of reading: you're not passively receiving something, you're constructing it out of a combination of the writer's words and your own knowledge and experience. So it's no surprise that readers' versions of the book vary as much as readers themselves.
Sometimes, that can be a challenge. As a writer, if you read a review with a very different interpretation of the story from your own, it can be hard not to want to dismiss it, or argue against it. I think I'm gradually getting better at suppressing that initial defensive response. To stay sane as a writer, you have to let go of the desire to control every aspect of what a reader gets out of a book. It's better for everyone if you can persuade yourself to, in the words of one of my favourite Jason Webley songs, "relax your fingers, let it fall away".
But other times, it can be a joy. It's still overwhelming to me that people I've never met now have their own versions of these characters I invented walking around inside their heads. Sometimes, I read reviews that show me aspects of the story or the characters that I never consciously intended and it blows my mind. It feels like a gift, balancing out the difficult realisation that no book is ever going to be perfect, that it inevitably has gaps and flaws I missed.
But all this would be very abstract if it weren't for the people who generously share their responses, making their versions of the story real. So this post is dedicated to them, and the absolute joy they've brought me over the past three months (and longer, for those who read advance copies). This book doesn't belong to me any more. It belongs to:
- The readers on bookstagram and booktok who have created absolute ART in their layouts and aesthetics. Featuring clocks and Cologne, astronomy and the stars, thematically perfect tarot cards, fox and wolf constellations, quotes superimposed on love locks, cats who look like Félicette, cats who don't look like Félicette but are still adorable...the list goes on.
- The reviewers who have shared their thoughtful takes across the internet's many book ecosystems: here are some of my favourites. I have a particular soft spot for any reviewer who likes Thora, as she can be a hard sell at times, and any reviewer who notices and delves into the two characters' contrasting attitudes to life.
- The readers who have answered Goodreads questions about the book more informatively and compassionately than I ever could, and added their favourite quotes (which really helped me out when I had to choose lines from the book to inscribe in selected copies of the Goldsboro edition when I did my signing there).
Finally, it's been so interesting to see how varied people's readings can be. From reviews saying it's definitely science fiction (that one from Sue Burke, whose books I love!) to reviews saying it shouldn't have been branded as science fiction, from reviews saying it's at heart a romance to reviews saying it fits every other genre but romance, it really seems like different readers are reading different versions of the book (which I guess is appropriate, given the multiverse theme!) Of course I have my own take on each of these questions, but I'd rather keep that to myself - I'm happy to have written a book that gives the space for so many different readings.
Speaking of people with thoughtful takes on the book, I did an interview back in May with Robby Harrington and Kristin Travis on the Moby Fict podcast. The episode was just released. It was so much fun to record - Robby and Kristin had so many interesting questions, and it was a real treat to chat with them. If you're a podcast person, I'd really recommend subscribing - as I said in a previous post about audiobooks, I sometimes have trouble focusing on audio-only input, but Robby's interviews are always so engaging that even my goldfish attention span never wavers.
I hope I'll get to do more interviews in future. At some point, I'd really love to do one where spoilers are allowed -- while it's a fun challenge to discuss the book without giving anything away, I have started keeping a list of topics (yes, genuinely, a written list) that I am burning to talk about with people who have read the book. Maybe one day I'll be able to.
If and when I do, I'll add the link to my newly created Extras page, where I've collected the interviews I've done so far, along with various articles I've written related to Meet Me in Another Life. Have a browse if you want book recommendations or tenuous linguistic theories about time loops.
Instagram Live event
It seems only a few posts ago that I said I was not cool enough for Instagram. While that remains true, I have nevertheless joined in order to do this event which I am very excited about:
To mark the UK release of Meet Me in Another Life, I will be chatting about the book with my wonderful editor Natasha Bardon! The event will be hosted on Harper Voyager UK's Instagram. If you're an Instagram novice like me (seriously, all I have up there is a fuzzy picture of my cat and a flyer for this event), please don't panic. You do need to have an account to be able to view the event, but there is no obligation to then become a dedicated 'grammer. Unless you want to, of course! Either way, hope to see you there.
Out in the UK!
The UK & Commonwealth edition of Meet Me in Another Life has now joined the North American edition out in the big wide world:
If you're in the UK and would like a physical edition of the book, you currently have a few choices (note the first two are limited editions and may sell out at some point):
- The excellently goth Waterstones signed exclusive edition, with black sprayed edges
- The Goldsboro Books signed limited edition, with blue sprayed edges - this one won't be available until 16th July, which is when I will physically go to the London branch to sign them
- The standard UK hardback edition, available from all the usual places. This is the only edition I currently have a copy of myself - I can reassure you that, despite the lack of sprayed edges, it is also very pretty. Another bonus of this one is that no one has let me deface the title page with my scrawl.
There is also the ebook and the audiobook which, like the universe, have no edges, sprayed or otherwise. They do have all the same words as the physical edition. In the case of the audiobook, those words are gorgeously narrated by the incomparable Kristin Atherton.
As I did for the US release, I thought I'd use this post to round up a few things that have meant a lot to me over the past few weeks:
- If a time traveller had come up to me and Hannah Little ten years ago, when we were drinking wine in her student bedsit on Nicolson Street in Edinburgh, and said "You know in ten years' time, one of you will be a senior lecturer/science communicator and will be asking the other one incisive interview questions about their debut novel on one of the Guardian's favourite podcasts?" We would probably have said "What's a podcast?" (That's not strictly true. Hannah definitely knew what a podcast was.) Anyway, it happened, and it was awesome, and here's the episode of the Cosmic Shed to prove it. Listen if you fancy hearing us chat about the role of common ground in time loop narratives, genetics versus environment in children's language development, and whether learning Greek changes the way you think about love.
- I did my first author event! Organised by The Reading Agency and hosted by Bristol Libraries, I got to be part of a panel of 2021 debut authors along with Carole Johnstone and Christina Sweeney-Baird. It was so much fun to chat about everything from our writing processes to how we got started (for me, writing extremely derivative stories about foxes inspired by The Animals of Farthing Wood). If you missed it, you can watch the replay here.
- I wrote a blog post for Waterstones about my top five books that break the rules of time, and the insights they offer into human selfhood and relationships. As a kid who grew up loving Waterstones and sort of wanting to live there, getting to write for their blog as well as having a special edition with them has broken my brain a bit. I don't think I'll ever get used to it.
Since the book has been out in North America for a little while now, I've been dipping into reviews and reactions every so often when I feel strong enough! My overall impression is that it's not a book that works for everyone, but the people it does work for really seem to love it. And honestly, I don't think I could ask for more than that.
If you've picked it up already, thank you. If you're thinking of picking it up, I really hope you enjoy it.
National Writing Day event with Bristol Libraries
Update: the recording of this event is now available here!
With the UK release date for Meet Me in Another Life fast approaching (8th July!!), I'll be doing some events in the coming weeks. The first is a panel hosted by Bristol Libraries on the evening of Wednesday 23rd June.
I'll be taking part alongside fellow 2021 debut authors Carole Johnstone and Christina Sweeney-Baird. We'll each talk about our books (I'm currently reading Mirrorland and The End of Men and they are both excellent so far); since 23rd June is National Writing Day, we'll also be talking a bit about our writing processes and our paths to publication.
The event will run from 7pm - 8pm UK time on Wednesday 23rd June. You can register here.
Meet Me in Another Life has an audiobook!
First, a confession: I am not an audiobook listener.
It's not because I don't think audiobooks count as real reading, or any of that nonsense that surfaces in the internet discourse from time to time. It's because, for whatever reason, my auditory attention span is terrible. If I don't actively concentrate every second I'm listening to an audiobook or a podcast, my thoughts tend to drift, and by the time I tune back in, I've missed a crucial plot point or a key piece of dialogue.
In the case of my own book, I know the plot and most of the dialogue off by heart, so at least that's not a problem. But on the flip side, there's the factor of being massively self-conscious at the prospect of listening to my own writing -- particularly now, when the book is out, and if I spot any mistakes I missed, it's too late to fix! (I only noticed one instance of a repeated word I should have caught in the proofread. Answers on a postcard if you spot it.)
But the audiobook of Meet Me in Another Life blew me away. Within a few sentences, I'd forgotten I was listening to a story I'd written, and it was all down to Kristin Atherton's incredible narration. She made me notice so many things: images that repeat and change over time, most of which I had no conscious idea about; ways the characters echo each other across chapters, beyond those I intended or was aware of. And speaking of the characters, she makes them live. I felt like I met them all anew, especially Thora and Santi, who I thought I knew so well already. I'm still processing all the nuances she gets across: how their state of mind changes from chapter to chapter, how they become weary and wise and angry and serene over the course of their many lives. I actually felt bereft and had a bit of a book hangover after I'd finished, which is genuinely insane as the book in question is something I made up in my head. But it is a testament to Kristin's amazing and possibly supernatural powers. I feel like audiobook listeners are going to come away thinking my book is much better than it is, because her performance elevates it so much. And I've already seen some reactions on Twitter suggesting as much.
Here's a snippet (taken from the first chapter) to show you what I mean:
The audiobook is available now in North America; in the UK, it will be released along with the hardback and e-book on 8th July, but you can preorder it or request it from Netgalley in the meantime if you choose. As for me, I'm off to find more audiobooks to listen to.
OUT NOW in North America!
Three years since I started writing the book, and a year and a half after it sold, Meet Me in Another Life is officially out in the US and Canada! It feels weird and amazing and nerve-wracking and very far away -- after the past year, it's sometimes hard to believe other cities exist, let alone other countries. I spent the weekend listening to my character playlists for Thora and Santi and signing tip-in sheets for the upcoming UK special editions (my name has long since lost all meaning and become a series of squiggles -- let's hope it looks more writerly that way).
I wanted to round up a few things that have meant a lot to me in the run-up to this day:
- Meet Me in Another Life was selected as an Indie Next pick for May! The list is compiled from the recommendations of independent booksellers, so it was a huge honour to be included (not to mention seeing my book next to Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon, which I can't wait to read). I loved visiting indies when I lived in Chicago (57th Street Books was my local; A Room of One's Own in Madison was another favourite). If you're in the US, why not order the book from Northshire Bookstore in Saratoga Springs, whose recommendation helped land it on the list?
- I wrote an article for Tor about characters with ever-changing relationships. I love Tor -- I'm a regular reader of their content, so it was a dream come true to get to write for them. Plus the research for the article involved reading/re-reading some amazing books.
- Meet Me in Another Life was included in this Mashable round-up, '9 ways to live your life multiple times'. I loved seeing the book put in context with the many other works that have used this trope. The article does a great job of outlining what makes all the featured books so different despite their similar premise.
- It's been amazing to see reactions from early readers -- thank you so much to anyone who has let me know on Twitter or elsewhere that you enjoyed the book. I am very bad at accepting compliments, but I promise it really means a lot.
All in all, I feel very lucky to have got this far, and I'm excited to see what comes next. So: be brave, little book. I hope you find your people.
This weekend is ConFusion, the virtual 2021 edition of Eastercon (the British National Science Fiction Convention). I'll be on the following panels:
Sat 3rd April, 12 midday: Influences beyond the literary canon. Our panel chat about their biggest influences beyond favourite authors; from cartoons to games to tv shows and beyond.
Mon 5th April, 12 midday: Storytelling through repetition. Time loops, time travel, and replaying games: how narratives are built by repeating actions & discovering new elements - including building relationships, and positive queer depictions.
I'll also be doing a reading of an excerpt from Meet Me in Another Life - this is scheduled for 7pm on Fri 2nd April. You can see all the events I'm involved in here.
UK cover and advance copies
Last week was the cover reveal for the UK edition of Meet Me in Another Life. My publisher pulled out all the stops for this one!
On Monday, cryptic messages started showing up across Twitter. (I'm not cool enough to be on Instagram, but I'm told they were showing up there too.) If you spotted them, you might be wondering what they meant. The answer is: they are chapter titles from the book, each corresponding to a graffiti message written on the wall of a certain ruined clock tower. (The wall writing concept also shows up in a different form on the gorgeous US cover, designed by Mumtaz Mustafa.) I've linked to the messages above in the order the corresponding chapters appear in the book. If you've read the first chapter, you might have recognised Welcome to Forever...
Then, at midday on Tuesday was the cover reveal. A beautiful animation showed the UK proof transforming into the final cover, designed by Micaela Alcaino. Among her other amazing work, she is the genius behind the dreamlike, trippy cover for Vita Nostra by Marina and Sergey Dyachenko, one of my favourite books (and covers) of recent years. I tend to describe it as "if Harry Potter was written by Kafka and set at a Russian technical college", which has been surprisingly effective at getting people to read it.
Anyway, I digress. Thanks so much to Abbie and Katy from HarperFiction, and to all the wonderful book bloggers who got involved in the cover reveal - it was amazing to see so many people responding who love the cover as much as I do.
I feel incredibly lucky to have two covers that suit the book so well in such different ways. It's been interesting to learn a little about the factors that go into cover design: from genre, to trends in specific markets, to the intersection of the two. A particular style of cover might say "romance" or "YA" in the US market, but communicate something completely different in the UK (or vice versa). Complicating this still further is the fact that the book is a bit of an odd duck that falls between genres. I've been heartened to see early reviews that appreciate this as a positive, but it can be tricky, too: if a reader feels they have been promised romance or sci-fi or mystery or literary fiction, and then gets something that doesn't quite fit in any of those boxes, you can't really blame them for being disappointed. I hope both covers will help the book to find readers who are looking for something a bit different.
The other big news is that UK advance copies (featuring a variation on the cover and a truly epic amount of gold foil) have been making their way to booksellers, bloggers, and recently, my house. I wanted to take another picture with my cat, but these books are genuinely so shiny they freaked her out and she ran away. I mean, look:
Seeing this proof circulating was a big moment for me. It was both exciting and terrifying to see, emblazoned on the cover of a Real Book, the names of these two people I made up in my head. I can't wait for you all to meet them.
Meet Me in Another Life
MEET ME IN ANOTHER LIFE comes out next year! Publication day is April 27th in the US and Canada, 8th July in the UK and the rest of the Commonwealth. I've updated the Books page with blurbs, preorder links for both editions, and the starry starry US cover. The UK cover is also stunning, but still under wraps at this point -- watch this space. In the meantime, you can read an excerpt from the book if you so choose.
US advance copies are not only being sat on by my cat, they are also out there in the world and starting to get some good reactions on Twitter and Goodreads! If you're based in the US and would like an advance copy, my publisher William Morrow is running a series of Goodreads giveaways -- the current one is open until December 21st. If you miss that one, there will be a couple more running in January and February. More news on UK advance copies coming next year.
Another semi-recent happening was that I took part in a panel discussing one of my favourite films, Arrival. The event was part of the Imagining Better Futures series, organised by University College London to welcome new Arts and Humanities students. I really enjoyed this event -- I got to wear both my linguist and my author hats, and it was great fun talking about everything from language-trained chimps to fate versus free will.
The freezing fog is drawing in here in Cambridge, and it's starting to feel like this year may actually be coming to an end. May the next one bring good things for you and yours.