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.
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.