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.