Saturday, 24 September 2016

Sending your baby to the house of tomorrow - Liz Kessler

I’ve ummed and ahhhed more than usual over what to write about this month. I’ve thought of and then rejected at least half a dozen ideas.

I was on the verge of asking if anyone wanted to do a guest post on my date – and then the advance copy of my new book turned up, and I realised that the joy of holding your new book in your hands for the first time never goes away.

You made this thing. It has so much of you poured into it. And yet, now that it exists in its own right, now that it is out there in the world – your role is done and you have to stand back and let it find its own way.

The letting go can be hard.

See, the thing is – I absolutely love this book. I love the characters, falling in love despite the biggest divide there is.

I loved writing it – each new scene unfolding virtually in front of my eyes as I walked along the wild coast path watching waves crashing on rocks, and listening to a playlist that brought me to tears more often than not.

I loved the process – the collaborating with the amazing poet, Ella Frears, who was so in tune with me that the poems she wrote felt as if they came from the pens of my actual characters. The songs she shared with me felt as if they came directly from the story I was weaving.

I loved all of it. And now that the book is going out there, it is taking a bit of my heart with it.

I am not a parent, so I don’t know if this analogy is as true as it feels, but producing a book does seem, to me, to be a bit like having a child. To be fair, probably not as painful as actual childbirth (although excruciatingly painful at times, in its own way!) Perhaps the process is more like the struggles, joys and extremes of bringing up a child from baby to adulthood.

I spent about eighteen months living with characters who had all sorts thrown at them. Bullying, panic attacks, life-threatening illnesses, drug overdoses, grief. Characters who somehow managed to choose love over all of these, again and again.

So yeah. It was an intense journey. And now, the book is out of my hands and – hopefully – into other people’s. It is finished, and I have to let go.

Luckily for me, I have an amazing editor, Helen Thomas, who helped break the intensity of the moment by sending me a text of the plotline - told in emojis! I love this as much as all the other things.

I have friends who are saying goodbye to their children as they go to university this month. I have witnessed their mixture of pride, fear, grief, loss, excitement and hope.

This is how it is with a book. I want the best for it. I want it to be liked – loved – thought well of.

If I had a child going to university right now, I don’t think I’d be rooting for them to come home with a first class degree and the highest praise for every piece of work they produced. Yes, of course, those things would be nice. But more than that, I believe the things that would make my heart swell would be to hear that they had made friends, they’d fallen in love, they were happy.

And so with the book – I don’t care about awards and shortlistings. Yes, they are nice (I haven’t had many in over a decade as a published author!) But I’d much rather my book found its way into the hands of young people who loved it, whose lives were enriched for having found it, who felt warm for reading it and wanted to share it with their friends.

I will do all I can to try to make this happen. In a few days, I’m off on a book tour where I will be meeting lots of young people all around the UK and sharing my book with them. Next week, I’m holding a book launch where I will celebrate its release. I'll accept every invitation I get to go and talk about it with young people.

I’ll give my baby the best upbringing I can, and send it off with a case full of clothes and books and a heart full of hope. Will people like it? I don't know. Will they criticise it, give it a rough time? They might. Once I've let it go, I have no control over what happens out there. And that’s how it should be. That’s part of the process. The letting go.

As Kahlil Gibran says, in The Prophet:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

I hope that Haunt Me has a great time, out there in the house of tomorrow.

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1 comment:

Steve Gladwin said...

Liz I love that phrase 'the house of tomorrow.' I'm sure your book will have a wonderful time and I remember how enthusiastically you talked to us at Folly Farm about the ideas and the very important soundtrack. So good to hear you've been able to see all that home and ready for the next stage. Take care. Steve xx