In four days, my fourth novel, Moonlight on the Thames will be released. This is a very exciting time, but also a nerve-wracking one. Authors are like parents, we want people to like our offspring, and also be liked ourselves at the school yard gates. But no one sees the tiny, adorable baby, to coo and fuss over. What we present to the world is a finished, fully-fledged version, to be judged on its merits, or lack thereof.
It’s a risky thing to finish a creative pursuit, and make, for lack of a better word, art. Art is the act of making the infinite finite. It’s one thing to work at the idea stage, even the advanced editing stage, of a novel. At this point, there are still possibilities and off-ramps. The chance to take on board the views of others, make changes, reimagine. But the part that is the most exciting, and the most frightening, is pressing send on that final version. Committing, and accepting that this is the final ‘thing’. This is the end, but also just the beginning.
As a writer, I want people to understand my vision, and love the characters I create. But the thing I want most of all is to reach an audience. To be involved in an interactive process with readers and ‘share’ views of the world. I strongly believe that a book is not finished until it is read, and a reader brings their own experiences and point of view to it. Like Schrödinger’s cat, the act of being observed changes a book and brings it alive.
The question then is, how do we reach this audience? This is the stress that comes with awaiting release day. Will it take off and shoot into the stratosphere, or fizzle into a cloud of smoke on the launch pad?
I’ve had both happen. My first novel, Finding Home, did very well, and then my next two novels, which I consider to be vastly superior to my first, did not do as well. I have, over the intervening time, tried to look at it philosophically, beat myself up, tried not to notice or care, tried to focus on the future, thought about giving up, ultimately kept going. And now here I am again, facing another release day. They say a fool is someone who does the same thing and expects a different outcome. I guess in a way, all of us writers are dreamers and fools. That’s just who we are.
I feel proud of Moonlight on the Thames. I know that it’s a good book, the best I have written yet. I believe in the characters, and know that the story will resonate with many people, if only I can reach them. I also know that in fulfilling my vision, I have taken risks. While the market expects an ‘escapist, feel-good read’, I have included a dark side to the book. Also, while the market expects instantly likeable characters, I have included a difficult female character and can only cross my fingers that readers will stick with her on her journey.
Sitting here today, I naturally wonder if I should have done something differently. Should I have ‘toned it down’? Made certain changes that were suggested at various times during the writing process that I considered, but ultimately rejected? Tried harder to fulfil the expectations of the market. Let the original vision go blurry.
Maybe. I don’t know. At the end of the day, I wrote what I wrote, and it has integrity. And now, it’s time for me to let go, and turn over my book to those who will find it and read it. And I hope, more than anything, that people do find it and read it. And love it, hate it, or somewhere in between, I hope that they will let me and others know what they think of it. This completes the circle, and begins the dialogue. This is every author’s dream.
Thank you for helping me achieve it.
Moonlight on the Thames is out 4th September 2018
published by Aria Fiction.