Next week sees the release of a new book from Angry Robot publishing, this time from author Madeline Ashby. It's called "iD: The Second Machine Dynasty" and the author, Madeline Ashby, was kind enough to do a guest post for Big Shiny Robot! to promote the book.
As an author, I was curious how other authors would react to writing about the experience of touring other websites like this, and she gave us this beautifully written piece about that phenomenon and about her book. It actually, honestly, makes me doubly excited for her book.
So, without further ado, here's Madeline:
A weird thing happens in the promotion cycle of your book. At least, it happens to me. Every guest post, every interview, every podcast, every piece of promotion re-introduces me to my book. In a strange way, I feel like I'm getting to know it all over again. From the outside, talking about it, I see its whole shape as one unit, rather than as the isolated parts I've worked with for the past few months.
Have you ever had that moment when you're describing the relationship you're in to someone else and you hear how much you really love that relationship? Like, you hear yourself say the words to someone else that you've never said to your own partner (or parent, or sibling, or friend)? That's what it's like. You feel like running back to your book and opening up the manuscript and saying: "I'm sorry you had to put up with so much of my bullshit. I didn't meant to cut you all those times. I didn't mean to put you off for Mad Men. I was thinking about you the whole time, I swear."
Inevitably, there's also that moment when you realize that you forgot something -- a plot element, a grace note, a turn of phrase. It was there all along, like a set of spare keys unwittingly kicked under the couch, only the couch is the hubbub of your mind, and every day it seems to get a little bigger and more cavernous, and more things get stuck in there. This is why it's good to put a manuscript away before editing it or re-drafting it. You have to let the immediate noise of the novel diminish to a reasonable level, so you can hear the other signals from the parts of the book that you've not been able to listen to before. I recognize that even typing those words probably makes me seem like a crazy person, but that's how it works for me. The longer you leave a manuscript, the more insights you'll have. Again, it's like a relationship. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
And you are in a relationship with your characters. Never forget that. Just like real friends, they'll abandon you if you neglect them for too long. Maybe you'll run into them again, years later, but it won't be the same. So put your manuscript away, but not forever. Check in on it. See what it's up to. While you were busy un-clogging that drain because some asshole left a tea bag in the sink, it went off on vacation, and it probably came back all sun-kissed and golden and there you are up to your elbows in dish soap and coffee grounds. So be careful. That sexy idea of yours can find another writer to take it out in no time flat.
In my case, my idea was about cannibalistic self-replicating humanoids and their blood feuds. And I followed it up with a story about a single self-replicating humanoid learning who he really is while on a path of redemption and revenge. And I'm happy I stuck with those ideas. I'm happy I listened to those characters, because they told me something interesting about what it means to be human, and what it means to love and to hate. But I didn't know those things until much later. In the moment, I just had to trust that they were taking me somewhere special.