A few days ago, a reader sent me a photo of ALL THE LIGHT THERE WAS on the morning it arrived at his apartment in Honolulu one day after the official publication date. It reminded me of photos my friend Chris Bohjalian has posted to his Facebook author page that fans from around the country send him of his novels in the places where they are being read: back yards, living rooms, beachfronts, and boat decks. It also gave me a strange sensation to think that the characters I had lived with for so long were now in other people’s homes.
This past summer when a young Armenian radio interviewer I spoke with in Beirut suggested that producing a book was akin to birthing a child, I blurted out, “Actually I have given birth to two children and published two books, and that comparison has always seemed like something someone who has never experienced childbirth would say.”
She seemed taken aback, and I wish I had given a more generous response. After some thought, and during this time when my third novel is newly arrived in bookstores, I realize that I could have suggested that for me the experience is more akin to sending a child off to kindergarten for the first time. You have devoted years to grooming this child to go out into the world among his or her peers and into the care of others. It’s a little scary—will your kid get along with the other kids? Will the teacher like her? If she uses a curse word or slaps another kid, will everyone think you are a terrible parent? Your child is not you, but in some ways she is a reflection of your parenting and therefore an extension of you. I am not my book, but I devised the plot, wrote the sentences, and animated the characters. And now it is time for them to go play—nicely, but not TOO nicely, I hope!
March 16, 2013