Gone but not (entirely) forgotten

A question from the Willesden Green Library reading group, who have just read Dream Land:

is it true, as they’ve heard other writers say, that once a book is finished and published the author forgets it, having long since moved on to the next thing?

I too have heard this, and never used to believe it. How is it possible to forget something you’ve spent so much time and effort over? I thought it would be almost the equivalent of forgetting your own child.

I realise now that’s not the right analogy. Maybe something closer would be the relationship to a former love.

For a time you were utterly obsessed with your love. You knew everything about this person, your life was utterly bound up in them. But then you parted and it ended. Children grow and change in themselves and their relationship with you. Former lovers never do; they are locked away in the time it was and the person they were when it ended. Just as books, once they’re on the page, are fixed in the time you wrote them and the ending you chose for them. Even if they are now off having meaningful relationships with other people…

I’m still on good terms with these former loves of mine. I look back on them with affection, surprise occasionally (that good…?), not too much embarrassment as yet, though sometimes a feeling that it could probably have been better. I’m happy to have the chance to get reacquainted. And it’s fascinating to hear other people talking about them, seeing things I didn’t realise at the time, or never guessed were there at all.

Thanks to the members of the Willesden Green Library reading group for so many insightful comments and questions on Sunday. Also many thanks to Hunting Raven Bookshop in Frome, for organising a book reading and signing on Saturday, and to everyone who came. It’s a wonderful privilege to have a chance to talk to readers about my books.

Right, now I can get back to thinking about the next thing, the new love in my life.

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