Sunday, September 7, 2008

When Friends Move Away

Last week, I submitted the revised manuscript of "The Sunflowers" to my editor at Avon/HarperCollins. It will be poked and prodded (aka line-edited & copyedited), sent back to me after that, but essentially it's begun its journey to publication. When I hit the "send" button -- nowadays one does it simple as that -- I didn't dwell too much on it, but the next morning I woke up feeling quite listless. Melancholy, even. I felt the same way, I remember, when the I submitted the final version of my nonfiction book to Cambridge UP a few years ago, but that was more of a "now what" feeling after years of working on it (and the dissertation before it). This was different. I pondered it and realized the problem.

My friends had moved away.

Vincent, Rachel, and all the characters of my story had been with me every day, even if just in the form of a thought, for 2 years and 3 months. I'd gotten to know everything about them, I listened to their hopes and fears, I struggled to do them justice on the page. Like a faithful scribe I set down the voices I heard in my head (which, granted, felt a bit spooky) and more than once was moved to tears by the emotions the story conjured in my heart. Their world was my escape-world, and I loved going there. To suddenly *not* be going there any more felt ... sad.

I didn't expect to be that subsumed into my story when I began. In my other life I am an academic writer, after all, and in that world, one remains somewhat detached from one's subject. Nothing I'd written before had ever made me cry (well, except when I got snarky peer reviews in the journal submission process). I didn't expect my characters to become my friends -- I even begrudgingly like Paul Gauguin, whom you'll see someday Rachel does not like at all. I tell myself, maybe they aren't spending time with me any more, but in time my friends will be introduced to all kinds of people, and maybe, just maybe, folks will like them as much as I do.

And maybe, just maybe, I'll find new friends I like just as much. Or at least close to it.


Margaret said...

I remember one of my professors once told me that every book or thesis is almost like a child--difficult to work with, but so hard to let go of! I'm kind of experiencing that feeling now that I've finished my thesis.

By the way, there's an award waiting for you at my blog!

Catherine Delors said...

I love Gaugain as a painter, so I hope Rachel won't be too harsh... Congratulations on getting to this point, and best wishes for the rest of the road!

Sheramy said...

Hi Margaret -- I found the award, thank you!

Hi Catherine--Thank you for the good wishes!! As for M. Gauguin...he was a fine painter but not the most pleasant of individuals. And of course my Rachel is very biased, very protective of her man! I had fun with that.

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