Elizabeth Gilbert (superstar author of Eat, Pray, Love and Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear) suggests that we don’t call our books “our babies”. It’s not all that helpful or healthy to be so attached to your work output that you assign it the same importance as a human infant. Liz is right, of course (she usually is) and yet it’s hard not to have some similar feelings. Protectiveness being high up on the list.
It’s not that us authors think our books are perfect. Much as we don’t think our own children are perfect (sorry girls). In fact a lot of the time they drive us crazy. Tearing-out-hair-crazy. But we also don’t want to see them bullied in the playground, called names or disregarded. We want them to find their own tribe. A crew of good friends who stick up for them, appreciate them for who they are, not desire them to be different or better, who love them for who they are, flaws and all. We simply want the best for them.
As per my first two book-babies (The Color of Tea and Season of Salt and Honey) I wrote my latest book-baby – A French Wedding – with the idea of creating a story I would like to read. In this case – a story for the kind of person who is intrigued by the dynamics of old friendships, the tension of a romantic crush about to be confessed, who likes to feast, drink good wine and longs for long lunches in France (served up with a hint of mystery). Set in Brittany, France, A French Wedding is the daydream you have while folding laundry and wishing for elsewhere; it is about gathering to celebrate a birthday, visiting local village markets, walking the wild beaches and laughing and singing into the night. The story begins with a wedding, but you don’t find out whose wedding until the end of the book, when the fates of birthday boy Max, best friend Helen, unhappy Rosie, French chef Juliette and the rest of the friends, become clear. It’s a book for Francophiles and foodies, lovers and friends.
I have to say that it is as odd to have three books out in the world as it is to have three daughters in the world. It’s exciting. It’s surprising. It can be downright discombobulating. Those of you with children will know the feeling of sheer disorientation when you observe your offspring from a distance and have to remind yourself that yes, you helped make that. It seems impossible. Though you know it to be true and still poignantly remember all those hours rocking and willing them to sleep, allaying fears, entertaining, feeding, encouraging, coaxing and scolding. You probably had some not-great moments amongst the raising – of confusion, frustration and exhaustion. Moments when you wondered if you were the right person for the task and if your babies deserved better. But yes, ultimately, they are yours.
As with babies, the days spent with a book manuscript often feel impossibly long and endless. Edit after edit after edit, day after day after day, the publication date so far on the horizon it seems unreal. And then, suddenly, here it is. “Pub day”, as they refer to it, for A French Wedding is almost here! A monumental day when nothing actually happens and you walk around in your everyday life lurching between feeling smug, numb and anxious. Not too dissimilar to the sensation I had when I was finally able to leave my girls in childcare for the first time. “Oh thank goodness! I think…?”
But, despite the emotional evidence, Elizabeth Gilbert is right to warn against comparing books to babies. They’re not and we shouldn’t get so silly and precious about them. You do your best work, you put your work out there, you wish for it to find its place, for it to resonate. Liz masterfully unravels my flawed comparison with one slam-dunk quote that puts it all into perspective – “Your creative work is not your baby; if anything, you are its baby.” Ah, yes, so right. From “pub day” with one book we go on to the next book. Stepping forward with all those lessons we have learned, moving on as a different person, a different writer than we were before. Thankful for the experience with those characters, in that setting, who taught us so much, who become so dear. Discovering that it’s not us shaping the books, but the books shaping us, in various and unexpected ways.
A French Wedding, published by Doubleday, launches in the U.S. and Canada on June 6th. Here at Fork & Fiction we are going to be celebrating the themes of the book with posts about France, feasting, friendships and family over this month. PLUS, we have two copies of the book to give away to U.S. and Canadian fans! One for you and one for your favourite reading buddy. Go to the Fork and Fiction Facebook Page or the Fork and Fiction Instagram Page from June 6th to find out more.
If you would like to buy your own copy of A French Wedding click here. If you would like to see a brilliant interview with Elizabeth Gilbert, exploring her views on creativity, writing and life in general click here. Thank you, x