As my novel goes up for sale, I have started to receive reviews and reactions. I know this is the lot of any writer who publishes. The book enters the culture and becomes something else. However, what has surprised me is that my own understanding of the novel has started to shift. I thought I knew my own book, but although the reviews highlight elements I can confirm are present, they change the emphasis placed on those different aspects and the result is that my own awareness has changed. For example, one reviewer has pointed to the dichotomy that exists in the book between history and story. Now, this was intentional on my part, as a way to frame the story. I am interested in different ideas of truth, and it seems to me that history, with its different framings, offers an interesting perspective on truth. Hence I built that into the books (I say books, because there will be 15 of them - the 2nd and 3rd are in the works for publication in the near term also). But the idea that there is a dissonance between history and the story itself, that is not something I consciously thought about. Now, I will, for the next books in the series!
Another insight I got from the reviews. One person remarked that the linguistic neologisms I introduce feel intuitive, that they don't jar the reader. That was also intentional, although I was unsure of the extent to which I had achieved my intention. It is highly gratifying to see this comment, because it is something at which I worked hard to achieve. But having succeeded, I am now drawn to reflect on what that means. Linguistic fluidity has its own kind of power, and it is something I feel I need to understand better for the rest of the series.
The Kirkus Review was really interesting, because they had no prior exposure to me as a writer. They clearly understood the book, with its interplay of themes around sexuality and spiritual awakening. But here, too, I have started to question the consequences of that recognition. The remainder of the series will have to grapple more fully with these issues. Well, they already do, of course, since the draft manuscripts are almost complete for all of the 14 later books and the issue is taken up again throughout, but still, the arrival of the theme into the public domain heightens the importance of the work.
Finally, two different reviewers point to the "keening" presence of creatures whose presence fills the book, the jonahs, descendants of the whales from Old Earth, and that their lives resonate with those of the characters themselves. This is an aspect of the book which was the result of my intentions, and yet, here again, the strength of the resonance as perceived by these different readers surprises me. What is interesting about this is that the story of the jonahs became more important the more I wrote. They played a relatively minor role in the original drafts. Now they feature prominently also in the second volume currently under review by the publisher (called Messioph: The First Book of Ido). There are a number of "emergent" ideas and themes in the whole series that weren't there originally - indeed, the whole religious element was such an interloper.
The depth of my reflections about my own book brought about by these various comments about the book have taken me by storm. I thought I understood what I had written. I now realize there are whole vistas that are opening up in the story as a result of this interaction with readers. And this is still only a few of the latter - what will happen when there are hundreds of them? Perhaps this process of rethinking is normal, but if it is, why don't writers discuss it more often?