That empty feeling when you have published your book… Guest Post by Susanne O'Leary

I have just published my twelfth novel, Hot Gossip. It took me about six months to write, including editing, proofreading, proofreading and more—proofreading. You might think I feel relieved the work is done, that the book is out there in cyberspace to be enjoyed by, hopefully, a lot of readers.

Yes, I’m happy. And also very relieved and proud of my achievement. Writing a novel takes a lot of hard work, soul searching and brain bashing. So having finished a novel that is as good as I can make it is very satisfying.

But then… I miss it. I miss all the characters that became my friends during this time. I miss the fun, the heartache, the wrestling with all their problems. Letting go of that world I created and so enjoyed spending time in was a huge wrench. For six months, I had lived in Janine’s skin for part of the day, created her problems and tried to solve them. She was me, in a way, and I was her. With her, I fell in love with the hero and tried to make their story as romantic but also as believable as I could. I did my best to describe the setting and truly felt I was there as I wrote. I wore the clothes, drank the wine, danced and made love along with Janine. I was sad for her and laughed at her jokes, and got very, very annoyed with anyone who wasn’t nice to her. I loved her little house by the sea, furnished just the way I’d like it myself. I enjoyed the long walks she took by the ocean and ‘saw’ the beautiful scenery. The peripheral characters were also fun to write and they were as vivid to me as the people I meet in real life. It all became such a fascinating world and I loved spending time in it.

I often wonder why writers actually write. What makes them put those first words together for their very first book. I know what made me do it. It all happened during a time when I had a lot of sadness. I started writing a story that was full of light and laughter, where nobody was sad or died or suffered from an illness. My escape, in turn, became that of others who, perhaps, read that story in order to get a break from their own hardships. It helped me. I hope it helped someone else too.

As I went on writing, I drew on my experiences and my stories became more serious, hopefully deeper and more realistic. I feel I have grown so much as a writer since that bright, fun debut novel I wrote nearly fifteen years ago. But every time I’m finished, there is that huge feeling of separation—of having had to leave people I love.

Writing a book is like having a baby. Like carrying this person for nine months and actually feeling you know this small creature. While you’re keeping it inside you, it’s yours alone to nurture and love. But when it’s born, you throw it out there, into the big bad world for all to see. Your baby is the most beautiful thing in the world to you. But not to other people. When the ‘baby’ comes out, you have to stand back and wait for the reactions of others, of readers and reviewers who might not like this new creation of yours. Worst of all—they might even ignore it.

I miss my ‘baby’ and the time when it was only mine. But toward the end it was hard and painful, when I had to do all that proofreading and editing and formatting and reading over and over again.

But then… as with having a baby, you forget the pain and say: ah, why not? I’ll have another one…

As my stories are very character driven, it doesn’t take long before another heroine pops into my head and starts having problems I have to solve for her. Right now, there’s Rita, who comes to Dublin to start a new life, after her hair dressing salon in County Kerry burns down. She bumps into this dishy journalist and then…

I think it might become something Hot…

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Chris Longmuir said…
I can relate to this and the only cure is to conceive another one. But what do you do with the characters that are still galloping about in your head. I always have great problems evicting them, because evict them you must so you can blow life into your new characters. They need all the room they can get to start that dance.
Susanne O'Leary said…
I think taking a break of a week or tow before you start the next one helps a lot. I'm slowing waving goodbye to my characters and starting to focus on the next story.
JO said…
I think we all know that feeling. It's such a mixture that there's little you can do but ride its storms and know it will pass.

We wish you book well - and soon you'll be on to the next one!
Debbie Bennett said…
I'm like that right now. End of an era (over 20 years) of living with a character and I have to say goodbye before we can both move on with our lives.
Unknown said…
I know that feeling of loss all too well. I'm enjoying my new characters and their lives, so different from my usual crew. But once this new book out there, I know I'll be looking forward to allowing my fictional band out of the closet once more for next years romp. Good luck with the new book. :-)
Susanne O'Leary said…
Thank you, Pam. I'm sure I will once I get started.
Lydia Bennet said…
all that's true but there's often a feeling of emptiness when something is completed, when you've been looking forward to enjoying the change/some peace, eg after an exam: it also happens when a poetry collection comes out, when it's the poems that feel like your children going out into a cruel world!

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