It has been two weeks since The Art of Hearing Heartbeats came out in America. The first few days and weeks after the publication of a novel is always a strange phase for me: very sensitive and extremely exciting at the same time.
Exciting, because it usually takes me two or more years to write a novel. Two years in which I sit at my desk just by myself, thinking, dreaming, listening. Writing is a lonely business. Nobody reads what I type into my computer except my wife. Then my publisher, my editor. And finally the moment I have worked for so long arrives…
Sensitive and difficult, because up to that day, the characters belong to me. Only to me. From the moment I invent them, we live in a very close relationship, undisturbed by the outside world. I shelter and nurture them; they teach me many things. It is very intimate. But from the day the book is published, I have to let go. They are not mine anymore. I send them out in to the world. They belong to anyone who is willing to discover them. I can’t protect them from people who don’t like them, who think they are boring, or stupid, or shallow. They are on their own now.
Letting go is not easy and is sometimes painful.
In the first few days and weeks after publication, I feel happy and depressed—it changes from day to day, hour to hour.
I remember when the book came out in Germany. On the day of its publication I went to a big store in Berlin to see if they carried it. When I came home I told my wife I had good news and bad news regarding my novel.
“What is the good news?” she wanted to know.
“I checked a big book store and they had ten copies of The Art of Hearing Heartbeats,” I said.
“That is great. What is the bad news than?” she wondered.
“They also had some other books. Lots of other books, actually…”
It sounds silly but is true: I was overwhelmed by the sight of so many other books.
When I write a novel I don’t read other novels. I even try to forget that they exist. I am so much in my own story, in the little world I create, into the characters who live in it, that I am totally absorbed by them. When I emerge I am surprised, shocked, and sometimes scared that there are other magical worlds besides mine.
In between novels, there are moments when I look at shelves full of books and hear a nagging voice inside my head: Do I really need to add to this? Aren’t there enough books out there already? Do I really need to write another novel?
This voice lingers on until an idea comes to me. I never know where it comes from. It is like a seed planted in my heart, in my fantasy. It starts to grow. I sit down and write and the story develops its own magical power. The voice subsides; the story wants to be told, and writing becomes a necessity again.