Lily Iona MacKenzie's Blog for Writers & Readers


Can readers give birth to novels?

My son’s birthday was a few days ago, and these past weeks have reminded me of when I was eight months pregnant and bursting at the seams. I anticipated the child I was carrying whose gender I didn’t know yet. I also didn’t know the impact he would have on my life. But friends and family were overloading me with anecdotes from their own lives, either from giving birth themselves and the various dimensions of that process, or with recommendations on planning for the child’s wellbeing and future. At seventeen, I didn’t have a clue about what goes into raising a child to adulthood.

What has taken me back so many years to that amazing time? Giving birth to my son was reminiscent of  when my novel Curva Peligrosa was released. I’d been working intensely with the publisher on revisions, back-cover copy, and front-cover images. As with any collaboration, there were highs and lows. I’m the one who had spent years (at least ten) giving life to this work, from its initial inception triggered by a news story I had read to the final chapter. I knew the characters as well as anyone can since they are products of my imagination. I’d given birth to them!

Yet the novel’s future once it was released remained beyond my knowledge. I could send out advance review copies to major publications. I could schedule radio and TV interviews. Pre-pandemic, I could book readings at bookstores, libraries, and other venues. I could offer the novel to book clubs and arrange to visit them in person or via Skype. I could do Goodreads and Amazon giveaways and participate in numerous blog tours. But once the book launched, I had no control over how it would be received.

I could only hope that Curva, the novel’s main character, would find her way into readers’ hearts, and they would help her progress on the path ahead. Writers carry a major part of the burden of how a novel is received, but readers are also important in helping a work to flourish. It’s through their imaginations that a writer’s characters become alive. All of this is still out of my control, though I wonder how many readers have encountered Curva and her world. Has she changed them in any way?

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