After nine months of excruciatingly hard work, the new novel has finally passed out of my hands, and is making it in the big wide world all by itself. I find releasing a book a moment that comes with mixed emotions. Elation, excitement, anticipation, anxiety and most of all sadness. I’ve reached the end of a long, emotional journey with friends I bonded with along the way. The relationship a reader forms with the characters they read about, or a writer forms with those they create, is every bit as real as the relationships we forge whilst dealing with living, breathing people.
Rachel Nuwer’s article: The Psychology of Character Bonding: Why We Feel a Real Connection to Actors (http://www.thecredits.org/2013/07/the-psychology-of-character-bonding-why-we-feel-a-real-connection-to-actors) explains the phenomenon of bonding with fictional characters brilliantly, it’s well worth a read, and had me going Ah, yes. Now I understand. Basically, readers, and writers, invest a great deal of emotion (and time) in reading a novel (or watching a film) in the same way we invest emotional energy and time in cultivating friendships. Empathy and Sympathy – emotions we experience daily in our real lives – Nuwer tells us, are key to the way we respond to fictional characters.
Howard Sklar, from the University of Helsinki, (http://blogs.helsinki.fi/hes-eng/volumes/volume-5/believable-fictions-on-the-nature-of-emotional-responses-to-fictional-characters-howard-sklar/) attempted to show that despite there being differences in how readers respond to real-life people versus how they respond to fictional characters, the psychology of both shares important similarities. I use reader and writer interchangeably, although the experience may very well be more intense for the creator of a work. As a voracious reader too, I know certain characters, Will Trent created by Karin Slaughter for example, resonate with me beyond any of the books I’ve read with them in, but my own characters – Hunter, Jesse, Toby K – they’re like my children (and I have several real ones so I know what I’m talking about). I am responsible for them and their journeys and when a leg of their journey comes to a close, it’s like a chapter in my own life has ended and of course that sense of loss, of grieving for something I have lost, affects me when I scan the last few words for typos or bad spelling, and flip the last page over onto the pile. It rushes out of me, that sense that THIS IS OVER.
When I sit down to start a book, I have already spent several months – if not years – with the characters I am going to write about bobbing around inside my head. I have laughed with them, cried with them, worked out how to make their lives harder, before trying to make it better. They have grown into fully fledged beings in their own rights and, although I know they aren’t real, for all intents and purposes, to me, they are. When I reached the end of The Obsidian, just as I had done when I reached the end of the first novel Affliction, I felt an overwhelming sense of loss, as if a good friend – or friends – had passed on. Even the bad guys I grieve for, it is common in my household for someone to laugh about how I can’t let my bad guys go. People say writing is a lonely endeavor – and for the most part, it is – but in some ways it isn’t. I’ve made lots of friends and I can’t wait to experience the next leg of their journey with them – and hopefully, with you.
If you’d like to meet Hunter Cade and Jesse Rider, check out AFFLICTION from Amazon, and the latest Hunter Cade Mystery THE OBSIDIAN, is also out now. http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=heidi+cieciura