Today is the official publication date of the paperback edition of The Conditions of Love. There is a part of me that feels ready to burst with joy at all the good fortune, love and support I’ve experienced since the hardcover came out a year ago (almost to the day: May 14, 2013). So many fellow writers have been so generous with praise and advice. So many readers have moved me to tears with their accounts of what the book has meant to them. Traveling to book stores, giving readings and meeting readers has given me a new and much deeper understanding of how people experience fiction. It seems so magical that characters I created years ago – characters who otherwise would not exist – can elicit such strong feelings from people.
Which is why there’s that other part of me that feels the need to turn and bow and humbly thank all the writers who have inspired me to want to pursue this crazy profession. It seems like only now am I beginning to understand some of the things they wrote. Take this quote from Tolstoy, for example:
“Art is a human activity consisting in this, that one man consciously, by means of certain external signs, hands on to others feelings he has lived through, and that others are infected by these feelings and also experience them…”
“Infected.” What a perfect word. Or how about this one from Flannery O’Connor?
“If a writer is any good, what he makes will have its source in a realm much larger than that which his conscious mind can encompass and will always be a greater surprise to him than it can ever be to his reader.”
How did she know I would feel that? While I certainly don’t presume to be writing anywhere near the level of these writers, I do feel that I’m beginning to understand some of their hand signals – and it’s only because I’ve had the glorious chance to share a published work with the reading public first hand and realize what a heady experience it is. It’s exciting and inspiring and makes me want to get to work . . . on to the next novel, my friends.