Of Physical Objects and Digital Worlds…

101_4606So, it lives. The Words We Use are Black and White is released today, and is now available in all good book shops around the world etc. etc. Oh, and on Amazon, here. I’ve got a pile of ‘author copies’ on my desk, waiting to be sent on to various family members and reviewers. And yes, that is a photo of Jacques Brel in the background.

How does it look, then, this physical beast? Not quite Frankenstein’s monster, but still something that has existed only in other forms before. It was in my head, in various shapes. It then was written out, longhand, then typed, then printed out and scribbled on with red pen (more than once), then printed out again in a more formal way…

Time passes. The novel waits for its turn, then is reformed as various pdfs to be emailed back and forth. Typefaces, fonts, spacing, layout decisions. A cover appears, with the image and colours I’d always had in mind (more than a grateful nod to my publishers here, but more of them later!) Slowly the words appear, in black and white.

Then a digital version, then another. All formats covered, all eReaders catered for. To me, the book looks odd in digital form – it’s as if the plan had gone awry somewhere along the line, and the delicately-laid language has become corrupted. But that’s fine too – what’s the point of words if they can’t be re-imagined, relaid, reformed? They’re the same words, and in the same order…and if you want to read the book on a Kindle then the option’s there, and I’ll be delighted to hear your thoughts on it.

The paperback, however: okay, I’m biased, but it’s gorgeous. The colours on the cover are darker than I thought they’d be, and it’s better for it. The font is not one I know, but I think it suits the content. The book’s too thin for my liking; these days margins have to be smaller and smaller in order to keep costs down and allow publishers to make a profit, even though the words inside are the same.

It’s always an odd feeling, seeing your work in print, whether digitally or in physical form. And when that work is a novel, or something of a similar size and emotional involvement, it feels like something is over. It’s not, of course – it begins in other ways, yet the notion of grief when you finish writing a novel is well-known. You have to say goodbye to people you have lived with for years.

And yet here those people are, in digital files, and in a paperback pile on my desk, waiting to talk to someone else. Odd.

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