I was talking to a book club in Antonia’s Bookshop in Trim (the closest thing my family has to a local bookshop) the other day, where they’d asked me to come in and talk about ‘The Harvest Tide Project’, which they’d just read. You might think this would be an easy gig, but the truth is, it had been years since I’d read the book, and despite all the time I spent working on it, there was a lot I just couldn’t remember about it.
‘The Harvest Tide Project’ was the first book I ever wrote, even though it was actually the fourth to be published. It was released over seven years ago, and completed a good two or three years before that. And it’s pretty packed with twists, turns and details I just couldn’t recall off the top of my head. So I had to go back and read it again, in order not to look like a complete eejit who didn’t know basic stuff about his own book.
A lot of people assume that if you write a book, every detail came out of your head, so you must be able to remember every detail. Not so, unfortunately. Twenty-one books later, my head’s filled with other stuff.
It was interesting to see how much my writing has changed – the things I did then, but wouldn’t do now. And yet I wouldn’t go back and change that text, given the chance. I was pretty impressed with how well I’d done with my first book (excuse my brief wallowing in egotism); there are some fairly imaginative leaps, but also some pretty complex sentences there that I’d hesitate to put in now, for fear of losing weaker readers. In fact, it’s a strange experience, rediscovering one of your own books.
With ‘Harvest Tide’ and its sequel, ‘Under Fragile Stone’, I went all out in creating a world from scratch, packing the stories with all sorts of ideas, adding some stuff in just for the sheer fun of it. Am I a better writer now? I’m definitely more disciplined, more deliberate about my effect on the reader now, more conscious of my audience.
But are my later books any better? I don’t know – that’s how I wrote back then and I don’t think I’d change a word now, if only because I believe you can’t dwell on a book once it’s done and out of your head. Better to move on and concentrate on the next one. It’s always been the plan to go back to the Archisans’ world some day – I’d originally planned five or six books – but it’s not on the cards just yet. It would be interesting to see how I’d write one of those books now. Some day, though, when the time is right.