About a year ago I posted a piece here, in which I opine that:
If you write “creatively” at all, the only valid motive is self-realization. You should not expect, and certainly not demand, that other people should read your output, still less pay you for it. If they do either, you’re well ahead of the game – especially if they pay.
When a reader takes the time to read your book, he or she is doing you an honour. That has an uncharacteristically sentimental sound coming from me, but I believe it to be so. Every reader creates a new version of the novel’s world, informed by a unique set of experiences and values; each individual sees the characters differently and places different emphasis on this or that aspect of the story. It’s both intriguing and sobering for an author to know that, all over the world, hundreds or even thousands of different people are simultaneously engaged on a unique creative act inspired by his original, and now rather distant, imaginings.
It’s also intriguing to get such vivid feedback as the online reviews and to see the range of reactions expressed there, some diametrically opposed to the signals I thought I was giving out. For example, one reviewer suggests the depiction of the “Village” is something of a right-wing wishlist, which surprises me, because the book was written partly as a warning: I thought I had made it evident that the whole setup was (a) a Bad Idea and (b) being run corruptly. Indeed, during the Conservative Party Conference in October 1987, just before the London publication, a pressure group called Tory Action prompted the tabloid headline “Cage the thugs on an island, say Right”.
Some readers complain that the ending is too abrupt and would like to know what subsequently happens to the characters. This is flattering indeed, because it means they have almost become real people in those readers’ minds! Let me say that I was working to a space limit, not especially strict, but at 103,000 words the book was already pushing at the acceptable length for a thriller of that sort. During a lunch with Judith Kendra, the sympathetic commissioning editor at Grafton Books who encouraged this project, I believe I even mooted an extent of 80,000 words. More importantly, I conceived the story as being the experiences of the protagonist vis-à-vis the island, and the moment they cease so does the narrative. A generally favourable outcome and the abolition of Category Z may be assumed …
Thank you, then, readers, for giving my novel a new lease of life and for validating the work that went into it all those years ago. It’s an extraordinary feeling.