There is a definite difference in people's reactions when you publish a book of fiction rather than a book of poetry. Only once has someone stopped me in the street to say, "I liked your new poetry book," and he was a fiction writer and playwright. I've had people speak to me about my fiction book on the street, in cafes, at City Cinema, and in the men's locker room at UPEI when a Vet prof I didn‚t know told me his wife was enjoying my book. This feedback was so startling, and gratifying, that I'd get discouraged when nobody said anything to me for several days, and almost paranoid after a week. Then I'd get two positive responses in the same day (in contrast with two positive responses in a year for poetry) and want to invite all my friends out for drinks that night. Wow, readers!
And then I started feeling insensitive and crummy about all the books by friends and acquaintances which I have not yet read. People I see or e-mail and to whom I fail to say, "By
the way, I haven't read your book yet, so don't take my silence as indifference or dislike."
Back to the neurosurgeon. We were walking down the street in Ashland today, and he asked, "What happens to the character in Wait Here‚ after the story ends?" I tried to think if I'd heard of that book, but drew a blank.
"Who wrote it?" I asked.
"You did," he said, "It's in your book."
So I wait for people's responses, and also the stories recede into the realm of someone else's history, the writer I was back then. Again, like a poet or literary scholar: startled that somebody (other than another poet or scholar) has not only read my stories, but is thinking about them. And when I see my book sticking out of my disabled friends' caregiver's handbag, I feel both a little bemused -- I mean, why's she reading that -- and more than a little
content, and grateful.