Thursday, April 18, 2013

When your baby isn't your baby anymore

photo credit: fensterbme's Flickr photostream,
by Creative Commons License
By Julie Kibler

Before Calling Me Home was published in February (wow, more than two months ago—she’s already sleeping through the night!), I’d heard something from other authors I didn’t really understand:

“After your book is published, it no longer belongs to you.”

I thought maybe I got it, but it became very clear to me very quickly, especially once I started meeting with book clubs where more in-depth questions can be asked—not just the standard questions about writing process or publication process or story questions we skirt around at book-signing events, taking care not to spoil the plot for those who haven’t read yet.

Sitting in my first book club meeting with a very engaged group of women at A Real Bookstore, a wonderful indie in Fairview, Texas, the questions and comments came at me, but also flew around me, each reader engaging with another at times as they made pronouncements on why this character did this, or that character didn’t do that, or any number of things.

Often, things I never thought about. Things I never intended. Answers I never would have given about plot or character motivation or deeper meanings.

But it wasn’t offensive—it was fascinating.

And in that moment, I understood this to be true: My book is published. It no longer belongs to me alone.

It belongs to the reader. It depends on what they bring to the table when they read it—or even when they choose not to. It depends on their life experiences, beliefs, passions, hurts, joys, disappointments.

Everything depends on their version of what is true. And then the book belongs in some unique way to that person, not to me at all.

Imagine if we had to give our human babies up to thousands of people?

I guess in a way, we do. If we are emotionally healthy, we give our children up to be themselves as they grow and learn. We give them to other people as they find friends and fall in love and work and marry, while holding close—but not too tightly—our own version of our child. And each of those people sees our baby in a completely different light, potentially one we never imagined when we conceived them.

My book is published. It no longer belongs to me alone. That’s healthy and natural, and I’m ok with it.

Julie Kibler's debut novel, Calling Me Home, the story of an interracial romance in late 1930s Kentucky, inspired by her grandmother's own forbidden romance, was published in February by St. Martin's Press. She can be found online at her websiteFacebook author page, and occasionally, on Twitter (@juliekibler).


  1. Great post, Julie! I've also found this to be true. Readers bring their own experiences to the table and that shapes how they interpret the words we write. I always knew that was true of poetry, but I didn't realize it was equally true with stories. Thanks for articulating what I was feeling.

  2. Amazing insight! And, I think that's what we want. We want our books to belong to their owners, their readers. I treasure my books and would be honored if mine were treasured by someone else.

  3. Fantastic post, Julie. Thank you for this. Though my pub date is a little less than a year away, I can start to feel this already. ;) I will definitely reread this piece several times as I get closer.
    I am really looking forward to reading your book. Congrats on all!

  4. Great post, Julie! It is a joy when readers find symbolism or a theme that you didn't consciously intend.