The beings of the mind are not of clay;
Essentially immortal, they create
And multiply in us a brighter ray
And more beloved existence.
~ Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, Canto IV, verse V
Today Wanderlust Creek and Other Stories is finally out in the world on its own. And yet even after all these months of editing and preparing and pre-orders, I'm having a bit of a hard time believing it myself. I spent so much time with the characters of these stories—"Wanderlust Creek" in particular, since it took such a long time to come to fruition—living inside my head, known only to me, that it's hard to adjust to the fact that they're actually out there on a printed page for anyone to read. I still feel the same way about Left-Hand Kelly sometimes: "Is that really published?" The feeling is definitely stronger for stories and characters that you've lived with for a long time, as opposed to those written quickly, and those two were among the most slowly brewed.
One does grow fond of one's own creations, and oddly protective of them—don't just believe me; Jane Austen wrote of her Elizabeth Bennet, "How I shall be able to tolerate those who do not like her at least, I do not know." I suppose there are some who can take a merely detached interest in their characters, but I'm not one of them. I'm no hand at writing up character profiles and quizzes for my blog as some people can do so entertainingly (partly because I can't seem to do it properly without involving plot spoilers), but by the time I get to the end of a story, I really feel that I know these people I've invented, and am close to them in that peculiar relationship of author to character.
I've been re-reading Anne of Green Gables for the first time in years, and appreciating its joys all over again with grown-up eyes—among them, the delights of Anne's dream friends and imaginary conversations, which are so close to what happens in the early stages of creating a story. And yet there's a difference between simply amusing oneself with fancies, and deliberately turning them into something that is put out into the world to be, as Anne puts it, "laughed at or wondered over." A writer may be first and foremost a dreamer who loves to play in the land of the imagination, but they're also someone with the impulse to take these fancies further and see them find full expression in written stories, which are eventually to be shared with other people. So for me at least, there's always a little bit of inner conflict between those two feelings. Still, the instinct to write a story and share it always wins out, however much shy nail-biting I may do on release day.