Did y’all hear the Rowling news? She’s chimed in about Ron and Hermione’s relationship, stating that she put the pair together out of a need to fulfill her earlier vision about what the stories should be (the implication in her statement is that she perhaps ignored the direction the story tried to take). Of course, this statement pretty much caused the Internet to explode over the weekend. (Super what?)
Believe me, I understand the compulsion to justify writing choices, especially once a book is out in the world. There are so many things I’d like to say about my books, and every time I read a review that takes something in a different tone than I meant, I have to restrain myself from responding with, “But, actually…”
Regardless of this powerful impulse, I also believe that once something’s published, it no longer fully belongs to the writer. It becomes the property of the readers, and the author fades into the background. It’s that way with any work of art, I’d argue; the creator matters in the creation of the work, but the way the audience views and interacts with it is also an act of creation and art, one that the original artist doesn’t get a say in.
It’s scary, and at the same time, intensely liberating. All I can do is write the story I need to tell, and sit back and see what readers take away from it. Once the book is out, it’s not mine anymore.
That doesn’t mean every negative review doesn’t cut, nor does it mean that I am detached from the work and its success in the world, but I think it does mean that my chance to have my say rests within the pages of the book, not post publication. OF COURSE a writer will grow and change after the publication of a book. OF COURSE there will be things in past works that are not only distant from the author’s present, but discordant. I have SO MUCH respect and admiration for J.K. Rowling, and I think I understand where she was coming from when she made this statement.
But if we cling to our old stories, we essentially keep them from readers, taking away the power of each individual to make her own meaning of the text. And isn’t that one of the reasons we write in the first place?
What do you think? Does the final say on interpreting a piece rest with the author or the reader?