I had a book club appearance last night here in Utah and, since I hadn't done one in a while (after all, my book came out in 2008), I figured it was time to re-read "The Reckoning." After all, since creating that story, I've completed another and am now beginning a third novel. I needed to bone up and get back into my characters' heads.
Interesting experience. I knew my first novel was a bit dark and gruesome because of the unpleasant prison scenes...but when I re-read it last Saturday, it was with fresh eyes. All the research was well behind me, so rather than reading it as a writer, fresh from the context that such research provides, I read it as a reader. It was starker than I had thought. Still powerful, but now I could better understand some of the reviews of critics and friends. Indeed, one of the book club members asked last night if, in the writing process, I had felt depressed and isolated like my main character. I had to answer in the affirmative. (Perhaps that's why it took my husband a whole year to finally pick up my book and read it.)
Anyway, I've moved on now and my second novel is nothing like "The Reckoning." Still, I wonder what it will feel like to read it a few years from now with fresh eyes.
How about you? What kinds of reactions have you had to earlier completed manuscripts or novels when you've allowed time to pass and give you fresh eyes?