Monday, April 20, 2015
I still remember the rapture of receiving the very first copy of my very first published book, Night in Eden, nearly 20 years ago now. Bubbling over with excitement, I opened it, and my eye immediately fell on a typo. Eek! Then I flipped a few pages and found a mistake inserted by some well-meaning person after I'd seen the galleys (they italicized First Fleet, evidently thinking it was the name of a ship). I slapped the book closed, and that was it.
As a result, I haven't read What Angels Fear since I read the galleys back in 2004. And when you're writing a series, that's not a good idea. So a few weeks ago, I took a deep breath and sat down to start reading my own series, from book one on through.
In some ways, it's been fun. But in other ways, it's painful. There are things I know now that I didn't know I didn't know ten years ago. (It's the things you don't know you don't know that get you every time; if I know I don't know something, I look it up.) Those mistakes make me cringe. And while I started out keeping continuity notes, I've since realized I didn't write down everything I should have, and I haven't been very good about keeping them up, either. It's one of those things I tell myself I'll do later, except by then I'm deep into the next book. (Yes, I'm doing it now.)
The one thing that made me laugh is a change my editor requested in the first book. You have to understand that I had been thinking about the backstory and personal story arc of this series for years before I ever started writing it. As originally envisioned, Sebastian fell in love with Kat when he was 21 and just down from Oxford, and Kat was 16. He was in the army six years, and by the beginning of Angels had been back in England since the previous spring, making it seven years since he'd first fallen in love with her. Well, my editor wanted me to make Kat seventeen, because while sixteen would have been just fine back in the nineteenth century, she (or perhaps someone else in the publishing house) worried that it might offend modern sensibilities. So I changed it, although I wasn't happy about it, and it messed things up a bit, reducing the time he was in the army to five years, and requiring him to have been down from Oxford a year before he met her, which didn't work so well, either.
And then, obviously because I had always thought of the story my way, I promptly forgot the changes. (I also never changed the continuity notes I'd already made on that book.) I found one place in the middle of When Gods Die that is consistent with the years given in Angels (that's probably where I was in the manuscript when she asked me to make Kat older). But in every book I've read since (I'm just starting Maidens), I slid back into the timetable I originally envisioned. It was a serious shock to be reading Angels and see seventeen... five years.... I literally said out loud, "Oh, hell! How did I forget we did that?"
Which leaves me with something of a quandary. Because the lovely thing about modern publishing is that you can change a book after it's published. True, you can't change the ones that are already out there in print, but you can change the ebook. Any subsequent editions can also be changed (Angels has gone back to press half a dozen times or more). Obviously, my preference is to change the timeline in Angels back to what it originally was, rather than change all the books since then. Of course, my editor might not like that (I've yet to point out the shift to her). But given that she slid right over the sixteen in all the later books, it must not have offended her after all?