I think stories – and books, and songs, and movies – should more or less ‘stand on their own’ without any context or explanation needed. I love reading something and forming my own interpretations and impressions of it. When you publish something, be that a book or a single poem, you relinquish control of it and let others take from it what they will. Writers can’t be there standing over readers’ shoulders whispering: ‘Do you see what I did there?’ ‘That’s a symbol! Get it??’ ‘This bit is meant to make you cry. Are you crying yet?’ That would be very annoying indeed.
However, I think that there are certain stories that are really enriched and deepened when we peel back the curtain a little and see what the author was thinking about when they wrote it. For example, maybe it’s an autobiographical novel, or it’s an homage to another novel, or maybe there’s a particularly unique origin story or ‘lightbulb moment’ when the author came up with the idea, or maybe it’s the product of a particular time in the author’s life or a particular historical event inspired it etc. These things shouldn’t be essential to the reading experience, but they can be a really worthy addition. I love reading ‘afterwords’ of historical novels in particular where authors talk about the research done, or their travel to historical sites, all that jazz. As a writer myself and a curious person, it’s super interesting!Continue reading