It's always interesting to receive the proofs, as it's the first time that I get to see the book as it will look to the public, i.e. typeset, and no longer simply my manuscript. At that point, a transformation occurs in the way I view it. It is not just something that I rustled up on my computer. It's a book, and I judge it in a different way. I notice elements that perhaps I did not recognise before. I become more conscious of themes running through it, and I become aware, for want of a better word, of the 'feel' of the book.
I know exactly how he feels. I just finished going through the proofs for DIAGNOSIS MURDER: THE LAST WORD and I felt as if I was reading someone else's book. It didn't seem to have any connection to the "file" I emailed to my editor months ago. I was reading it fresh and I was surprised by some of obvious themes that ran that ran through the book...themes I wasn't even consciously aware of as I was writing it.
When I read the proofs, I find myself seeing the prose, the characters, and the plot differently than I did in the midst of working on the book. But most of all, reading THE LAST WORD, I was aware of a pace and rythmn to the story that I definitely didn't feel while I was writing it in bits and pieces, at different times and in different places (L.A., Germany, Palm Springs... and at my desk, on airplanes, in hotel rooms, in waiting rooms, in my car, etc.)
The term "proofs" has a double-meaning to me. Holding the proofs, I have evidence to convince myself that what I wrote is actually a book...it's the first time the story feels like a book to me instead of work.