And no, they're not, "You suck, asshole." Me being the way I am, I've gotten used to that. Laugh, damnit; that was a joke.
No, the words I fear seeing, particularly when I scrounge for reviews of Thomas Redpool on Goodreads, are:
"More like this!"
You might think this is some weird "fear of success" post, but let me assure you that it isn't. I don't fear success. I think a fear of success is unhealthy and borderline ridiculous (as is a fear of failure, especially considering that "failure" just means giving up). However, as I've written a few times before, I probably define success a bit differently than others. Whereas some people view authorship as some quick path to fame and fortune, the only thing I care about is that people read my books.
To be clear: I don't care whether you buy or like my books, so long as you read them. That is success to me, and I feel like that's a healthy position to take on this whole writing-books thing. You might disagree. You're welcome to disagree.
More to the point, I fear "more like this" not because I don't want to write more religious satire, not because I don't want to write more fantasy, but because I don't want to write more like this.
I want people who've read The Ninth Avatar to read Thomas Redpool and say, "Wow, that was different," and vise-versa. Not necessarily in the "wow, his writing has improved" sense, though I hope under their shock comes that acknowledgement of improvement (or at least effort to improve), but in the sense that I'm not churning out the same thing repeatedly--particularly in an effort to "capitalize on a franchise" or some such nonsense.
If and when I release Rise of the Carrion, I want readers to notice how different the book is from The Ninth Avatar in theme, style, message, technique, or really anything--despite being a prequel. Should I venture again into religious satire territory, I hope to make different jokes and points than I made in Thomas Redpool, not just copy the same attitude and verve and paste it into a new manuscript.
Publishers may quake at the thought of an author having such an attitude, but I don't think readers do. And there are exceptions to this, I suppose, if you're carrying on a hugely arcing storyline and want each book to "feel" like the last, as in the epics of Diana Gabaldon and George R.R. Martin. At this point, I don't envision myself embarking on anything so grande. Mostly because I don't plan ahead all that well.
My next fantasy, Scions of the Shade, has two main protagonists and one of them is female. It's my earnest hope that readers struggle to draw parallels between Laurel and Starka, the female lead from The Ninth Avatar, because they are nothing alike (despite both being constructs of my imagination). I don't want Tysane, the male lead in Scions, to be compared to DaVille except to point out how different they are.
I don't want to tread the same ground, tell the same story, or anything that would run the risk of boring you. I like you too much to bore you.
Now, this not to say I'd begrudge the appreciation or scorn the sentiment. The reason I don't want this, honestly, is because I like to think of myself as
Even when I make mistakes, I make them differently.
Maybe I'm grandstanding a little, assuming I'll even get anyone to enjoy my work so much that they'll eagerly request more. Maybe I'm being a little egotistical here. That's fine. I'm allowed. Don't hold back what you have to say on account of my fears but, if you give it a second thought, all you really need to say is one word: "More."
That'll keep me going.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you come back again soon.
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