It’s different the second time.
With Catskinner’s Book, I was overwhelmed with the idea of actually publishing a novel. There was the feeling of a threshold crossed–on one side was “this guy who wants to be a writer” and on the other side there’s “this guy who published a real book.” There was this phase-shift in my mind and, looking back on the experience, I realize that while I wanted it to be a good book, that was less important to me than having written a book at all.
I remember thinking, last year after Catskinner’s Book was up on Amazon with my name on it, “No matter what happens, I’ll never again have to write a first novel. That particular dragon has been slain.”
So the experience has been different with Cannibal Hearts. I’m through the door, over the rainbow, here I am in The Magic Kingdom. Now, what am I going to do here?
In many ways it was tougher, because I didn’t have that “first novel” payoff to look forward to. Publishing the first one made me a “real writer”. Being a “real writer with two books” isn’t nearly as sexy. I’ll confess to feeling a certain letdown in publishing this one. It’s the ramp effect–you never get the same rush as your first hit.
Plus, there’s a lot more pressure. When I was working on my first one, only a few people even knew I was trying to write. Now a lot of people have read the first one and were waiting on the second one. I’ve announced to the world that I am working on a sequel, I had damned well better produce one. And while Catskinner’s Book isn’t known by millions, it was well-loved by a few. I set the bar pretty high for myself, honestly.
Sequels are hard. I had to be consistent to everything I built in the first book without simply rehashing it. I needed to find a new story to say with the same characters in the same world.
I think I’ve done that, and I think fans of the first book are going to like the second one. Still, there’s this small still voice in my head that’s saying, “Now you’ve done it! The first one was just a fluke–everyone is going to hate this one! You only had one good book in you and it’s gone. Dye your hair and move to Miami now, before they hunt you down!”
I know more about what happens next, too. When I was working on my first book I had all these dreams of becoming an overnight sensation, quitting my day job in triumph, setting the world on fire with my deathless prose.
I’m a lot more realistic now. The past year has taught me a lot about the realities of the publishing world in general and the lot of self-published authors in particular. Do I still have hopes of making a living from my words? Sure, and I am still working towards that goal.
My hopes have been tempered by experience, however. Not quite tarnished, perhaps, but definitely burnished by the abrasion of reality.