My First Novel: One Year Later

The street date for Doppelganger was just over a year ago — technically on April Fool’s Day, but it doesn’t seem to have been a joke. So it seems a good time to get retrospective about My First Novel.

I have to say I’m happy. There are certain benchmarks for success with a novel, particularly a debut, and I’ve passed a few of them. Doppelganger hasn’t won any awards, nor did it end up on any “best of” lists I’m aware of, but it earned out its advance before the end of the first accounting period in June, and it went back for a second printing in the fall. I don’t have exact sales figures, but it seems to be maintaining small but steady sales, which is exactly what one wants in a continuing career — moreso, really, than awards and “best of” lists, though the egoboo of those kinds of things is not to be underestimated.

In terms of reviews, it’s been fairly well-received. Few “official” reviews in trade publications of any kind, but mass-market fiction rarely gets noticed in those places anyway, so when I speak of reviews, I mostly mean Google Alerts and Technorati finding mentions on people’s blogs. Which are as valid as official reviews, when you get down to it; they reach smaller audiences, but a random person on Livejournal may have just as critical taste (or more critical) than someone writing for Locus. In truth? It still warms my heart when I come across a sentence or two on somebody’s Myspace page praising the book, and I still feel that brief tension before I read the sentence or two, wondering if this person is going to like it.

Fan mail. Wow. It really didn’t occur to me that I would get so much. Literally dozens of strangers contacting me to say they liked the book, and while that’s a drop in the bucket if you’re Neil Gaiman, for me, it’s astounding. And people have even mailed their books for me to sign. Some of them are homebound for one reason or another, and they thank me for giving them a diversion for a few hours. That, folks, is one of the reasons we do this.

But all that’s about how I feel about how other people feel about my book. How do I feel about it?

Mixed. I’m thoroughly proud of some things in it: certain moments in the story, certain decisions to tell the story this way rather than that way. But there are also places where I recognize that I invented the setting when I was seventeen, wrote most of the book when I was nineteen. I know I’ve gotten better since then, that my plots have gotten more complex, my ideas have more meat on their bones, my worlds have more that’s unusual to distinguish them from the million worlds already out there in fantasy. I don’t feel like I would go back and write Doppelganger differently now — it is what it is, and I can’t imagine it any other way — but I’m eager to move on to new things, to prove that I can do better.

Which is, of course, exactly how this business works. So I shall end this reminiscing, and get back to the task of My Next Novel.