I've been fortunate to get mostly good reviews for my novels, and in no way was I under any kind of illusion that I would somehow go my whole career without getting my share of negative feedback. So, yes, like many authors -- whether they admit it or not -- I check my reviews, glance at Amazon once in a while, hope that write-ups in the newspaper come out if favor for me.
But one thing that continues to surprise me is the range of commentary on the exact same work. I used to think that if I wrote a good book, I'd get good reviews, and if I unfortunatley wrote a bad book then I'd get bad reviews. Man, it does NOT work that way. The same book can produce high praise one day and savage attacks the next. The best example of this phenomenon (of my own novels) is THE PISTOL POETS. If you collected the reviews of this novel all in one place and read them, you'd discover that the novel is simultaneously a "stinker" and an "obvious example of sophomore slump." You'd also discover that it "clearly remains Gischler's best work" and it's "hilariously funny and entertaining." People have remarked that it's not nearly as good as GUN MONKEYS. Others have said they liked it "much better than GUN MONKEYS." It was the first of my novels to be optioned for film.
It's the SAME book!
But it's not just this one novel. I've had nice e-mails from a number of readers. Some say GUN MONKEYS remains their favorite. Others say SHOTGUN OPERA is the best. Or SUICIDE SQUEEZE ... or even >GASP< THE PISTOL POETS.
This leads me to the following obvious, useless conclusion: A lot of different people like all different kinds of book for any number of different reasons.
Well, DUH, Gischler.
But his can be troublesome for an author. I have a very low threshold for more of the same more of the same more of the same more of the same more of the same. If I were a smart businessman, I might have gone with a series character, pleasing the same readers with the same cast of characters over and over again. This isn't a knock on series characters or series character authors. These comments aren't from a reader's point of view. I'm speaking as an author, and as an author my gnat-like attention span demands that I try to do something at least a little different in each novel. Yes, there are also similarities. A Gischler novel is generally recognizable as a Gischler novel. But at the very least I need to try out some new characters, some new situations, etc.
In the final analysis, this is all a long and winding road right back to where I started. I can't -- won't -- write a novel by calculating what will most please the most readers. I simply have to write what I like and hope others would like to come to the party. As a matter of full honesty, I once tried to write a "commercial thriller." Why? To sell a lot of books and make money. I bored the shit out of myself, couldn't make it work. Publishers told me to go pound salt. I just don't have the skill to write something I wouldn't read myself.
Which brings us to GO-GO GIRLS OF THE APOCALYPSE. I wrote this novel with full confidence that it was exactly the novel I wanted to write, but with absolutely no guess if a publisher would care.
It worked out.
GO-GO comes out in July. Soon reviews might start to appear.
What beer goes with nail-biting?