Neil Gaiman’s American Gods seems to be getting a lot of attention these days, which makes me happy. I had the chance to interview him over sushi many years ago, when I still worked in the media, and he was one of the nicest and most honest writers I’d ever met. Plus there’s all that creative stuff. He’s the kind of writer you really like to see succeed and blow up in mainstream popularity, especially given all the work he does on behalf of others.
I also like seeing American Gods get lots of attention because of that time Robert J. Wiersema went on the CBC’s Next Chapter and suggested readers of American Gods may also like my first Cross book, The Mona Lisa Sacrifice. Check it out if you haven’t heard it already – the segment starts around the 41 minute mark.
I think I’ve talked a few times on this blog about how much Roger Zelazny‘s writing has meant to me. I don’t know how many times I’ve reread the Chronicles of Amber in my life — the only other books that come close are Steven Brust‘s Jhereg series, which have a similar feel. And maybe Lord of the Rings, which I read dozens of times in my early school years, although LOTR mostly has nostalgia value for me now. When I first started writing, I wanted to create unique, visionary worlds like Zelazny had, and I really wanted to blend genre fiction with literary style in the same manner. Not easy feats at all, as it turns out. But you do what you can.
I never expected to be compared to Zelazny, any more than I ever expected to be compared to Neil Gaiman. So it’s been a complete surprise and honour when that’s happened in reviews and such. And it was also a complete surprise and honour when a reader sent me a pic of two books she’d recently ordered — The Warhol Gang, which I wrote a few years back, and Doorways in the Sand, by Roger Zelazny. Thanks, Shara!
If my childhood self could see this pic, I think I know what he would say.
As all writers know, most of an author’s day is spent obsessively checking your Amazon ratings, with little bits of writing thrown in here and there when the Internet is down.
All right, I kid. A little. Most writers I know do check their Amazon ratings from time to time because it’s one of the few ways they can see how their book is doing. The problem is that when you see a spike in sales, you often have no idea what’s caused it. Did you get a good review somewhere? Did a popular blogger link to your work? Did you make the Bad Sex in Literature Award again? It’s all a bit of a guessing game. Most of publishing is….
Sometimes you can trace the direct cause and effect, though. Yesterday my first Cross book, The Mona Lisa Sacrifice, got a very kind mention on the CBC show The Next Chapter, hosted by Shelagh Rogers. (The bit begins around the 41 minute mark.) Robert Wiersema, a fine writer and one of Canada’s most thoughtful reviewers, compared The Mona Lisa Sacrifice to Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. Now, it’s a huge honour to be mentioned on The Next Chapter at all. And to be compared to Gaiman? Well, that left me feeling humbled and beyond honoured.
I remember travelling to Toronto years ago to see Gaiman give a reading, back when I was still a struggling writer. It was a magical experience for me, partially because of his wonderful stories and charming performance. He’s a charmer, that Gaiman. But I also saw how much he loved what he was doing, and how he was doing it on his own terms. Gaiman became an inspiration for me in that moment. I wanted to be a writer who made people love stories again, just like Gaiman. I never thought I’d be compared to him in casual conversation, let alone on a national radio show.
I don’t really have words for what the CBC thing meant. It was one of those moments when you’re feeling exhausted and discouraged and thinking about throwing in the towel at this writing game and then someone’s kind comment reminds you why you’re doing this and drives you back to the computer.
But back to that cause and effect. I was a kids’ fun park most of the day, playing subterranean mini-golf with my son — yes, apparently subterranean mini-golf is a thing — so I didn’t have my usual time to obsessively browse Amazon. Damn kids adding to my quality of life! Late at night, after everyone was in bed, I finally got around to checking Amazon to see if the CBC thing had connected me with any new readers. I was totally blown away by what I saw. The Mona Lisa Sacrifice managed to hit the No. 1 and No. 3 spots in Amazon.ca’s Historical Fantasy bestsellers (for paperback and Kindle versions) and No. 3 and No. 5 in Amazon’s Contemporary Fantasy bestsellers — bookending Gaiman’s American Gods at No. 4! It even hit No. 3 and No. 5 on the Canadian Literature bestsellers.
I was a bit shocked by this. I’ve made joking posts in the past about trying to hit the No. 1 spot in an Amazon category — any Amazon category — but I never really expected to manage that. It turns out getting compared to Neil Gaiman can really help your sales! Who knew?
Sales rankings are just numbers, though. They rise and fall — usually, like the numbers in my bank account, they keep on falling. What those rankings really mean is that some people are now reading The Mona Lisa Sacrifice who hadn’t heard of it before yesterday. So thanks, Robert Wiersema, for the shout-out! Thanks, Shelagh Rogers and The Next Chapter, for hosting such an incredible book party! Thanks, Neil Gaiman, for being you! And thanks most of all to everyone who’s ever taken the time to read any of my books! You’re the reason I sit down at my computer and write every day. When I’m not checking my Amazon rankings, of course….
(The thing that makes this better is I interviewed Gaiman once for The Province newspaper where I work and he was one of the nicest and most charming writers I ever met. Good karma all around.)