A Moment of Jen
THE NEXT BEST THING — In Stores July 3rd!

Wednesday, July 03, 2002
posted by Jen at 7/03/2002 02:39:00 PM

All kinds of news. GOOD IN BED is number 10 of all the books sold last week at Barnes & Nobles nationwide, which means it's 40 percent off on their website -- a measly $7.80. Not that I'd ever tell you what to do with your hard-earned cash, but if you wanted to buy multiple copies (and may I say that they make wonderful gifts?), this would be your chance. I'm also delighted to report that GIB is the number-one set in Philadelphia story for the month of June. Cool. And it's their number one "steamy summer read"." Which is particularly gratifying, given how hard those sex scenes were to write!

So I'm hoping, praying, and doing little dances in hopes that the book will finally, finally, after 12-weeks-on-the-extended list crack the no-rhyme-or-reason-to-it NEW YORK TIMES top 15.

I wrote about this a little last week, with a link to the Salon story about the random and idiosyncratic nature of best-seller lists. Last week the book was number 29 on the USA Today list of all books, number 5 on the Publishers Weekly list of trade paperbacks and number 18 on the NYT. This week GOOD IN BED is number 27 on USA Today, number 4 on PW, number 7 on the Washington Post list of paperback bestsellers (mass market and trade), number 9 on the LA Times list of same and....still number 18 on the Times. So I'm hoping, hoping, hoping that things might change. And if they don't, I'm going to stand outside their offices with a picket sign.

And IN HER SHOES got its first review, from the esteemed, and notoriously nasty, Kirkus Reviews (they're the folks who called HAREM an "idiotic debut," dismissed Suzanne Finnamore's THE ZYGOTE CHRONICLES as "navel gazing of the most self-indulgent sort" --and I loved that book! -- and labeled Laura Zigman's latest "a slim, slight, mean-spirited tale.")

The good news -- they compared me to Toni Morrison and Susan Isaacs (yeah, I know what you're thinking -- if the two of them had a daughter, she'd look just like me).

The bad news -- the one tiny nugget of criticism they had was that IN HER SHOES "lacks some of the bite of her first novel."

Lacks bite?!?! Hey, Kirkus, I got your bite RIGHT HERE!

I know, I know, you can't win 'em all, and given the mostly glowing critical reception that GIB got in Kirkus and elsewhere, it wasn't all going to be wine and roses this time. And IN HER SHOES is a departure in tone and subject matter from the relentless smart-assery of Cannie and Co.. There's some serious stuff going on in the book. There's funny stuff, but serious stuff, too. Which is, as Martha Stewart was wont to say before her troubles, a Good Thing. I didn't want to spend my entire career writing just one kind of book about just one character -- or one kind of character.

But I worry. I worry that there's no right way to follow up a successful first novel. If you bring back the same characters, or write the same kind of story with different names attached, critics and readers might complain that it's the same old same old (cf, Helen Fielding, Sophie Kinsella, and the best example of all, Erica Jong.). "Nothing new, and the recycling is graceless," as Kirkus harrumphed over Zigman's Her.

If you try to go in a different direction, you'll likely have disappointed critics and readers in a different way. "This isn't as funny as the first one! We liked Cannie better! We want Cannie back!"

And then there's door number three, which is having a huge hit your first time out, then Never Writing Anything Else Again Ever, the door chosen by the likes of Donna Tartt (her second novel's coming out 10 years after THE SECRET HISTORY), Dave Eggers (no word on what he's up to), Melissa Bank and Rebecca Wells (those Divine Ya-Yas have been around since 1996).

I just feel like no matter what I do or don't do, there will be disappointed readers. And I worry.

But I'm going to Vermont soon, so I got that going for me.
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