"the Canadian literary heir to Donald Westlake" EQMM, Sept-Oct 2018 issue
How the HELL will I ever live up to this?
A while back, I was on a panel where the moderator asked the question,
"Does it get harder or easier, with each successive book?"
"Easier," said one cozy writer, a woman I respect and know well. "Because I know what I'm doing now."
I stared at her in surprise.
"Harder. Definitely harder," said my pal Linwood Barclay, sitting beside me.
I sat back with relief. The why was easy. I answered that.
"Harder for two reasons," I said. "First, you've already used up a lot of good ideas. I've written 40 short stories and 18 novels. That's nearly 60 plot ideas. It gets harder to be original."
Linwood nodded along with me.
"Second, you've already established a reputation with your previous books. If they were funny, people expect the next one to be even funnier. It gets harder and harder to meet people's expectations."
"The bar is higher with each book," said Linwood.
This conversation came back to me this week, when I got a very nice surprise (thanks, Barb Goffman, for pointing me to it!) Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine reviewed my latest book, and called me "the Canadian literary heir to Donald Westlake."
At first, I was ecstatic, and so very very grateful. Donald Westlake was a huge influence on me. I still think his book where everyone on the heist team spoke a different language to be one of the zaniest plots of all time. To be considered in his class is a wonderful thing.
And then, the doubts started. I'm now looking at my work in progress with different eyes. Is this plot fresh? Is it as clever as I thought it was? Am I still writing funny?
Would Donald Westlake fans like it?
Or am I the world's worst imposter?
So many authors on Sleuthsayers are award-winning. All of you will, I'm sure, relate to this a little bit. Was that award win a one-off? Okay, so you have more than one award. Were those stories exceptions? You haven't won an award in two years. Have you lost it?
Will I ever write anything as good as that last book?
I'm dealing hugely with imposter syndrome right now. It's a blasted roller coaster. I know I should be spreading that EQMM quote far and wide, on Facebook, Twitter, blog posts, etc. Possibly, I should be buying ads. And at the same time, I'm stalling in my WIP, with the feeling of 'never good enough.'
Luckily, the publisher deadline will keep me honest. I work pretty well under pressure. Next week, for sure, I'll get back to the book.
This week, I'll smile in public and suffer a little in silence.
What about you, authors? Do you find imposter syndrome creeps into your life at times when you should be celebrating? Tell us below.
The book causing all this grief: on Amazon