Next week, the ninth book in my Cork O’Connor series goes on sale, and I still don’t know exactly what to think of this work.
Often at the heart of my books is an issue. With Copper River, for example, it was a question of what happens to the children in our society that we turn out backs on them. Thunder Bay considered the sacrifices we’re willing to make in the name of love. Red Knife was about our culture of violence. But I’ve to tell you honestly there’s no issue involved in Heaven’s Keep. I just tried to write a damn good story.
I’m told I succeeded. Me, I’m usually a terrible judge of my own work. By the time I’ve finished a project, I don’t know if it’s good or bad or will have any impact at all on readers. By the end, it’s become stale for me. I’ve poured my time and my energy and my creativity into the work, draft after draft, and I’ve usually exhausted myself in the process and all my enthusiasm has been sucked dry. Almost always, by the time I send off my final responses to the copyedits, I never want to look at that piece of writing again. And worse, I’m afraid no one else will want to look at it either.
So I rely on the judgment of others whose opinion I trust: my agent, my editor, my writing group, and, finally, the critics. With Heaven’s Keep, the critical response has been overwhelmingly positive. Sally Fellows, who reviews for a number of venues, says, “Things just do not get any better than this.” Ted Hertel, who reviews for Deadly Pleasures, says, “The story grabs you and will not let go. This book – indeed, this series – is not to be missed.” Robin Agnew, of the wonderful Aunt Agatha’s bookstore, wrote in her review for the Ann Arbor Journal, “After nine novels, I think it’s safe to say Cork O’Connor is as beloved by readers as Hillerman’s Joe Leaphorn. The fever of anticipation when a new Cork book comes out is as high as the one I remember for a new Leaphorn or Chee novel. This novel is well worth the anticipation, though it will definitely have you reaching for a (large) box of Kleenex.”
Man, I hope lots of people buy this book, read it, and enjoy it. Hell, all writers hopes this for their work. But in terms of sales, writers have little influence. It’s up to the gods or fate or whatever. And I hope if people read it and like it, they write to tell me so. I don’t care if you’re Stephen King or John Grisham. You can never hear enough that you’ve done a good job. Especially if, like me, you’re never quite certain that you have.