The question has changed.
When I told people I was publishing a novel, the first question they asked is “what’s it about?”. Then I published it, and now the question is different: “how many copies have you sold?”.
The first question is tough to answer, because (speaking just for me) I don’t want to truncate a story into twenty words or less after I have spent hours and days fussing over the lives of characters who are as real to me as the farmer who sells me eggs.
The second question is easy to answer.
“A few,” I answer.
People ask, I suppose, because they want other people to do well. They enjoy stories of an “average Joe” (or average Chaunce, in this case) who wakes up amidst piles of wealth, because, they may think, if he can do it, then so could I.
But I don’t write to make money. I write because I want to share stories with people, and it just so happens that “copies sold” is one way to measure the number of readers who might be enjoying something pulled from the ether and materialized in book (and Kindle) form.
Ideally, the reader with whom I’m sharing will enjoy the story as much as I do. After all, I’m not writing to punish readers. Writers want to connect. Maybe it’s because we (or at least I) find one-to-one interactions a bit overwhelming. So much can go wrong. So much goes unsaid. When we write, we can tell the whole story without fear that a nervous laugh will be misconstrued — unless we want it to be.
I told my wife, Naomi, that I will die happy after finishing the (at least) two more novels in the works AND when I stumble across a copy of Luano’s Luckiest Day at a used book store (or, hopefully, and antique store). It’s important for all of us to feel that we contribute something to the world that lasts. Some people accomplish that through their children, or through their profession, or through extremely admirable ongoing charity or through a dazzling moment of heroism.
But what a writer wants is readers, now and forever. Amen.