With the one-year anniversary of the release of A Moment’s Worth next Wednesday, I’ve been thinking about debut novels as of lately. I’ve been thinking about how meaningful they are; how they are the signifier to what one hopes to be the career of a lifetime. It takes guts to write a novel. To put one out there on the other hand, that’s practically a whole new level of courage. It’s like letting the world peer at the activity that’s going on in your mind and make judgments from there. Not to say that that isn’t the case with every novel one writes, but it’s something that’s very crucial the first time around.
I remember reading David Mitchell’s debut novel, Ghostwritten, two years ago, thinking about how this author is very brave to write a novel that’s stylistically unlike the typical debut novel. I wonder how it was for him when writing it, somewhat aware of what he was getting himself into. Even more so, I wonder what was going through his mind when the day came that it was released out into the world. As a result of its positive reception, that has garnered him to go on and add to his ongoing uber novel. If it weren’t for Ghostwritten, all these other books by him, such as Cloud Atlas, wouldn’t have been possible.
Regardless of whether through means of traditional publishing or self publishing, to put a novel out into the world the first time around is difficult. Unless if you’ve established yourself through a different medium, then you’re a complete unknown going into this. No one knows who you are, what your life story is, and what your writing is like- with the exception of family and friends, of course. For traditionally published authors, large marketing campaigns aren’t typically used to promote their work. It’s really all in the matters of whether a reader can soak into the story and come out of it begging for more.
John Green comes to mind in this case scenario. His debut novel, Looking For Alaska, was published two years before he and his brother launched VlogBrothers on YouTube. Aware of his status as a media/literary mogul, I read the book earlier in the year, for the sake of curiosity, and it still remains to be the only novel by him I’ve read to this day. I gave it a mixed review, but I meant what I said then that I don’t hold any of the book’s flaws entirely on him, for it was only his debut novel. Authors grow with time when given a chance, which is why his newer release, The Fault In Our Stars, has been widely read and appreciated by readers all over the world.
Then there are debut novels from those who are already well established, but in a different medium. In that case scenario, depending on what the individual is mostly known for, there comes a certain expectation regarding what their debut novel may be like. This could go many ways, but I think the most prominent ones are either a. to be as predictable as possible with the plot when releasing a novel or b. surprise the f*ck out of the audience with a work that they didn’t see coming at all.
Jay Rubin, who’s mostly known as one of the English language translators for Haruki Murakami’s work released his debut novel not too long ago; The Sun Gods. While the book might have slight inklings that could be reminiscent to Murakami’s work, this was a project that Rubin had been working on for about a decade, and when reading it, he makes it very evident that he does have a voice apart from the man he translates, and apart from the story itself, that is a quality that I really admire about him as an author.
But reception can be a funny thing when it comes to authors. The debut novel doesn’t always have to be the one to launch a following. Sometimes, it may take several more novels before that really happens; so much as to where readers then may have the urge to go back and see just how said author started it all. That will definitely be the case next month when Murakami fans get their hands on the re-released debut novels by him, Wind/Pinball. But then there’s always those few cases where the debut novel does succeed in capturing an audience right away and have them begging for more, and this can surely (now) apply to To Kill A Mockingbird author Harper Lee, whose much anticipated second novel, Go Set a Watchmen, comes out on Tuesday.
Risks and leaps of faith are made whenever a debut novel is released, and for those who have a truly engaging story to read, whether or not anyone will be able to resonate with it due to their unknown status can be tricky and kind of scary. It all reminds me of something a poet I know of does before a reading. She says, “Jal butak hapnida.” It’s Korean for “Please be kind to me.” That might be asking for a lot, but it means all and everything when one has the bravery to expose their mind to the world.
A Moment’s Worth is now available through the following venues: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, iTunes. Please leave a review if you can, for my goal is to get a total of at least 20 reviews on all venues (so far, I’ve gotten 7 reviews so I’m already past a quarter of a way to my goal).
Check out its Goodreads page, which includes two trivia quizzes for all who’ve completed reading it already.