As an author, I like to think that my latest book is my best book. I look back on my first couple of novels, and while I still feel a certain pride in that early work, I also cringe at some passages. I believe that I have been steadily improving my craft over the past decade and at this point, with eleven books written (nine of them in print, one in the the pipeline, one waiting to be sold) spanning four different series, I feel that I’ve come a long way from those first efforts.
So when I’m asked, “What’s your best book?” I usually name my most recent publication. When I’m asked, “Which book of yours should I read first?” I’ll usually recommend the first book of my current series. But occasionally I’m asked, “What’s your favorite of all your books?” That’s another matter entirely.
Certain books of mine are dearer to me than others. This has nothing to do with how good or how flawed I might think they are. It has everything to do with the emotions I drew upon when I wrote them, with the characters I encountered as I developed them, and with what milestones they might represent in my career. My favorites of those books I’ve published so far are The Outlanders, the middle book of my first trilogy, and Weavers of War, the final book of my Forelands series.
The Outlanders is one of those books that I mentioned in the first paragraph. Yeah, there are parts of the novel that make me cringe and cover my face and say “No! Tell me I didn’t actually write that! How did that get past my editor?” (Always easiest to blame the editor. I mean, I’m just the writer. It couldn’t be my fault, right?) But the book is special for me in a couple of ways. I’d known that I had one book in me. I’d been writing Children of Amarid in my head for the better part of a decade before I actually sat down to write it. But I wasn’t convinced that I could write a second book, or that I could make it as good as the first. Turns out I made it better. The Outlanders convinced me that I could make a career of writing.
It also introduced me to characters who remain to this day some of the best I’ve ever written. They were complex and conflicted, and they surprised me again and again. I had more fun writing The Outlanders than I’ve had with any other book. I challenged myself, I did things with character and plot that I hadn’t known I could do. I learned a tremendous amount. All of which was good, because I lost both my parents while writing that book. I wrote it during the most difficult emotional time of my life. And that book, along with my wife and first child (the second hadn’t been born yet), were all that kept me sane. So yeah, it’s my favorite. Not my best, but the one I love most.
Weavers of War, on the other hand, is absolutely one of my best. But I love it for a slightly different reason. The final book of the LonTobyn series, Eagle-Sage, received a lot of criticism from people who thought that it didn’t do a good enough job of completing the series. It offered resolution, but I think some people felt that the book didn’t peak quite as high as it should have. And though I think it was the best I could do at the time, I have also wondered if I just wasn’t very good at ending a series. With Weavers of War, I proved to myself that I could write a kick-ass series conclusion. That probably sounds self-serving and full of myself, but that’s okay. We all have our insecurities in whatever profession we pursue, and authors are no different. This was my biggest insecurity, and Weavers helped me get over it.
One of the books I’ve yet to publish, or even sell — the first book in my contemporary fantasy — is my other favorite. It represents a huge departure for me: the first novel I’ve written that isn’t epic fantasy. Again, as with The Outlanders, I love this book because it challenged me, forced me to grow as an artist, introduced me to characters who are unlike any I’ve written before, and ultimately showed me that I could do more as a writer than I had ever believed. I guess that’s what makes me fall in love with a book: that struggle to become more than I am, to stretch myself, to step out of my creative comfort zone.
So, fellow writers, never mind which book is your best or the one I should read first. Which of the books you’ve written is your favorite?