Writers Can’t Tell What Readers Will Like Best

It’s probably true that a writer is the person least likely to understand the preferences of his or her readers. That is certainly the case with my two novels, “Cape Decision” and “The Kabul Conscript.”

Of the two, “Cape Decision” continues to be the better seller, which somewhat mystifies me. This in spite of the fact that Afghanistan, the setting of “The Kabul Conscript” is much more in the news and public consciousness than Alaska.

I conceived the idea of both novels at the same time, with the goal of writing about the main characters (Conrad, David, & Karen) in their youth and in middle age. In one respect “The Kabul Conscript” is a sort of prequel to “Cape Decision,” since it is set nearly thirty years earlier, although the books may be read in any order.

Those I know of who have read both novels seem about even in preferring one book over the other, and I can find no pattern, aside from whether they have visited either region. Certainly most Alaskan readers, or those who have visited that state have a preference for “Cape Decision,” and a few that have traveled in Central Asia like the Afghan story best. But not in every case. Several readers who live in Alaska, or used to live there have told me they preferred “The Kabul Conscript.”

While I was writing the books I always thought the Afghan novel would be the more popular, not just because of the setting, but because it is in most ways an easier read, with a more straight forward plot. Although both novels portray strong emotions and violent acts, in many ways “The Kabul Conscript” is a lighter read—intentional on my part, as one of my goals was to illustrate the differences in the way youth and middle age live in the world, and how people can change over time. Life gets more complicated as we age, and “Cape Decision” is a more complex and challenging read—or perhaps I just think of it that way, as it was more challenging to write!

This of course is all speculation on my part. Generally it seems artists can seldom predict which of their works will resonate best with the public. I guess such evaluation is best left to the readers and critics.

“Cape Decision” ended with a sort of cliff-hanger, and fans of that book have asked if there will be a sequel. To that question I hope I can safely answer “yes,” but when, I can’t say. In March of last year (2021) I published “The Roving Fitzgeralds.” Research and editing for that took the better part of 2020. Since then I have been working on a couple of new projects, one of which is a “Cape Decision” sequel. But I can’t predict yet which of my writing projects will be available first.

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