Here's another one of those annoying hypothetical questions. Which do you think would be preferable: writing one novel that was a huge success both critically and financially and then fading into relative obscurity, or selling forty or fifty books over a period of twenty or thirty years, while remaining in relative obscurity the whole time?

In other words, I guess, would you prefer the career of Harper Lee or the kind of career that a lot of mystery writers seem to have?

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Same with me, Anne.
To me, a blockbuster (The Da Vinci Code, Bridges of Madison County) and a classic (Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird) are entirely different animals. J.D. Salinger and Harper Lee will still be read a hundred years from now. I think to pen a true classic would be the ultimate.

Either way, though, I'll take The Big Book. I'm not afraid of obscurity. It's poverty that scares me. ;)

And The Big Book would give you all sorts of great options. You could write if you want, or just go fishing instead.
Not a bad thought. Being a wealthy retired English teacher, I, of course, don't have to worry about the poverty part.
At this point, either looks pretty good from my perch. I know that's not what you're looking for, but we late- started are okay with crumbs.
I was a pretty late starter, myself. First novel published when I was nearly 40, second when I was 45.
Bill--

You always come up with the great questions!

I would honestly take the first. That blockbuster leads to multiple foreign deals, maybe a movie, tie-in products, etc., not to mention literary analysis at universities. There would be a lot of activity to keep you busy.

I would use the fame and money to do some good in the world. Not sure what that would be, however. A house in Hawaii wouldn't be bad, either.

BTW, Salinger wrote more than one book. His collection of short stories is among my all-time favs. And I actually am a fan of Franny and Zooey and Raise High the Roof Beams, Carpenters, etc. But it's true that he hasn't done much since then. Maybe he's worn out. That can happen.
I love Nine Stories, and I even like the others. But they're not the moneymakers. The Catcher is the one that keeps on going, seemingly forever.

I wouldn't mind that house in Hawaii, either.
I'd go for the blockbuster on the reasoning that, so long as I was critically and financially successful, I could do what the hell I liked. I could write another fifty books or not write another fifty books. The choice would be mine. Sounds great to me.
It would be a nice place to be, all right.
You don't stay in print long in relative obscurity. Most authors hope to hang on long enough to have one novel catch on and secure future titles.
And given the choice, I don't want to be Harper Lee. I'd rather do it the hard way and go on writing.
I thought this was going to ask if it's better to deal with one very interesting murder or have a serial killer.
Well, you can start that one!

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