I can play favorites with my children but not my books

Yesterday a reader in Australia who has now read all three of my novels asked which is my favorite. It’s a question that I’ve heard authors asked many times before, and I’ve heard many of them give an answer. I don’t know how they do it.

Choosing between the three books that I have published so far (and even my unpublished manuscript) would be like choosing one of my children as my favorite.

Right now my favorite child is Clara, of course, but that’s because she’s three years old and plays with me. The only thing my two week old son wants is his mother, so while I’d defend him from a bear attack if necessary, I’d do it with grudging annoyance and a bitter heart.

By contrast, I’d defend Clara with a clear mind and an open heart.

But that will change. Eventually Charlie will do something other than sleep and eat, and when he does, choosing my favorite child will become impossible, as it is for choosing a favorite amongst my books.

Each one means so much to me.

Something Missing will always remain special to me because it was the book that launched my publishing career. It was the manuscript that my agent plucked from the slush pile and changed my life forever. It was the book that helped us buy our first home. Most important, of all the characters who I have ever written, Martin remains the most real to me. He is the protagonist who my wife and I still speak of as if he were a real person. Though my interest in writing a sequel to any of my books does not interest me at this time, writing a sequel to Something Missing would probably be easiest because Martin continues to live inside me like no other character I have ever written.

Unexpectedly, Milo is the book that explores themes that are most closely connected to me. I have always been interested in the idea that we encourage children at an early age to avoid peer pressure, be themselves, blaze new trails, and not worry about what others may think of them, but when these children continue to follow this advice as adults, they are often punished by society for being different. Unexpectedly, Milo is a book about a man who must hide his differences from the world lest he be expunged from it. It is also a book about a man’s search for someone willing to accept him for who he is. I am not Milo, but a great deal of Milo lives inside me, making this book near and dear to my heart. It was also the book that allowed my wife to stay home with our daughter for the first two years of her life, and that alone makes the book a treasure to me.

My upcoming novel, Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, is the book I had the best time writing. Creating the world of imaginary friends was incredibly fun, and I suspect that I tapped into more of my imagination while writing this book than any of my previous stories. The book also reflects many of the existential issues that I deal with on a daily basis, and the fact that one of my closest friends and colleagues exists within the story as herself makes this book especially real to me. Memoirs is also written in the first person and not entirely grounded in reality, making it very different than anything I had ever written before. It was the book that taught me that I can be successful trying new things. It has also sold in thirteen foreign markets in addition to the US, making it my most financially successful book so far, and it will allow my wife to stay home for the first two years of our son’s life.

As you can see, choosing between these three books would be impossible. Perhaps someday I will write a masterpiece that I can declare my favorite.

More likely, I will write a clunker that I can exclude from my list of favorites.