There should be a rule that all talented bestselling authors - especially those who hit The List first time out of the gate - must be morose and ugly or at least have spent most of their lives being miserable until that moment when they wrote The Big Novel. I'd be okay with that.
Petty? You bet. Because as much as I've fought this urge, convinced myself I wasn't, that my mother's daughter couldn't be, I have to admit that I am easily made, swallow, jealous. And this is a very bad thing to be, especially in this business.
I don't have to tell you, loyal and noble readers of The Lipstick Chronicles, that jealousy is wrong on all sorts of levels. Jealousy is an evil emotion. It corrodes the soul. It turns you into one of those bitter, smoking, hard-drinking, scowling authors at conferences who sneers at the young prodigies bouncing onto the dais to receive his/her award. Jealousy makes you nasty.
But worst of all, it ruins your writing.
If you're jealous, you're focused on something else besides your characters/plot/setting when you're sitting down at the computer. (Or writing in my head while painting the hallway, as I've been doing this week. At least that's my excuse.) If you're jealous, you're not supporting your fellow writers in the roller coaster world of publishing. You're not creating good Karma, a word my husband says I liberally - and incorrectly - toss around like salt on buttered corn. He's probably right.
That lecture over, it is so hard not to be jealous. I remember when I first started sending out my stuff, i.e., first started getting rejected, and the authors I used to admire suddenly transformed into mockeries. How come they got published? What do they have that I don't? (By the way, don't answer that question about yourself - ever!)
It didn't stop after I got published, either. The moment of joy was fleeting when I learned there were such things as sell-throughs. Suddenly, I found my name on all types of lists. Barnes and Noble. Ingram. Borders. Waldenbooks. Amazon. These were lists my publisher had every week, lists that compared how my book was doing to everyone else's. Whether I moved up or down on the list was virtually out of my control once the book was published, yet I was supposed to answer for its actions. All I knew was that there were plenty of writers above me. Writers readers liked more. Writers my editor would mention, asking in a curious tone why they were doing better than I was.
And I was expected to be happy for their success? Was I not human?
That was eight books ago (eight books?) and since then I've learned to deal, grown up a bit. I've had great role models, including the Tarts, who've taught me that the growth of fellow writers is something to celebrate, not envy. Nancy Martin, an international bestseller, is always gracious when someone hits a list or goes into multiple printings. And I've enjoyed, really enjoyed, watching Elaine go from paperback to hardcover and hit #1 on the Independent Mystery Bookstore Association bestseller lists with MURDER UNLEASHED. While Harley's ad in the NEW YORK TIMES for DATING IS MURDER and DATING DEAD MEN was so thrilling, it could have been for my own book.
Still, there will always be Emily Giffin. I've read all her books now and it's been torture. Never mind that she hit the New York Times list with her debut, SOMETHING BORROWED and that she's freaking gorgeous and thin. (This, I've decided, is just plain cruel.) But she can also, sigh, write. Shit.
Okay, this is my most ugly secret, the jealousy thing. And now that I've confessed it, I hope you won't breathe a word to anyone. Because I would be mortified if it got out that Sarah Strohmeyer is a petty, jealous writer. Really, I'm working on it. The only reason I told you was because I knew you'd understand. Thanks for keeping mum,