I’m sorry if the last couple of posts have been all about um, bestseller lists. You know, before I hit the list, I would read other writers’ blogs and read when they hit the list, and kind of tut-tut at how naively happy they sounded, how joyous, how….uncool. I swore to myself that if *I* ever hit the list, I would be the paradigm of indifference. This is what I emailed my agent before the list came out: “I don’t care. My life will be the same either way.” (Which is true, because what really matters in life are the people you have in it: I’m still happily married, with a beautiful little girl, and my dad still has cancer. You know? It’s not like some fairy waved her wand and my dad stopped having cancer. Which is weird: because as happy as I was about the list, it wasn’t enough. It’s just…you know, career ambition. It’s very nice. But it means nothing if you have nothing else in your life.)
All that week, my lovely editor would call and email us with news: We were number seven at Target! We were number eight at B&N! We sold two thousand copies the first day! And so, anticipation was already building for the Wednesday call. And I am jaded enough to know that even though we were on this list and that list, it didn’t matter really, to anyone, until I hit “THE” list. Hence, the email to Richard. Half an hour after my email, of course, I got THE CALL…we hit the list!
And the rest is history. Is it just me or are you just as tired of hearing me talk about the list as I am? LOL! Me? Indifferent and jaded? AS IF!
Anyway, what I wanted to talk about today, is that it takes a bit to sink in, really. And now I understand the uncomplicated joy. And I realize all my condescension was just, well, you know, jealousy. Jealousy is an EVIL thing. But it happens. And jealousy is even harder to control when you’re in a creative industry, where the riches are so vast (my film agent told me about holding a one-hundred-and-fifty-million check for one of their sitcom writers in the old days when sitcoms paid big and profits went to the people who created the shows) and it seems like luck is arbitrary and you can’t really control anything, other than your OWN talent and dedication, which, in the end, is always just a random player in the game of luck. Because that’s what us writers tell ourselves when someone else’s ship comes in: Ugh! It’s all just luck! I’m just as good as THAT guy/gal.
But you know: maybe you’re not. Who knows? The funny thing is, when you hit the list, you think, well, I’m the next Stephen King. I always think of Stephen King when I write because he, over any other writer I read, was the one who inspired ME to become a writer. I just loved his books TO DEATH. And I’m a squeamish coward: what was I doing reading horror books? But that’s the thing: they weren’t about the gore. His books were about the people in them, their relationships, how they dealt with adversary (in the form of you know, crimson eyed baby-eating ghouls.) I STILL get shivers when I think of that scene in the Dark Tower where Jake does the traditional gunslinger greeting which meant he was a man (and a gunslinger!) and not just a boy anymore. Fracking cool and I’m so geeking out now, but whatevs. I mean, can you even???
Because there are TONS of writers who hit the list, but there’s only one Stephen King, one Amy Tan. You know? So, you know, the answer to the title of my question on this blog: Are you Done? Is No. I’ve been joking to my friends that I can retire now, that I’m “DONE”. Because a dream has been checked off. But my husband, who is wise in all things, and I’m very lucky to be married to him, said, what do you mean you’re done? Of course you’re not done. You hit the list, which is great, but now you have to hit it at NUMBER ONE.
And part of me was like, Arrgggh. No! No more pressure! And the other part of me is like, he’s got a point!
Why do we write anyway? It’s not for lists. It’s because the story pulls you forward and you find that’s all you can dream or think about. And I feel so so lucky I get to do that AND still get to go to the Chanel private sale tomorrow. (Go! Run! It ends tomorrow! See you there!!)
I always think of Stephen King when I blog because I remember his letters to his “constant readers” in front of all his books. I almost loved those as much as I loved his books. The coolest thing about writing, really, is finding all these other people who are just as invested in your story as you are. I’ve been getting a lot of emails lately from you guys saying you want to be writers and that reading the books have really made you want to become a writer. That is just so wonderful. I can’t wait to see what you guys come up with in the future.
I’ll be here. Reading.
PS-What am I reading lately?
The Outliers- Malcolm Gladwell
Wishful Drinking – Carrie Fisher (the cover is the bomb!! Drunk Princess Leia? Bring it on!)
What Happened to Cass McBride – Gail Giles (I hardly ever read YA other than Diana Wynne Jones. Can’t read in my genre really. But I picked this one up at the B&N and it looked SO intriguing and I’m excited to read it.)
Travels with Alice – Calvin Trillin
Just After Sunset – Stephen King