Oh, hell, why even pretend I'm not jealous?
Brunonia Barry makes me sick. She had a great idea for a novel, self-pubbed it with the gung-ho help of her husband, forked out money for an amazingly proficient PR firm, and ended up with a 2.4 million dollar book deal with Harper Collins.
In what friggin' universe does this occur? 2.4 million for one freaking novel? Come. On. In what freaking forty-four-double-D universe does that freaking happen?
I suppose these apocryphal tales of publishing industry glory-strikes are encouraging to some of my fellows in the foxholes on the frontlines of the industry, but it just makes me want to swallow a broken beer bottle. I hear something like that, and jealousy stabs me through the heart like a railroad spike. I'm sure that Brunonia is a wonderful person and a wonderful writer, who worked very hard and created a wonderful book. I have no reason to dislike her. From what I see in her blog, she seems like a heck of a nice gal, and frankly, the book sounds terrific.
Here's a bit about The Lace Reader from the starred review in PW(who's trashed me twice, may God be with them in their endeavors):
In Barry's captivating debut, Towner Whitney, a dazed young woman descended from a long line of mind readers and fortune tellers, has survived numerous traumas and returned to her hometown of Salem, Mass., to recover. Any tranquility in her life is short-lived when her beloved great-aunt Eva drowns under circumstances suggesting foul play.... Barry excels at capturing the feel of smalltown life, and balances action with close looks at the characters' inner worlds. Her pacing and use of different perspectives show tremendous skill and will keep readers captivated all the way through.
Well, la-dee-frickin'-da. Why don't we throw ten healthy book advances at that one, huh? Better yet, let's drown thirty beautifully written midlist novels in the slush pile so we can grab us some o'that! Feh!
I'm sad to say that my incinerating envy of this book deal will make it impossible for me to read this book that I would have probably enjoyed had I never heard the backstory on it. I do not enjoy seeing this side of myself. It's small and selfish. It shows a lack of gratitude for the great gifts and terrific luck I've enjoyed in my career. It's not about anything I don't have, it's purely about something someone else has. And it's one thing. Okay, two things. Okay 2.4 million things. The point is, do I want to trade lives with Brunonia Barry? Of course not. I love my life. My husband is the Rock of Gibraltar. My publishing luck has been stellar. My life is ridiculously well-blessed with love, books, good dogs, excellent friends. It's just that...dang.
There's no point trying to emulate the coup Brunonia and her husband accomplished. The universe pulled her name out of a hat today. Harper Collins will make that book a massive bestseller because they can't afford to have it be anything less. Does that mean the universe could pull my name out of a hat? Technically, sure it does. But in the blackened depths of my jealous heart, I know that's not going to happen.
So what do I do with this ugly little ogre of feeling living under a bridge in my soul? I suppose I could pretend to be happy for her, but I've gotten to a place in my life where I just don't budget energy for pretending. I could suppress the ulcerous emotion somewhere in my stomach and stew on it privately, but what fun would that be? Or I can allow myself to embrace the demon for a moment. If I hold onto it too long, it'll turn to acid, but just for a moment...
It's easy to let myself off the hook with "that never happens" or "that's not the way it's done" in this industry, but the truth is, any freaking thing can and does happen in the publishing game, and anything can be "done" if somebody does it. So maybe an occasional boot to the head is healthy. Hopefully, I'll draw a little energy from my jealousy today. Work harder. Dig deeper. Maybe I'll take a look at what I'm doing and undoing in my career -- not with the blind ambition of doing better than Brunonia, but with the eyes-wide-open reality check that is the first step to improving my game plan.
Or I could spend the evening with a carrot cake and a bottle of wine, then get up tomorrow, take some Advil, and get back to work.
(Photos above: Sophia Loren gives Jayne Mansfield the bitch-eye. Gotta love it.)