It’s weird having a new book out. It’s weird having another new book coming out in five months. It’s weird having all these reissues (thank you, Harlequin, Bantam, and St. Martin’s Press) hitting in rapid succession. But mostly it’s just weird having any books out there, these stories that I think are entertaining, interesting, important when they’re safe in my laptop, and then I send them out and everything changes because sometimes people read them. Then it gets even weirder because people evaluate them. “Jenny Crusie had this fantasy and I thought it stunk.” Still, I can cope pretty well with the weirdness because hey, that’s publishing. It’s the chaser of guilt that follows the weird that makes me crazier than usual.
See, after awhile you get used to the idea that your fantasies are public because it’s just what you do. My first book was published seventeen years ago so I’ve had a while to sink into the unconscious soup of being-an-author. I know how lucky I am, I don’t take that for granted, but I’ve absorbed the experience of it into my daily life. My life is not divided into years, it’s divided into books, not from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31 but from deadline to deadline. I don’t take weekends off because I don’t have weeks. My life has shaped itself around my career, and because it’s a damn good career, most of the time that works. And then a book comes out and the panic hits. Oh, my god, people are reading my book, what if they don’t like it????? What if I’ve let people down?
Which is ridiculous because some people are not going to like my book, that’s a given. Nobody has ever published a story that everybody liked, or if they did, a good portion of those everybodys hated the next one, so it’s a fact of the author’s life: I will be constantly disappointing somebody. So I think about the people who didn’t like it. If they got the book at the library, good for them and me, no guilt. But if they bought it, that’s a chunk of change they could have used for something else, especially in this economy, especially if they couldn’t really spare it and trusted me and shelled it out and then I let them down . . . that’s just bad. And I have two new books and a lot of reissues out there this year. That’s a lot of possible fail. And guilt. Did I mention the guilt?
And then there are the sales which I know I can’t do much about and which my brilliant editor tells me I can’t do anything about, she tells me not to accept responsibility for that, but still, a lot of people’s jobs depend on my publisher putting out best sellers and I’m supposed to be one of them, and what if I trip so hard with the latest story that they have to let people go . . . that would be really bad. I know I’m not responsible for that but guilt, guilt.
And then there’s the problem with my short attention span: I can’t write the same book twice. (Okay, I came close with Strange Bedpersons and The Cinderella Deal, but there were extenuating circumstances.) I know a lot of people would like to see Bet Me Again and Welcome Back to Temptation, and I want you all to know, if I could write them, I would in a heartbeat. I would sell out in a nanosecond, I swear. But my brain is like that stream in the metaphor, I never step in the same place twice because it keeps moving on to the next shiny thing. I have no idea how I wrote any of my previous books. I don’t know where they came from, the characters, the plots, the snappy patter, I didn’t make up any of that stuff, I heard it in my head and then I wrote it down. Later on, I revised, and I know how I did that, but the problem is that I have to have something to fix before I can revise, and I don’t know where that stuff comes from, so I pretty much have to take whatever shows up in my frontal lobe and says, “Hi.” And the earlier books have waved and moved on. So I have to, too. But so many people would be so happy if I’d just do it again . . . . Guilt, guilt, guilt.
And then there was menopause. It was like puberty backward, and while I was awash in hormones or the lack thereof, the voices went away, and you want to talk about panic: the only reason my fingernails are out of the ceiling is that Bob Mayer came along and pried them out, and then Krissie and Lani kept me grounded after that. People say, “What took you so long to write another solo?” and I said, “Have you ever fucking gone though menopause?” And then they back away slowly because I think some of the menopause crazy may still be with me. Among other things, it undercut my desire to write about sex. I think my heroines are going to be doing a lot of cooking in the future, maybe some nice needlework, and that has to be part of the calm after the pause, when you look back over your life and think, “I did that for him?” and realize that really, dogs are the better deal. Good for my real life, but not so good for the books, oh, hell, the books. Oh, god, the guilt.
And in the middle of all of that, the book comes out, and I’m supposed to go places and say things which is not good since I’m hypomanic (“Avoid caffeine, alcohol, stress, and crowds,” my therapist said; “I was good until you got to ‘stress and crowds,'” I said) and people look at me when I show up in person and say, “I thought you’d be shorter and thinner with dark hair,” and I think about hiring a short, thin, dark-haired person to be Jenny Crusie while I stay home and talk to the dogs and mainline Toosie Roll Pops, my current drug of choice. And if the short, thin, dark-haired person can write Bet Me Again and Welcome Back to Temptation, hey, she can have the career. And then I think, What are you bitching about, you have everything, cowboy up and get out there, and the guilt rolls in again.
But then a couple of weeks pass and the hoo-ra over the book dies down, and nobody wants to take my picture, and the guilt goes away, and I sit back down with the dogs and my Tootsie Roll Pops, and the voices say, “Hi!” and I’m off to the races again. It’s a great life, it really is, but occasionally I flip out under the pressure. This post is just to let you know that most of the rest of this year is flipping-out time (first there was The Cinderella Deal reprint and then the What the Lady Wants reprint, and now Wild Ride, and on Tuesday, the reissues of Tell Me Lies and Crazy For You and then in August [I think] the Welcome to Temptation reissue, and then Maybe This Time on Aug. 31, and Trust Me On This on Oct. 26, and that’s a whole lotta guilt, people). But in November, my biggest problem will be keeping the Tootsie Roll Pop stick away from Lyle (who ate four birthday candles yesterday but who seems to be just fine), and I will be sane again. No expressions of support needed, I have bags of TRPs, but if there are stretches of silence here or some particularly off-the-wall posts, just roll with it, please.
Your regularly scheduled Argh will return tomorrow. With something normal. Probably. Argh.