Last week I pondered novelist Chelsea Cain because:
1. She’s a local. Portland’s latest “it” novelist who made it to the New York Times bestseller list after sealing a mega-three-book deal. In other words, she wrote a commercial blockbuster.
2. She’s got quite the online presence, which of course interested me as a fledgling novelist blogger. Check her out: website, uTube videos, a Facebook page, a MySpace page. More power to her.
3. I was ready to not like her when I went to last week’s Willamette Writers meeting to hear her talk about the 10 surefire tips for writing a thriller. It didn’t help that I had to pay a ten-buck nonmember fee.
Points one and two are self-evident. Point three, not so much. It goes like this: Ms. Cain interested me in part because of my reaction to her success — that nasty little beast called professional envy. “PE” for short. My reaction was silly enough that I had to check her out even though I don’t write thrillers.
I know a woman who is acquainted with Ms. Cain. She’d told me about Ms. Cain’s novel, Heartsick, with something akin to bemused skepticism in her voice. Come to find out that Ms. Cain had always been a literary rather than commercial type of writer. Ooh, I couldn’t help thinking at the time, she purposely plotted herself a big paycheck. The so-called “selling out.”
I went to the Willamette Writers meeting still carrying that nasty-little-beast of a thought in my head. Only, Ms. Cain appeared on stage, and I liked the looks of her with her sculpted features and pleasantly eclectic wardrobe sense. She called her novel a “gory thriller” and a “cheesy thriller.” She admitted that at first she felt sheepish writing such a novel. She said she cried for two days when her previous book publisher, a literary house, rejected its option to buy the new novel. She was down-to-earth, funny, and had a disarming way of tilting her head back at a cockeyed angle while widening her eyes.
Most of all, she used the word “f*cking” three times and as casually as I might say “that damned cat.” AWEsome. I decided she wasn’t so bad, after all, even if she did win the publishing jackpot. Like I wrote above: More power to her.
And besides, why envy? Isn’t there enough to go around? Silly me.