Nasty Little Beast, Part Two

On Monday’s Nasty Little Beast post, I mentioned my snarky bout of professional envy (“PE” for short) relating to Chelsea Cain’s success. I went to her talk wondering if the ten-buck nonmember fee would be worth it.

After Ms. Cain’s talk about her ten surefire tips for writing a thriller, my friend M– and I strolled down 10th Avenue with a chill wind at our backs. I admitted to my petty bout of PE. However, I also realized that I no longer felt the PE. Instead I was thinking, Good for Ms. Cain for writing where the writing led. Sometimes it takes guts to do what we want.

M– and I wondered aloud whether we could write a cheesy thriller such as Ms. Cain described. I’m not so sure for myself. In part because some of the tips felt depressingly formulaic. End each chapter on a cliffhanger, for example (tip #2). (Think The DaVinci Code.)

The tip that resonated the most with me was her last of the evening: Value your writing (tip #18!). I told M– that I probably didn’t value my writing enough, and he said, You’re right; you don’t.

Here’s the entirety of Ms. Cain’s last tip: Value your writing; it’s worth millions. With that in mind, the next morning I woke up ready to write that day’s new chapter. Unfortunately, I didn’t know how to enter the scene. What the hell, I decided, I’ll make use of one of Ms. Cain’s tips. So, I opened the chapter with a physical action (tip #4), all the while reminding myself of tip #10: Put it in; you can always take it out later.

Does this make me a fledgling thriller writer? Nah, but my character’s hand signal toward her soon-to-be amore’s dog got me off and running for the day’s writing. Thanks, Ms. Cain, the ten-buck nonmember fee was worth it.

Nasty Little Beast

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.Heartsick Cover

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.