So something really extraordinary happened to me yesterday. I got fan mail. Sort of.
I’m what we call an AYU in this business: an As Yet Unpublished. This makes it tough to get fan mail.
(It also makes it tough to get hate mail, so there’s the silver lining, I guess.) Anyway, one of the women who judged my manuscript Money, Honey for this year’s Golden Heart contest emailed to say she’d been pulling for it to final because she’d loved reading the partial so much. This just blew me away. First because, wow, what a nice thing to say. But second because nobody was ever supposed to love Money, Honey but me.
Without going into a lot of excruciating detail, let’s just say that I wrote MH during a particularly difficult phase of my life & as a result, the book is a little…um…dark. It’s not full of serial killers or child molesters or dog kickers or anything like that. Heaven forfend. It’s just got a really broody, pessimistic, emotionally closed off hero with a well-deserved criminal record. He’s hot as hell, yes, but good boyfriend material? Warm & fuzzy? Fully reformed & legitimately employed? Not so much. He’s difficult. Prickly. Dangerous. And maybe not in a good way.
And the heroine? Well. I gave her a backstory so viciously complicated & emotionally scarring that even my amazingly supportive critique partner said, “She can’t have lived through that
& turned out even remotely normal.”
Did I listen? Did I fix things? I did not. I wrote the damn book my own damn way & sent it off to the contest circuit where it got duly slaughtered. I shoved it under the bed where it belonged & figured I’d written the fabled Book of My Heart. You know the one that nobody will ever love but you, but you’re somehow compelled to write anyway? The story you’re longing to tell that has absolutely no commercial viability?
When Money, Honey hit the finals, I was stunned. It was like the universe had suddenly decided to reward me for indulging my quirks instead of sending the Rejection Express steaming through my mailbox every day. This was unprecedented. I ought to go nuts while the window of opportunity was open, right? So I started thinking about things I secretly enjoy that I don’t widely publicize. I polled my friends about their guilty pleasures. I quizzed my family. Here (in no particular order & without attribution to protect the innocent) is what I discovered we love but won’t necessarily admit to:
1) Smokin’ hot anti-heros with a razor-sharp edge. Doesn’t hurt if they’re really, really rich & just the tiniest bit cruel. Remember James Spader from Pretty in Pink? Yummers. (Okay, I’ll admit it. That one’s mine.)
2) Wine Coolers. Hello, high school. And yet, on a really hot summer’s evening? Admit it–a Bartles & Jaymes can go down pretty smooth.
3) Cheap Trick/Journey. This was a two way tie . I mean, come on. We all love these bands but nobody will own up to it. Sure, we all crank up the volume when we stumble across their songs on the radio, but who’ll admit to having the CD in the car? (Okay, I will. I love me some Cheap Trick.)
4) Trash TV. A show called “Plastic Surgery: Before & After” seemed to come up in conversation a lot. Wife Swap came up pretty often, too. I haven’t seen these ones, but I have a well publicized addiction to People magazine & Perez Hilton’s celebrity gossip site, so I have no room to act superior. People also admitted to loving Las Vegas, various soap operas, 90210 & Dawson’s Creek. (That last one was mine. I’m not ashamed. I loved Pacey.)
5) Insulting good food with cheap condiments. Tartar sauce on a $50 fish filet at a fancy restaurant. Mayo on fries. Ketchup on steak. I’ll admit to a predilection for cheap ice cream. You can keep your Ben & Jerry’s. Hang on to your Haagen Daaz. Scoop me up a big fat bowl of plain ol’ vanilla from a $3 family sized tub. Squirt on the Hershey’s & I’m there.
So how about you? If the universe really IS rewarding us this week for indulging our private quirks, now isn’t the time to hold back! What do you love that you hide? And reading romance doesn’t count. Not in the Lair.