DUMB CAREER MOVES
My editor, M, was bright and talented but also somewhat off-putting. At least to me. To show you how clueless I can be, M and I were having lunch at Four Seasons (where else?) after my first hard cover novel, Decades, was so successful—a NYT bestseller in hard cover, major paperback sale and worldwide foreign and translation sales.
"Your next book should be about my affair," M told me—he was married to wife #1 at the time—whereupon he proceeded to fill me in on the lurid details.
Did I take notes? Nope.
Did I write my next book about M's affair? Nope.
For one thing, Decades was about a married man having a hot affair (which might be one of the reasons M “loved it” in the first place) so I was sort of burned out on the subject.
For another, M rode his horse every morning before coming into the office and wore his riding boots—and horsy smell—to work. He dyed his hair several shades of blonde and conducted meetings lying flat on the floor of his office—"bad back." His efforts to turn himself into a fascinating character, I suspect, but hardly my idea of a hunky sex object who would energize a novelist in search of an inspiring new subject for her next book.
Had I written the book M wanted, he would almost certainly have promoted the hell out of it and I would most likely have had two major bestsellers, one right after another, and a different trajectory to my career. But I didn’t. Boy, was I dumb.
Or am I being too hard on myself?
What I realize in retrospect is #1, I allowed my subjective response to M to overly influence me. #2, even though I was now officially “successful,” I didn’t yet have enough experience to be confident in my creativity. After all, there are said to be only six or seven plots. M’s story would have been different from the story I’d just written: different people, different settings, different outcomes.
Am I the only one to have missed a good opportunity? Or the only one to look back and see an earlier turning point through a different lens? Please share. I’m interested in your experience.
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