There are literary writer/saints, of course: my saint-in-chief being Jane Austen with Charlotte Brontë floating on a cloud only slightly lower. And over there is Charles Dickens.
Then there are my personal writer/saints, other writers who have shown great heart and generosity when doing absolutely nothing would have been fine.
Today Jennifer Wiener is right up there, having given my new presence on Facebook page an absolutely unsolicited endorsement on her wall: Susan Isaacs (aka my favorite writer in the world) is on Facebook! If you like me, you’ll love her. And wow, can she get readers’ attention. It’s so great when an author whose work you admire turns out (like Jennifer) to be a saint as well.
My other saints?
Rona Jaffe and Jackie Collins who gave me my first blurbs. Unsolicited. Well, unsolicited by me, because at the time I wrote Compromising Positions, the only novelist I knew was me. I suppose my then-editor, Marcia Magill, sought out their good opinion with a “Hey, here’s a lively but lonely first novel that needs a friend” letter.
Then Danielle Steel, bless her. My third novel, Almost Paradise, received a lot of praise. It also got one scathing, über-bitch of a review from Michiko Kakutani in The New York Times…such a stinkeroo that to this day I cannot bring myself to reread it. Anyhow, out of the clear blue, I get a charming letter from a writer I’d never met (still haven’t), Ms. Steel, saying how much she enjoys my work. She urged me not to let a rotten review get me down. Just keep writing. Her note was the perfect antidote to that “Life is unfair, so why bother writing and critics are loathsome vampires sucking the life out of the authors because they themselves are dead” self-pity.
And Linda Fairstein. Here she was, head of the Manhattan DA’s sex crimes unit at the time, writing fiction, living a life so full it would exhaust five normal people. I was working on Lily White then and needed some insider information; the eponymous main character had been an assistant DA for a time and I needed some texture to give her work a feeling of authenticity. I asked Linda if I could have five minutes…just a few questions. “Five minutes?” Linda asked incredulously. “You’ll need more than that!” We wound up having a long, informative, and incredibly delightful lunch at Odeon where I marveled at her knowledge and energy. And at the end, she insisted on picking up the check. Is that a writer/saint, or what?
Lawrence Block and I were having dinner with our spouses one night when I was in a funk (aka profoundly depressed) over not being able to get the right voice for a novel that was due in…it’s vague, but probably in a few months. I opened up to him. Then, instead of the normal “Oh, I’m sure everything will turn out fine” routine, he asked me a series of writerly, analytical questions. I answered each one, and, by the end of the conversation, realized I was seeing the work I had to do more clearly than I ever had. Then Larry said something like, “Sounds like you know what to do.” I said I thought so. “It’s what you always do,” he added. Trust my instincts. Don’t over-cerebrate. Just write the fucker. And so I did.
Bless them all.