If, as some would have you believe, there are squadrons of snarky, bitter writers out there – leaning right this minute on hipster-cocktail-party walls, sniping at their peers, believing themselves too smart and complex to succeed in a Jersey Shore world – I am one lucky son of a gun, as I have completely avoided them.
Quite the contrary: As the publication of my debut novel, Purgatory Chasm, nears, I meet only generosity and warm wishes from my fellow writers, whether they’re veterans with 20 fine books under their belts or still grinding away seeking an agent.
This generosity takes many forms: Facebook messages from long-ago writing group pals, attaboys from published novelists who only know my name because they made a point of learning it, email congrats from folks who spotted my name at a blog somewhere.
Exhibit A: Bruce DeSilva.
Several months ago I read Bruce’s novel Rogue Island. I’d heard good things about the book, and it was a debut mystery set in New England written by a former journalist – how could I not read it? The book was excellent, as you would expect a mystery raved about by Dennis Lehane and Joseph Finder to be. I wasn’t surprised when it was nominated as Best First Novel by the Mystery Writers of America.
Fast-forward to last Saturday night, at MWA’s Edgars award banquet. A gent dropped by my table and asked which ne’er-do-well was Steve Ulfelder. Relatively certain the man wasn’t a bill collector (they seldom wear tuxedos anymore), I raised a hand.
The dapper gent was none other than Bruce DeSilva, dropping by to compliment me on Purgatory Chasm. It turned out he’d written a kind blog post on the book.
I was bowled over. This was Bruce’s night, after all: he’d written a great novel, battled his way up the ladder the way we all struggle to (agent, contract, rewrites …), succeeded brilliantly, earned an evening in the spotlight – and he was taking time to meet me, a fresh-fish newbie whose book hadn’t yet hit stores.
That’s a stellar example of the generosity I’m talking about.
This story has a perfect ending: Amid stiff competition, Rogue Island won the Best First Novel Edgar. Couldn’t have happened to a classier or more deserving guy.