Funny about being sick—I find myself more interested in everyday life than in anything supernatural. And yet, ghosts are still wandering through our lives. For instance, a ghost has turned up to help my maid for two weeks in a row. She’s a nice assistant, but she’s nobody I ever knew. At least, I don’t recognize her. Obviously, she can’t do much, but she’s there anyway.
In order to prepare Whitley for writing a new series of books, which is partly my idea, I am reading a book by one of the world’s most famous editors, Michael Korda, so we’ll both know better what publishers are looking for. Of course, we do know a certain amount about this, but the idea is very new, so we need to understand how it will fit in. The book, Another Life, is about his experiences at Simon and Schuster. Many years ago, Whitley had a book there edited by a woman called Patricia Soliman, who had a hard time at the company, as many editors apparently have. But not Korda. He seems to have thrived, and the only way you thrive as an editor is if you make money for the publisher, so his ideas are important.
However, his stories are hilarious, and one of them reminds me of so much we went through in our days in New York, going to sometimes lavish parties that were not always what they seemed. He edited Jacqueline Susann, the author of Valley of the Dolls, which was one of the first really gigantic sellers in the history of publishing.
There was a party thrown at the American Booksellers Association to promote her book the Love Machine during which she was nearly set on fire by drunken booksellers lighting tissue paper favors on fire, and a publicist slipped and fell into an enormous cake intended to celebrate the book. Susann had been responsible for the cake, the party favors, and gigantic drinks that had gotten all the booksellers drunk.
Simon and Schuster was not happy, and she invited Korda to dinner at a Manhattan restaurant to make amends. At the dinner, she commented that his watch was rather tacky, and insisted that he accept a Cartier from her. He finally did, but the next day it turned out that he was supposed to buy the watch himself. The ‘gift’ hadn’t been a gift at all, but merely a suggestion.
We have so many wild publishing stories ourselves, I love reading them, and Korda’s are especially good. So is his advice: don’t write what you know about, write what you care about. It makes a great deal of sense to me, and I’m hoping that our new venture is going to be exactly that: something we both care deeply about…but which is also lots of fun to read.
This is my life now, working with Whitley in a new and deeper way, seeing ghosts, battling illness. It all seems very precious, even holy in a way. Despite all the hardship that has come my way, I’m having a wonderful time.