Let’s face it, when you are a writer, the word “normal” is a relative term. And when you are a Christian writer, well, sometimes it evades you altogether. Like in my blog last month—Oh, For the Love of God—when I talked about the personal competition I waged in my mind against a complete stranger—some sweet, new author whose debut book happened to release the same month as mine. The poor thing!
Yes, poor, unsuspecting Julie Klassen, author of the highly acclaimed Lady of Milkweed Manor. Little did she know that I had targeted her, had her in my sights as the measure of my success as a debut author. After all, we had a lot in common—brand-new Historical Romance authors writing for sister companies (she, Bethany House, me, Revell), debut books out in the same month, and both of our names are Julie. Made perfect sense to me. So just for fun, I started watching her book, measuring its success against mine, stalking it on Amazon.com, in bookstores, and on the Web.
One day she’d be ahead, one day I would, which was just fine and dandy. Until her sales ranking on Amazon started kicking my butt. Groan … it actually got to the point where my husband would tell me my ranking on Amazon, and I’d say, “I don’t give a rip—where’s Klassen?” Soon the competition began to infect my husband as well, my kids, my friends and even my prayer partners. I swear, in my mind’s eye even my dog—a geriatric golden retriever—would snarl and curl a lip at the mention of Milkweed Manor.
And then it went from bad to worse. There I was (again in my mind’s eye … I spend a lot of time there), crawling on the ground, coughing up dust from Julie Klassen’s rise to stardom. Suddenly her glowing reviews and enviable ranking made her little more than a speck on the horizon before me. “What in the world was this woman doing?” I would shriek to my husband, causing my 13-year-old golden retriever to growl in his sleep. I mean I had done over 30 blog interviews and yet this woman had yet to do one (that I could find, anyway, and believe me, I tried!). Sure, her book was fabulous (yeah, yeah, I read it), but even so, what did she know promotion-wise that I didn’t?
And then I found out something that curdled my blood. Not only was Julie Klassen currently a top Fiction Editor for Bethany House, but she had also worked for years in the advertising field prior to that. AND, to pour a whole box of salt on the proverbial wound of green-eyed jealousy, I learned that she had submitted her manuscript to Bethany House anonymously, wanting it judged on its merit alone. And it was. And published. And a 2008 Christy Award finalist, to boot. And, did I mention, way, WAY ahead of me on Amazon.com? Sigh. I was down for the count, sprawled on the floor where sleeping dogs lie, groaning in jealousy. Not “normal” behavior … at least not for a Christian, right?
The good news is that there is one shred of “normal” in this whole pathetic story—it is normal for God to bless people when they apply His precepts. So I did. I rebuked that green-eyed monster of jealousy in Jesus’ name, repented and pulled the plug on Amazon, fasting it for months. I would occasionally allow my husband to tell me what my ranking was, but I never asked him about Milkweed Manor again. I was done comparing, measuring, coveting. Then I nailed the final death blow to my sin with daily fervent prayers on Julie Klassen’s behalf, beseeching God to send Lady of Milkweed Manor straight to the Bestseller List.
And then His blessings came. In the form of peace and calm (if you know me at all, not a normal thing). Suddenly, I had this glorious assurance that my success or lack thereof was in God’s hands, not mine, leaving me free to relax and write and seek Him with a clean heart. But He wasn’t through with me yet. Not by a long shot.
Fast forward to the ACFW Conference in Minneapolis this year where I was jawing with somebody during a bathroom break. Out of the corner of my eye, I see this tall blond kind of slink down to look at my name-badge.
I freeze, my gaze darting to her lanyard. The shock slowed my blood to a crawl “Julie Klassen?” I moved toward her, the dire need to come clean all but burning in my throat. “I have to confess—I've been watching your ranking on Amazon, and your reviews are great."
She smiled and took a step closer, a twinkle of a tease in her very blue eyes. “Yes, but what I want to know is why you have twice as many reviews on Amazon as I do?"
I blinked. Say what?
“I'll tell you why,” she said with a swish of her long, blond hair, “Because your book is selling, that's why."
I couldn’t have been more shocked than if she had shot me with a stun gun. Dear Lord—I knew I wasn’t normal, but apparently I wasn’t alone! That did it—I divulged the whole sordid tale, from the jealousy, to the stalking, to the moment I finally laid it all at God’s feet.
She laughed and told me that she was tired of receiving e-mails from readers about how much they liked "her" book -- A Passion Most Pure!! Hard to believe—that the very person the devil used to make me jealous is the same person God used to bless the socks off of me! Now I ask you, isn’t that just like our God?
That day, Julie Klassen and I forged a friendship I will never forget … and God reaffirmed a Scripture I will always remember: 1 Samuel 2:30—God honors those who honor Him.
Please join me in welcoming debut author and Bethany House editor Julie Klassen to Seekerville next month, Wednesday, December 10. Julie will be on hand to give you a unique glimpse at a writer who has experienced both sides of the picture—as a debut author and an editor. In the meanwhile, be sure to check out Julie’s Web site at http://www.julieklassen.com/ and her book, Lady of Milkweed Manor. You won’t be sorry … or at least, I hope, not as sorry I was!! (Grin)