I never thought the biggest lesson I’d learn this past year would be about kindness.
And I really never thought the lesson would be driven home by Alex Pettyfer’s mole.
My debut novel, HOURGLASS, came out this summer. Even though I was warned not
to, I set Google alerts with my name and the book’s name, scanned Goodreads for
reviews, and checked blogs of reviewers who I knew were reading.
I prepared myself for the outcomes of these searches. I was actively looking, so I
was asking for trouble, right? Not every book is for every person. Taste is subjective.
Reviews are full of opinions. I knew being hurt at some point was inevitable.
What I wasn’t prepared for was what I came across by accident. Do you know you
can search Twitter?
I wish I didn’t.
I stumbled my way into a conversation about my book, my plot choices, and my
complete lack of writing talent. I believe the words “ZZZZZZ” and “snooze fest” were
used. One participant asked, “I mean really, how many times can the heroine throw
the hero over her shoulder?” (In HOURGLASS, only once, and he totally deserved it.)
As I watched the conversation in real time, my stomach turned, my face got hot, and
I did that weird thing where you shape your lips into a smile, but they don’t really
stay. They shake, and get rubbery, and then the point comes where you can’t tell the
drool from your tears. That’s when I screen capped the whole thing and sent it to my
closest friends to garner support. I also showed it to my husband.
He was shocked. “How can they say those things about you? And some of the stuff
they’re saying about your story, they aren’t right, are they?” They weren’t right. And
the very best part was that only one of the three had actually read the book.
That’s when I removed the search for my name and my book from my Twitter feed. I
also turned off my Google alerts. I deleted the screen caps and tried to put the whole
thing behind me.
The object lesson:
A few days later, I was discussing Alex Pettyfer with someone I’d just met. I was
pissed off at Alex’s complete lack of enthusiasm about the opportunity to play Jace
Wayland in The Mortal Instruments movies. The Internet and most fandoms were
behind him 100%, but he remained non-committal and acted kind of bored/insulted
by the whole thing.
So I poked fun at his mole. The one between his nose and his lip.
It was an offhand comment, and was intended only for the ears of the person I was
talking to. No one was around to hear it. Saying it was “safe.”
Except, two weeks later, I was driving down the road, and the comment came back
to me. It bounced off the walls of my brain, became a lump in my throat, and settled
somewhere in my heart region.
How was what I said about Alex Pettyfer any different from what the girls on
Twitter said about me? I don’t know him – he could be perfectly lovely. I might not
care for his mole, but there are likely thousands of women out there who would
probably lick it off his face.
It doesn’t matter if I said it about Alex P. or someone I saw in the grocery store
parking lot. What I said was ugly. It didn’t lift anyone up, or bring anyone joy. It
made me look petty and mean, and what’s most important, it made me feel petty and
mean. Because it was petty and mean.
Anything that touches me like that and sticks around deserves consideration,
so I took a big step back and reevaluated some things. Asked myself some hard
1) What kind of person did I want to be on the inside, where it counts?
2) When I went to bed at night, did I want to feel shame about being funny or
amusing at the expense of someone else, or did I want to feel happy because
I’d loved someone well that day?
3) In the grand scheme of life, what matters more – what people think of my
book, or what people think of me? What others think of me, or what I think of
Ultimately, I’m glad I came across that Twitter conversation that night. I’m glad I
made an ignorant comment about Alex Pettyfer’s mole a few days later. And I’m
really glad, for whatever reason, that those two things connected themselves in my
Kindness matters. And if that’s all I learned in the past year, then every single
second of sadness and shame was worth it.