Venus Envy — frequently asked questions

This story actually sounds pretty good. Have you thought about revising it and taking another shot at getting it published?

I’ve thought about trying to get it published. But I don’t think “revising” is an option anymore—when you go back and make changes to a manuscript you haven’t touched in decades, what you’re really doing is co-authoring with your younger self, and books written by committee are generally pretty awful.

To do a proper job, I think I’d have to adapt the story—take the basic plot structure and the characters and use them in a whole new novel, written from scratch. That sounds like a lot of work for something that didn’t get great reviews the first time around. But I do still have fond feelings for Venus Envy, so who knows? Maybe I’ll pitch it as a screenplay or something.

Any chance you’ll post the rest of the original manuscript online?

No. First of all, it doesn’t exist in electronic format—at least, not in a form I can easily access. Venus Envy was written on a MacPlus, using a version of MS Word that was already out of date at the time. Even if I could track down the original disks, getting the data off them would be a major undertaking.

Second, and more importantly, it’s not finished. The story is complete, but because it was rejected it never underwent editing or copyediting. Just retyping the prologue, it was all I could do to stop myself from fixing stuff. (One phrase in particular—“…[the] wire barbed, like the tongs of the pitchfork, with silver.”—makes me crazy. I know what the younger Mr. Ruff was going for there, but while the barbed wire and the pitchfork are both pointy and tipped with silver, they aren’t both barbed; pitchfork tongs don’t have barbs.) The idea of having an entire unedited novel on display is more than the perfectionist in me could stand.

I like the title a lot. But hasn’t it already been used by someone else?

When I wrote Venus Envy, the title was, to the best of my knowledge,* original.

Since the manuscript was rejected, at least five other books named Venus Envy have seen print, including a novel by Rita Mae Brown and a history of cosmetic surgery by Elizabeth Haiken. Most recently, Shannon McKelden used the title for her 2006 debut romance novel.

It’s cool. Titles can’t be copyrighted, so I’m still free to publish my own Venus Envy one day, if I decide I really want to. And mine will still be the only one that has machine guns loaded with silver bullets.

*It’s an obvious pun, though, and seeing as Freud first wrote about penis envy in 1908, I wouldn’t be shocked to learn that I was wrong.