As Marie’s Sister-In-Law, Holly Gets Marketable Skills and Other Big Bennies
When Holly Amey Sullivan started her new job, her boss told her if the author career didn’t work out long term, she hoped she’d provide Holly with skills to increase her marketability.
So, does working for a bestselling author who’s been on the New York Times bestseller list 21 times and sold more than 4.5 million books give you those kinds of skills? As if that isn’t good enough, Holly gets to read Marie’s books first, which she considers a huge honor. And she often travels with her “boss” to events that include meeting the Vermont Country Store proprietors.
“Now there’s never talk of me leaving anymore,” says Holly, who was married to Marie’s brother.
Holly’s family is just “overwhelmed and thankful for everything Marie does for me and Isabel” (Holly’s daughter who works for Team Jack). I was halfway through nursing school a couple years after my divorce, and I had to quit because I couldn’t do it. I didn’t have the energy or the time. I needed to work, so I went directly into bartending again after years of not doing it. So it was pretty big when she hired me.”
Holly met Marie in 1989. She recalls Marie was hilarious, she teased her younger brother all the time and Holly loved the relationship Marie had with her parents. Coincidentally, Holly’s mom worked in the classified advertising department of the Narragansett Times, a RI newspaper for which Marie was a reporter.
Holly first remembers reading a copy of what would become Treading Water, Marie’s first book, which was printed out on computer paper and held together with a binder clip. She read it while on Marie’s father’s boat anchored in Brenton Cove in Newport.
“I was super-impressed, just reading her stuff and hearing her voice come through in such a natural way, I was floored,” Holly recalls.
Holly started working for Marie almost three years ago, although it had been discussed prior to that. She started out by formatting books for Marie’s Formatting Fairies, which formats books for authors who want to self-publish. She learned her new job from Marie and a former Team Jack member while sitting at Panera Bread. Today, Holly formats Marie’s ebooks. She also ships signed books and merchandise, hence her nickname, “Shippy.” Sometimes, like when Marie needed a good camping sex story, Holly helped out. Holly’s learned a lot on the job and feels “very, very blessed to be a part of Team Jack…It’s the best job in the world. I can’t imagine being luckier than I am.”
Holly is so touched that she and Marie have shared so many “poignant” parts of their lives as in-laws. Holly, her husband, young daughter and Marie’s mom visited Marie in Spain, where she lived with her husband, Dan. At the time, Holly was pregnant with her second child and Marie with her first. Over the years, they raised their kids together and Marie entrusted Holly with the care of her two precious children. Marie’s mother (Holly’s mother-in-law) became sick and later passed away.
“I think about those times a lot and they make me really appreciate my friend, Marie. And laughing. Incessantly.”
But taking the job with Marie has allowed Holly to see another side of the sister-in-law she considers another sister—her fantastic success.
“She’s just so ridiculously real…so I’m not surprised that she’s as successful as she is,” she says. “I know that obviously she’s worked really hard and she’s so incredibly smart. She just knows what steps to take. I really could not be more proud of anyone.”
It hasn’t always been easy for Marie to pursue this dream. And yet Holly doesn’t remember Marie ever complaining about the disappointments she felt as an author who couldn’t find a publisher. Holly said she’s never known Marie to whine or complain. She may have kept her struggles private.
Holly is humbled and grateful for the opportunities Marie has provided her.
“I was a mother and a bartender. I never graduated from college, and I never thought I would have the opportunity to have such a wonderful, interesting job that has financially changed my life.”
written by Cheryl Serra, Marie’s director of publicity—and one of her bridesmaids 23 years ago