Our question for today: If you won the lottery (mega-millions) would you keep on writing? Would it change what you write?
Winning mega-millions is a lovely daydream we can all enjoy, even if we don’t buy tickets, which I don’t. A million dollars these days, even after taxes, isn’t enough to buy a decent house where we live. But mega-millions: the mind goes wild. I could start entire industries in poverty-stricken areas. But I’m a writer and a first-class introvert and realistically, I know I wouldn’t be that brave, smart, or knowledgeable. So I’d probably divide up the money among family, give a huge chunk to charities that might build those industries, save a bit for emergencies and travel… and then finish writing those books I’ve started about four lucky people who share a mega-million lottery.
But as a writer of historical romance, the only lucky characters I've written are the ones in my Rebellious Sons series, with their mysterious two-thousand pound inheritances. In the Regency, that was a nice sum for a young couple to start a life on!
When I was younger I would definitely have bought things and services to give me more time to write, but all these decades later, my reaction would be a bit different. I would keep writing, because the stories would keep coming, but I would be very lazy about it, in part because I might be indulging in all sorts of travel and other indulgences, and there are only so many hours in a day.
I've always been fascinated by the stories of people who win millions on the lottery to the extent that I once wrote a book, The Earl's Prize, about a Regency heroine who found a winning lottery ticket. I love speculating on what changes might occur in people's lives as a result of all those millions of pounds – how their circumstances and character might change, the doors that would open, the opportunities that would come their way, and the drawbacks as well.
I don't often play the lottery myself so whilst I might cherish a vague dream of winning lots of money it's not going to happen whilst I fail to buy a ticket. This doesn't really matter to me—I feel very content and fortunate in my life so I think that if I won a lot of money I wouldn't want to change much. I suspect most writers would say that they would keep on writing. The desire to write our stories comes from deep down and for as long as it is there we will carry on writing, regardless of our circumstances.
Whether I would write something different though, that's an interesting question. Writing may be a vocation but it's also a means of earning a living for a lot of writers and if that's the case you do need to write what the market wants. With freedom from financial constraints comes the choice to write what you want instead. I feel lucky because I am doing that at the moment but if I knew I'd never have to worry about money again I would probably try out other sorts of fiction as well – crime and thrillers – and non fiction too! Oh, and I would buy a little writing studio by the sea to write in!
Mary Jo Putney:
I've never speculated about this personally because I don't play the lottery. But if I did play and won serious money? Well, I could retire now and not starve, yet I keep writing, so I'm pretty sure that wouldn't change.
The closest I've come to writing this kind of financial bonanza was in my third contemporary, An Imperfect Process. (Originally published as Twist of Fate.) The heroine in that book, Val, was a successful corporate lawyer. In the previous story, she took time off to act as a high level assistant to her actress friend, Rainey, who was directing her first movie and needed back up.
Val's book starts when she learns that Rainey's movie has been so successful that a large chunk of money is coming to Val. So what does she want to do? Given that Val had a rather insecure childhood, she thinks in terms of saving and investment, until a friend kicks her to figure out what she really wants. After some soul searching, Val realizes that she really does love the law, but she's tired of being a corporate litigator. So she starts her own practice so that she can do "good cause" law–helping people who need legal help and can't afford it. Which is how she becomes involved in a wrongful conviction case, trying to get an innocent man off Death Row. (And along the way, she meets a guy, of course. <G>)
So if I won the lottery, I'd probably set up a foundation to help women, children, and cats in need. That sounds pretty good, actually!
Tell you what, though. I'd go buy me a little mountaintop shack in some tropical place with the sea sparkling down below. I'd go there sometimes and live on papaya and fresh fish. While I was writing I'd look out over the water and drink mint tea.
So I would be writing the same stuff, but in a different, brighter frame of mind. Maybe that would creep into the stories. My folks would stop haunting the sordid byways of major European cities and hop around the cheerful, sandy Caribbean instead.
Absolutely—from my hilltop stone farmhouse in Tuscany, overlooking the vineyard and olive orchards (because, y’know, a girl has to stop for an occasional snack of chianti and semolina bread dipped in fresh pressed oil) . . . or when it’s too warm in Italy I might head to the beach house set on the rosehip-covered sand dunes of Sconset in Nantucket . . .
Seriously, I don’t spend too much time plotting what to do with the winning lottery ticket, as I never bother to buy them. (As I tell a friend, who regularly does,: “I hope you have a Plan B.”) These day, I think very few authors write because they expect to make gobs of money. Publishing is a very difficult business, full of rejections and frustrations, so though it may sound trite, most of us toil away because we have a passion for storytelling. If I did, perchance, stumble onto a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, that wouldn’t change my love of language and the endlessly interesting ways of crafting characters and plots. I would, however, feel I had the luxury to work on several ideas that are currently on the back burner. They are projects that will test my mettle and challenge me to take my skills to a new level. And that will demand the sort of time and dedication that I currently can’t give to them right now, because of, well, Life and all the mundane daily demands. However, if the divinely handsome Italian sommelier were to bring me prosecco in bed every morning, I’m sure the words would flow like meltingly warm Tuscan sunshine!
What would I do if I won a huge lottery? Breathe an equally huge sigh of relief and then make certain that family and friends are taken care of to make life smoother for them. I'd set up a foundation to help families with hospitalized children. (It's personal, I get it, and it would be nice to lift some of those financial burdens.) And then – another big sigh of relief, because finally I will be free to write the books I really want to write, with the time to jump in with both feet.
Like the other Wenches–and my guess is every other dedicated writer–I'd keep writing. The stories are still there and always will be, regardless of circumstance. The difference would be the freedom and support to write faster with less stress in greater creature comfort. A home here, a home in Scotland, a quiet and serene place to write …
Really all I need is a quiet place to write and the freedom to do so, and that I pretty much have already, give or take the size of the bank account! So for that, I'm grateful.
One of my heroines has experienced that sort of huge windfall — Meg MacNeill in Taming the Heiress, who comes from a simple life on a Hebridean isle and unexpectedly inherits an enormous fortune. She learns to behave as a sophisticated mainland lady rather than a barefoot island girl — and then returns to help the people of her island just as an engineer shows up with a crew to construct a lighthouse on an ancient and haunted rock that now belongs to Meg and the islanders. Much adventure and romance ensues…. And just now Taming the Heiress is on sale in ebook for 99 cents!
For a start, I'd never win the lottery, simply because I never buy lottery tickets. That said, if I did come into a fortune and had mega millions to splash around, I think I'd change where I lived, but not what I did. I'd probably buy a house on a beach somewhere so I could look out over the sea and its constantly changing moods. A view like this, perhaps, which is where I go for my annual writing retreat with a group of writer friends.
But I probably wouldn't stop writing. I can't imagine not writing. Stories come to me all the time, and it's just a question of which ones I'll write. Money is not the constraint on my writing, time is.
I might be a bit more varied and adventurous in what I write, but I don't know — I like writing in my current time period and genre and I think I'd want to continue. I'd also like to write contemporary romantic comedy, and maybe fantasy, but I could write those now, if I had the time. Self publishing has opened up a huge range of options for writers, and the choices are there, but I like having a publisher and a deadline. I find deadlines help me enormously.
Are you as creative (or non-creative!) as the wenches in choosing what you would do with mega-millions? Give us your best shot!