Pat here—I’m bogged down in a book that won’t end, so I’m spewing whatever comes into my head today. If you’re looking for educational research, you may stop reading now. If you want to see inside an author’s empty head, this one’s for you.
Once upon a time, in a place faraway. . . I itched to write the stories in my head when I couldn’t find anything new to read (which was often; we had no library). Once I was old enough to write whole sentences, I had ink pens with lovely turquoise ink and notebook pages meant for homework, and I scribbled my heart out. My fifth grade teacher was pretty useless at teaching grammar—I rudely corrected hers. But my sixth grade teacher encouraged creativity and politely corrected my ignorant outpourings. I even had a university professor to correct my letter to the editor—which taught me I’d better learn grammar if I wanted to write for anyone but myself. I stuck to writing for myself.
Fast forward a couple of decades. I had a university education. I’d read the classics and the bestsellers and was in utter awe of literary fiction. I knew I couldn’t possibly write anything similar, so I never expected to sell books. I had kids and needed to find a job and really, writing didn’t have space in my life. And then. . . I read my first historical romance.
Keep in mind that I read Important Books. Yes, when I was a kid, I’d read Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames and all that, but I’d never encountered a Harlequin novel. I scarfed up all my mother’s Reader’s Digest condensed books, because we couldn’t afford bestsellers and had no bookstores anyway. In college, I had a book scholarship and could buy discounted books at the university store and I read all the Big Books of our Age. I discovered used fantasy and science fiction novels in a dusty used bookstore near campus, but even they didn’t carry Harlequins or romance of any sort.
So it wasn’t until I was standing in front of the paperback rack in whatever discount store was available back then, Big K, maybe, that I was introduced to romance. A little old lady picked up Kathleen Woodiwiss and handed it to me, said read it, I wouldn’t regret it. I regretted just holding it. The dramatic cover and embracing couple. . . were pretty much beyond anything I’d ever read. But they didn’t have guns and horses, and it was a great hefty tome for maybe $2.99 at the time. And I desperately needed a vacation from kids and canning green beans and whatever else I was doing back then.
And so I learned that I didn’t have to write great literary fiction. There were entire genres out there I could dabble in—westerns, regencies, American colonial. . . I still didn’t read contemporary. I fell in love with history.
Of course, I had a solid background in British classical literature, so history seemed pretty natural. I’d been studying British royalty just to understand the time frames and monarchies of the literature I read. I never had any desire to write about monarchies. But sailors and poor abused women. . . Wow.
And this is how a person stumbles into the pit of writing. And it is a pit. It’s not all glory hallelujah, I wrote a book, I sold a book, I will now be rich! For wannabe writers, this is a warning tale. For readers, I hope it’s a viable excuse for some of the awful things I’ve written over the decades. <G>
Hang around, I’ll tell you more next time. Meanwhile, have you had a chance to read a sample of my latest meandering off the beaten path, The Secrets of Wycliffe Manor? I’m trying my hand at historical mystery now. I need to come up with a series “tag” to describe it, but other than Regency mystery with romance and a gothic manor, I don’t know what it would be.
Here’s a sample
Have you ever tried your hand at writing?