A lot of people believe writers are born, not made. I’ve heard of writers who sprung out of the womb fully formed as storytellers, ready from early childhood to spin their yarns.
This writer was born and made. I’ve been crazy in love with words and books since I started reading at two (my first read was Little Bear…and that book still makes me cry). But I needed life to toughen me up enough to translate that passion for stories into finished work.
Like some writers and artists do, I suffered from shyness as a child. In order to cope, I hid within my mind, in a lush world populated by book characters and people I met in dreams.
It got pretty crowded in there, and eventually I had to deal with the outside world, make a separate peace with it in order to grow, not just survive. So to navigate the soul-killing aspects of life in school I developed a strong, capable persona. She was the warrior who dispatched bullies and placated teachers so that the dreamer could roam in her inner garden.
Sounds like multiple personality disorder, doesn’t it? Maybe it was, but my strategy worked for a long time, at least on a superficial level. My warrior woman went to Harvard Law School, practiced litigation in Connecticut and New York, kicked butt in a very satisfying way. Her shy deer counterpart dreamed on, well hidden, well protected.
And the whole crowd inside the garden was happy. We all could have continued on our merry way indefinitely…the only person who felt dissatisfied with this situation was, well, me.
I’d survived way too long split up into a bunch of different pieces. My dreamer, walled off from the outside world, couldn’t manifest her visions without the help of the warrior. But the warrior was too busy fighting other people’s battles. Fortunately for me, a series of events blew my old habits away.
First, my oldest child was born. An incredible person, who immediately taught me two things: (1) I am strong enough to do anything I have to do; (2) I am not going to live forever. My husband and I decided to move back to New York, live closer to family and friends.
And then 9/11 happened. My oldest was 9 months old at the time, and we’d moved back to the metro NY area only a few weeks before. I froze up for a few months after the attack on our country. You know what brought me back to myself? Stories. Dreams. And novels that that breathed magic back into the desert of daily life.
My children and husband sustained me. Romance novels entranced me. Everyday heroes inspired me. Now my writing has cracked my old life wide open, and I’m learning how to grow my secret garden here, in the everyday, magical world.
Frequently Asked Questions:
How do you get your ideas?
I’m a dreamy person…a movie of another world plays in my head through much of my day. Fragments of daily life – a red leaf, a strong cup of coffee, a face on the subway – will trigger memories, daydreams, and “what if” questions. Most of these fleeting thoughts are ephemeral, like soap bubbles, and they float away, no harm done. But once in a while, a big fish will swim up and swallow me whole. Then I’m in trouble! I have to write that story or it won’t leave me alone. And if I don’t get it right the first time, it comes back to make sure I finish the job to its satisfaction.
What is your writing process like?
Like Jo March in Little Women, I write in furious bursts and get sucked into the writers’ vortex. Once I get down there I can write pretty quickly, but afterwards I need fallow time to recover. I need to learn (as a survival mechanism) how to work at a more serene, consistent pace. Or maybe not! My method had gotten me this far with no permanent damage to date.
What does your writing space look like? Do you write in absolute quiet or with background noise?
I write in the middle of preschooler chaos. My computer lives inside a corner hutch in my living room…I can close it up and it looks like an armoire, or open it and I’m ready to roll. If I need a more peaceful environment (or caffeine) I go to a local coffeehouse to write.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
For a long time, I was an aspiring writer too. In retrospect, it was too long a time. I dreamed of writing, read voraciously, wrote long journal entries about writing. At some point, you need to stop analyzing and dreaming, and commit. Embrace the inevitable suckage of your early efforts. You have no idea how horrible some of my early fiction was, and you never will, because I’ve murdered all those darlings…
Despite the suckage, believe. Have faith in your ability to improve and have the humility to admit how much you have to learn. Your love for words will take you everywhere you need to go. Please don’t wait any longer.
Finally, if you write romance or women’s fiction, do yourself a huge favor and join the Romance Writers of America. You will learn so much…if you can’t afford to join, haunt the blogs of your favorite authors and learn from them. But please don’t stop yourself from writing while you learn, because the best way to learn is to set yourself free and write.
Do you have a writer’s mantra?
In a word, believe…
Anything is possible. My goal as a writer is to entertain, amuse, and inspire my readers. The stories that have changed my life all involve elements of the supernatural or spiritual, told through the life stories of brave, flawed, unforgettable characters. Those are the books I seek to write.