Because I published my first novel at the age of twenty-seven, it might seem as though I fulfilled a childhood ambition, or at least pursued a career I prepared for in college, but neither was the case. I was an average high school student with greater interest in cheerleading and boys than academics and for a college endeavor I chose nursing. But then I come from the tip of the baby boomer generation; our mothers were usually more concerned with whether we'd get married than whether we'd have successful careers. Many of us chose from the Big Three - nurses, teachers, and secretaries. Writing for me came later, but not much later.
I married my high school sweetheart four short weeks before he left for Officer's Training School in the Air Force. It was the peak of the Vietnam War and he had been assigned to pilot a helicopter. As soon as I could, I followed him from base to base where I was kept busy with wives' activities while he either worked long hours or traveled. And this is where it all really began for me - because of the instability of our lives, I didn't work in nursing. But nothing bridges the gap between loneliness and worry like a good book. Then came the children, or maybe I should say the pregnancies. Miserable and big as an ox, I was instructed to stay down and keep my feet up. My neighbor brought me ten paperbacks a week; I was reading more than one a day. With ankles the size of a normal woman's thighs, I spent my afternoons with Kathryn Swynford and John of Gaunt....with Heather and Brandon Birmingham....with Elizabeth, The King's Gray Mare. Nothing short of labor pains could snap me out of it!
I cut my teeth on Anya Seton, Kathleen Woodiweiss, Rosemary Hawley Jarmen. It made perfect sense that when I applied my own imagination to the blank page, it would be in the genre of Historical Romance. This was before the days of RWA; there was no available training program. In fact, the first conference I ever attended for writing contained no workshop on romance writing and the novelist who critiqued my manuscript boldly told me to go home and find something to do for which I had talent. That manuscript was sold to Little, Brown and Co. two years later, published in hardcover and titled Chelynne.
I spent the first decade and a half of my writing career on romance, historical and contemporary. Then, needing a change, I wrote a suspense novel, a non-fiction, and several brilliant but as yet unsold screenplays. I wrote articles and even short stories, jumping all over the place, not really aware that I was working on reinventing myself, redesigning my craft. During the course of this transition, which was by no means short, I had a great piece of good luck. I went to San Diego State University to teach a novel writing workshop and met a woman who was the editorial director for a publisher who focused on women's fiction. The range in this genre is remarkably broad - from pure romance to adventure to political intrigue to girlfriend books to small town fiction.
This was a good place for me to develop my own brand of women's fiction, a style that most closely resembles my take on real life. I want to laugh through a book, but I don't want a book that's a big laugh - and that's a tall order. As a reader I want to have a genuinely good time, but not a joke. I want real women's issues, real humor, and real teeth in the story. This is a genre with lots of room for growth.
In the meantime, with all this writing and reinventing going on, I was raising a family. My son and daughter are adults now, reading my fiction and making snide remarks about how I have used family scenarios to my advantage.
The greatest compliment I have ever received came from one of my readers who labeled me "a woman's woman." She told me I wrote as knowingly about being single as being married, about being old as young, about the happily married and someone suffering from spousal abuse. In short - my goal achieved according to one reader - I can cover all women's concerns. And my women laugh as often as they cry.
I've found my new home.
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