My writing journey has been somewhat unusual, at least compared to the ones you normally read in author interviews. Unlike most novelists, I did not know at the age of 4 that I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to be an interior designer. I was an excellent student, but reading and writing were, to me, just a means of communication, not an end in their own right. I was creative and imaginative, but my outlets were drawing and painting, decorating and upcycling furniture, cleaning and rearranging my bedroom, or making model dream houses.
But, I can say I was born under an auspicious sky with regards to writing, with both my sun and Mercury (the planet that rules communication) in the sign of Gemini (the sign ruled by Mercury). Basically, communication, written and oral, come quite naturally to me. I learned to read before I could speak, and I’m quite a fast and effective reader, writer, and talker, as are many Geminis. People with so much Mercury influence in their charts are often writers, teachers, or lawyers. So I suppose an astrologer might say it was written in my stars to do something with writing.
Reading for pleasure was not something I dove into headlong until my mid-twenties, mostly as a way to avoid studying organic chemistry. I had read the Harry Potter books, of course, had joined a book club and read several Oprah picks. Occasionally I would pick up something someone insisted I must read. But the stars aligned again one day when I was bored at work and searching for fan fiction for my favorite show, Charmed.
Through fanfiction, I discovered that reading could be just as satisfying as watching TV or movies. I quickly fell into a fanfic wormhole, as one does. A few weeks later, I was dabbling with my own stories. A month after that, I was perusing the aisles of Barnes and Noble feeling like Alice in Wonderland.
How were there SO MANY stories and I had never read ANY of them? Stories about witches and dragons and vampires and demons and fae… stories with magic and humor and swordfights and horror and even SEX in them! What had I been doing with my life?
This was where my writing journey truly began–with the discovery of a book series that would change the trajectory of my dreams forever. I could actually divide my life into two clear categories: before Anita Blake, and after.
I was raised on 80s horror flicks. I spent Friday nights curled up on the couch with my mom watching Elvira. Tales from the Crypt was a weekly family date in our house. So, a mouthy necromancer set in a modern world where vampires and werewolves were out in the open was RIGHT up my alley. I devoured those books. I read the first 11 twice through over one winter break. My friends and family started to become concerned, as I lost interest in pretty much everything else but food and blanket nests.
They had no idea.
I was still keeping the fanfic addiction a secret at that point. ABVH had quite an extensive fan base back in 2007, and I had found a dedicated forum and website that was nothing but Anita Blake fanfiction. I devoured that too. As most addictions go, it wasn’t enough.
So, I started writing my own.
At first, it was just for fun. A vignette here, a “what if” scene there. But soon I realized I could take the characters out like Barbie dolls and create my own elaborate adventures for them.
And people liked what I wrote.
They gave me praise, begging for more. They messaged me with requests and encouragement and offers to beta read. The attention and positive feedback became equally addicting in its own right. Soon, with an army of supportive readers (and an awesome volunteer editor) behind me, I began posting a chapter every day or two in what would become my fanfiction magnum opus. When it was finished, I had written four complete novels of fanfiction and received over 1500 reviews. It was HALF A MILLION words. Yes, 500,000 words, written in a 10-month binge.
During that time, I was still working a day job and also (kind of?) attending college (I spent more time writing in my notebook than paying attention; my transcript will back me up on that). In order to accomplish this feat (remember, this was an unhealthy addiction and I don’t recommend it) my solution was to sleep every other night and spend every other night writing. But hey–I was in my 20s. I was never a drinker, so I directed my party energy at fanfiction.
I have no regrets, since I discovered a true passion for storytelling.
So, I finished my 4-book tie off of the ABVH series. Soon my supporters were poking me–when are you going to write your own books? Because anyone who puts that much time and effort into writing (and apparently has a knack for it) must be an aspiring novelist, right?
Until then, it had never occurred to me. Not to mention I still had to earn a paycheck, graduate from college, and maintain some semblance of a life. It took me 2 years to figure out and write my first novel without the crutch of a pre-built world, a voice to mimic, and characters I could just pull out of the toybox to play with. I had developed many writing skills through fanfiction, but quickly discovered it’s like writing with training wheels; starting from scratch was going to require a whole new skillset. Reading craft books on writing became my new hobby.
By 2008, I had one finished novel that I was actively querying and another first draft complete. I joined my local chapter of RWA (ABVH was my gateway drug to the paranormal romance genre, which ended up being my favorite). Not only did I study writing, but I networked for a few years. I blogged, joined forums, went to workshops and conferences, joined critique groups, entered contests. But I was still not finished with college.
Cue an economic disaster.
I was luckier than most. I had left my job of 8 years just before the markets tanked, but was able to obtain a better-paying one almost immediately, and it was closer to school. Still, the next few years brought their share of struggles–a deteriorating marriage, an underwater mortgage, a quarter-life crisis where I questioned who I was and what I was doing and why. Did I still even want this degree? Or the career that would come after? Or more schooling?
It seemed like a ridiculous waste to drop out when I was so close to graduation, so I decided to focus on bringing my grades up. After all, like almost everyone else, I’d been raised to believe that pursuing a career in a creative field is just not sensible. I dropped the RWA. I stopped querying. I stopped writing. I started drinking.
I entered the Dark Night of the Soul.
I wasn’t sure if I would ever reconnect with my passion for writing. My husband told me it was a waste of time. My family was glad to see me “back in the real world”. I hung what had become a true dream (and I had never really dared to dream before) out to dry for a few years.
In December 2012, my mortgage foreclosed.
In August 2013, I graduated college.
In November 2013, I separated from my husband.
In 2014, out on my own for the first time in my life, I was able to focus on myself, on what I wanted. And lo, buried under all the pain and stress and grief and uncertainty… was the dream. It was still there. It had endured. And slowly, gently, I approached it again. This time as the treasure that it was. As the joy that it was. As the lifeline that it was.
I bought a laptop on a credit card, and in the midnight hours in my cozy little apartment, I picked up my third novel (at that point ⅓ written) and committed to finishing it. Thanks to my networking days, I still had some friends from the RWA who were authors. They quickly got me up to speed on how the industry had changed, and I decided I was done waiting for someone else to grant my wish of being a published author. I was going to MAKE it happen by going indie.
In 2015, I published my first novel, and then my second 6 months later. The rest… is history, I guess? I can’t believe that was almost five years ago. I’m still here. I haven’t given up. I’ve had some setbacks, but never again have I taken that dream from the place of honor it deserves. My family and friends understand and respect that now, and I have a partner who supports me 110%.
My main goal in sharing this story is to show everyone that your writing journey doesn’t have to be a straight, traditional line. There will be ups and downs. There will be dry spells. You may set it aside for years at a time. But it’s never too late. It doesn’t matter when you take up writing (or any creative endeavor) or how long it’s been since you wrote. Even if you’ve turned your back on it, as long as that dream is alive in you, all you have to do is return to it. Just like we do with each new book, with each new chapter, with each blank page, simply begin again.
It has been a long road full of surprises and setbacks and doubt. I am still learning and honing my craft every day. I still struggle with creative mindset issues. I’m still working on building what is essentially a startup business, and that is a tough nut to crack. But I never, ever consider the possibility of giving up on my dream.
I never thought I would want to be a writer. I never thought I would publish a book. I never thought I would dedicate myself so whole-heartedly to make-believe or that doing so could be the key to my fulfillment. But this is my life. This is my journey. And I am loving every fucking minute of it.
If creating is your dream, honor it, strive for it, feed it, and nolite te bastardes carborundorum.