I grew up with good parents and challenging sisters in a small house at the end of a dirt road. My best friend friend was my dog. I was a nerdy, bucktoothed kind of girl, which turned out to be my good luck. While other girls went on dates, I stayed home and read books. I figured out early that I love a great story. Whether it is a well written novel or an old yarn from a backwoods storyteller, I’m always drawn in.
I left home, went to college, saw a bit of the world. I wanted to be a writer, but I had no idea how that happened. Do people move to New York and start wearing berets? I had no clue.
So I became a librarian. If I couldn’t write books, I could at least be closer to them. I also got married and managed to acquire a mortgage, a full set of special occasion dishes and a couple of kids.
Then one day, I thought, “is there more?”
I was in a fetal position on the bed sobbing when my husband came in and asked me what was wrong.
“I could have been a writer!” I complained bitterly. “It’s what I always wanted. I could have been a writer, if I didn’t have you and this house and these kids. I could have done it!”
He was very sympathetic…for a while.
Then he went out and bought me a computer, set it up in the corner of our bedroom and told me. “You can’t quit your job. But I’ll do the cooking and the kids can help me with the house. You have every night and every weekend. Write your blankety-blank book or shut the blank up about it.”
What’s a woman to do? I became a writer. I wrote romances based on small towns and farms, mostly at the turn of the 20th century. And within three short years I was able to quit my day job and write full time. I haven’t yet looked back.
Of course, it wasn’t always easy. My daughter, Leila, is special needs, which always required a bit extra on the mom front than the USAToday Bestselling Author could easily give. And my son was as trying as boys are sometimes wont to be. At a school counseling session I once complained.
“I’ve got one child who would do anything, but can’t. And one child who can do anything, but won’t.”
Being a mom is never easy, but I can report that despite my parenting, both kids have turned out well.
And then my husband got sick. Writing became my solace from the world of doctor’s offices, sick beds and hospitals. I never believed for a moment that if I tried hard enough, prayed long enough and followed medical advice scrupulously that he would be well and be home. And we’d continue to live happily ever after. But life is not a romance novel. My husband died as he had lived, fighting his hardest and loving his family.
And his family had no choice but to keep moving forward.
Writing and widowhood was a strange mix. I was pretty much numb for the first year. Can you write a book while numb? Apparently so. My children were in such pain, but we instinctively clung to each other, supporting each other, until we were all strong enough to stand on our own.
While my personal crisis was going on, a crisis was also occurring in the book business. The “historical romance”, which had been my bread and butter for my entire career, had suddenly, inexplicably gone out of fashion. My stories had always been a little “off the beaten track” from the typical romance audience and with publishing houses battening down, I suddenly found my services were no longer required.
After determinedly banging my head against walls for several months, I finally got the brilliant idea to try doing something else.
I came up with a new story idea, a different kind of story idea. A story idea that was not so much about falling in love as it was about an interesting woman trying to figure out her own life. It was fun to write and refreshing. I’d always adored coming up with those historical plotlines based on farming and funeral practices and ice delivery. But writing about the world around me, the world I live in, was very challenging as well.
My first mainstream women’s fiction novel was published by Mira Books in 2000. It was a new career, sort of starting from scratch, but I was eager and excited to begin the journey again.
And that wasn’t my only journey. I married Bill in 2001. I guess I thought that if a woman is lucky enough to get one good husband, she shouldn’t press her luck. But when I met Bill, well, I am crazy about the guy. And I wasn’t quite willing to let some other woman snap him up.
Or as my daughter, Leila, put it, “Mom, he cooks every night! Have you got a problem or something?”
The bonus prize for marrying Bill was four more great kids. All of whom are fortunately old enough not to be tainted by any of my bad-mom crazyism.
My women’s fiction career continues to chug along. I’ve had lots of great feedback from readers, some glowing reviews in newspapers and online. Both my last two books have been nominated for the prestigious RITA Award.
I’m writing all the time, when not reading, wasting time or floating serenely in my backyard hammock.
My main goal at this time is to someday have a much, much longer autobiography.