My career as a writer didn’t begin like most authors. I wish I could say I wanted to become a writer since I was five years old. Or that I wrote my first book at the age of ten. Or that I have several books under my belt. The reality is, I am embarrassed to say I didn’t even like to read recreationally until I was out of college (I know, all that time I could have spent lost in a book…). I picked up my first novel by accident as I scanned the small bookrack at a convenience store while I waited in line to pay for my bag of potato chips. Map of Bones by James Rollins sparked my love of reading. Something about the cover caught my eye. Once I flipped open the first page, I was in love. The rest is history. I’ve been an avid reader ever since.
Anyway, even though reading was not a part of my early life, storytelling still coursed through my veins. I grew up watching and adoring films. Steven Spielberg became my hero when I was but twelve years old and finally saw E.T. for the first time. That movie made something in me burn. It made the impossible seem possible and seeded in me a desire that up to that point was foreign to me.
My childhood was a relatively good one. There are plenty of happy memories I cherish, enough of them that I don’t need to dwell on the dark moments of my pre-adolescent years—at least not here. Some might think it strange that I actually thank those shadowy moments in my youth. They helped shape who I am today. They made me stronger and fueled my longing to find beauty in the world. And I did. My extreme optimism has been known to drive some people mad. But I refuse to be bogged down by negativity. I will always find the light even in the blackest corners.
As a young child, movies were that window into the light. They showed me another universe, where anything you dreamed of could be made real, even if just for a moment. I was able to forget whatever plagued me at the time and simply escape. Movies not only transport you anywhere, they can make you feel everything. Joy. Excitement. Love. Loss. Sadness. Terror.
I wanted to tap into that. So, I pursued a career in film making and went off to school to study the art. Sadly, it didn’t pan out as I’d hoped. I won’t bore you with the details, but I will say I learned a great deal about the industry, enough to make me rethink my career choices. While I eventually re-majored in psychology and criminal justice—and later took a position in social work, I held on to much of the knowledge I gained while studying film. Unbeknownst to me back then, seeing the world through a camera lens gave me the perspective I would need later on when I eventually decided to venture into the world of writing.
Prior to me ever picking up a fiction novel, screenplays and poetry were the only things I knew. I dabbled in poetry for a while (I still have many of those poems. Nothing I care to share now—or ever for that matter. They weren’t particularly good.) I also worked on a couple of screenplays while at university. I even have several journals that chronicle my life as I left my teen years and became an adult. I might go back to those one day, there are some hilarious stories in there.
Anyhow, after I discovered my first book, I realized that reading reminded me of my years spent studying film. Except, reading was a million times better. It showed me the limitless possibilities that film can’t reach. I’d found my true home. And even though I reminisced about the time I wanted to tell stories through the silver screen, the desire to write my own story didn’t actually stir until many years later.
It was May of 2012, when my twins were seven months old and my eldest was three. I barely had the time or energy to eat, let alone write a novel. Sleep was a foreign concept, yet it was during one of those half-asleep midnight baby feedings that an idea began to brew. I knew nothing about writing a novel, except that I loved reading them. Yet, something in me spoke. A voice. Not mine, but that of a young woman who’d lost everything she ever loved. She had a story and she wanted to tell it.
It is not easy to see the light when you’re surrounded by pure darkness. Sorrow can consume you and drown you in its watery abyss. I know. My husband and I experienced sorrow when we learned of our first child’s disabilities. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such pain. I’ll admit, even this perpetual optimist saw herself losing her biggest battle yet.
Still, even though it felt like I’d hit the lowest level of hell, a part of me refused to be beaten down by this new challenge. I overcame that initial period of mourning. When you’re expecting a child—before that child is even born—you’ve already seen them grow from infancy, through grammar school, college, marriage, and you’ve envisioned your grandchildren. So when your child is born with severe special needs, and you know those visions will probably never come to pass, all those castles that you built all of a sudden come tumbling down. It’s easy to get lost in the aftermath of the rubble, until you realize those castles were made of sand. They were never real.
And that’s when it clicked. Once I let go of that burden—of the broken dreams that never were—I was able to embrace my reality head on and with full force. And that reality is the most beautiful thing in my world. My son is the biggest blessing to our family. He has made me, my husband, and our other two boys better people.
Point is, I understood sorrow and why “Sara” wanted to tell her story. While I can enjoy a good weepy book and I’m not afraid to ugly cry during a movie, I wasn’t interested in telling that kind of story. A writer has to dig deep into a character’s soul and pretty much wrap themselves in that character’s skin in order to bring forth their voice. I knew the pain Sara had experienced, but I didn’t want to be trapped in it. Not after just having come out of dark places myself.
So I chose a different route.
I’m a sap for romance and I decided I was going to write a romance with characters who were broken, but whose storyline was not going to be about that pain, but how their love for each other helped them overcome the obstacles put in place by that pain. And so…Wicked Dance was born!
It took five years to complete. I spent a great deal of time learning about the writing process. I crashed and burned many times. I joined online writing communities and made several amazing friends who have since become my critique partners. I had my share of rejections before I was offered a contract by the Wild Rose Press. Rejections can kill your morale if you’re not ready to hear the truth, but they are part of the process. I took mine and learned from them, but not before crying my eyes out with a glass of cabernet cradled in my hand. In the end, the hard work paid off.
Wicked Dance is my first completed novel. The sequel is a work in progress, and the other stories I intend to write are still ideas I hope to bring to fruition real soon. So I am not your conventional novelist, but I’m working on it. I’ve promised myself not to take another five years to complete my second book. I intend to keep that promise.
I wanted to share with you a bit of my writing journey because I think it’s important for other aspiring authors to know that we’ve all been there…some of us are still there, trudging through the mud, trying to get our voice heard. I sure as hell have miles to go. So don’t give up. We are in this together!