As I get deeper into the business of writing, I read to learn from successful authors like Jennifer Probst and Stephen King. Until reading On Writing, I never read a single thing from Mr. King because I enjoy horror. I’ve been thinking about it though because he writes the way I think. His words are simple, yet they paint the picture more than adequately. He strings them one after another into ideas that make sense to me.
After I finished his chapter on paragraphs, I flashed back to the late 80s and my adolescence. I found myself standing in the bookstore at Champlain Centre Mall in Plattsburgh, New York. I must have been thirteen or fourteen, maybe older, but I knew I wanted to be a writer. There had been teacher, astronaut, mechanic, race car driver, actress, rock star, etc. Am I the only one who notices that this might also be a series of Barbie dolls? Since I only owned a couple and made my own clothes for them (fashion designer!), she didn’t inspire the careers. Yet, if a sixteen-year-old blonde doll can be anything, so could I.
I don’t know if Barbie was ever a writer, but writing was my one true passion. Many kids grow out of creating stories after a certain age, not me. I filled copy books, spiral notebooks, and eventually Word files. I started screenwriting when I was eight. I hadn’t discovered my love of reading yet. My parents loved TV, especially movies. I must have seen every Western, WWII and biblical epic that played on the weekends. Plus, Walt Disney presents on Sunday evenings. And I liked the comedies and musicals of the 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s that played on PBS (So now, I watch them on TCM).
Exposed to all that, it’s no wonder I started honing my skill with movie scripts. I can’t remember what they were about exactly. But at eight, they were probably about Barbie, friends, and school. I wouldn’t have written about parents, because that wasn’t a comfortable topic for me. It still isn’t, but maybe one day… Strong parents do show up in my novels. Some resemble my own parents more than others. One day, I’ll write about them. Will I share it with my readers? We’ll see.
At twelve or thirteen, curious about romance, stuck in a French all-girl Catholic school, I discovered reading. I was looking for an English love story in the school library. There wasn’t much available in terms of English novels, but I found one about a woman on a mountain, a cop with a bum leg and a killer in the woods. Until then, I’m not sure I’d read anything longer than a short story, maybe a novella. This story had over a hundred pages. One hundred seventy-nine comes to mind, but judging by the thickness of paperbacks, I’m going to guess that it was closer to the three hundred mark.
I loved reading the story. I probably had to sign it out many times because I was a slow reader. But I loved every word used to create that cabin in the mountains setting, the storm that trapped the characters, the fear, the suspense, and the lust that had me turning the pages although I could have probably watched twenty movies in the time it took me to read that novel. But through that novel, I discovered a love of reading.
Later, I would find myself in many bookstores because of that novel. Like an addict trying to relive that first high, I browsed shelf after shelf seeking my next fix. Unlike an addict, I have found it again and again. There have been letdowns. Back cover blurbs that lied. Authors who set up a great first page but couldn’t sustain the quality of the writing. Plots that didn’t hold up. Stories that weren’t stories at all. This was all very confusing for someone who wanted to get published. I didn’t aspire to write a classic, just a good story that could stand on its own two feet.
The bookstore in Plattsburgh had lots of floor space but didn’t carry my favorite selection of books, which forced me to search for anything passable. Here, I picked novels of different genres: romance, western, suspense, fantasy, sci-fi, biography, etc. All I knew was that I hoped one day my books would be on one of those shelves.
Now the worlds changed. The stores are huge and so much of the floor space is reserved for home décor, fashion accessories, and, strangest of all, gardening supplies. Every time I see one of those herb pots, I have to wonder about the thought process behind it:
- “We should sell mystery novels and seeds.”
- “We should sell sudoku books, magazines and seeds.”
- “We should sell dictionaries, high-end chocolate, and… (wait for it)… seeds!”
Is it just me?
Anyway, I don’t know if I’ll ever hit those shelves, but I know that I love writing. I do it with a heart filled with the first novel I read, the bookstore that left me wanting but forced me to discover different genres, and the destiny discovered by an eight-year-old girl. I dreamed of my novels on bookstore shelves, but I don’t dream of writing, I do it. It is an action under my control and a part of who I am. And while Promises is with my editor, I’m writing something new.