Everyone asks an author, "How did you get started?" My story goes like this. I read romances and historicals from eighth grade on when I sat up until three in the morning to finish GONE WITH THE WIND. I cried buckets, and I was so mad at the way it ended. I continued reading through college, marriage, and the birth of two daughters.
As they got older, I got busier. I went back to teaching. Didn’t read for fun for years. Then when my mother was ill, I picked up a Linda Howard book for escape. For the next several years, I inhaled romances.
One day, I uttered those fateful words: “I think I can write a romantic suspense, but I don’t know what to write about.” My husband’s friend said, “You’ve been off the board a year, write about the embezzlement scandal in the school district.” Thus began my writing career, which spans almost seven years and six books. The ride has been an emotional rollercoaster as I’ve learned the craft and made fantastic friends.
Don’t let anyone tell you this is an easy business. A couple of negative contest judges cut out my heart and my will to write. The most important thing I’ve learned through all the ups and downs is to never, never, never give up. My theme for newsletter articles the year I was president of my local RWA chapter was “Keep On, Keeping On.” In retrospect, those early contest judges were correct. Even though receiving their feedback shredded my self-esteem, I’m grateful for their suggestions. I needed to take classes and improve my craft. I did that, and now I’ve sold a book! :)
The blurb for VERMONT ESCAPE, my fourth completed book, is: Jill Barlow flees Texas after her husband & father are murdered. The gambling syndicate will kill again for the damning evidence she possesses.One of the unique aspects about the characters in all my stories is their age. The heroes and heroines range in age from 40 to 55. (So far. :) ) Jill celebrates her 50th birthday in Woodstock. Younger characters are often the adult children of the hero and heroine. The parents of the H and H frequently play some part in the story, giving the story line an intergenerational flair.
The characters have suffered losses and aren’t looking for a second chance at love. That’s what they find after suffering through various dangers and setbacks and digging deep within for the strength to carry on. Just what we all have to do in real life. (Except, hopefully, no one is trying to kill us!)
It takes me just over a year to complete a book. I plan for a couple of months before I ever type one word of the story.
After writing, about six months, I rewrite and edit for several months. I’m a plotter and use charts I’ve discovered in various on-line classes. Charts describe the characters, their goals, motivation, and external and internal conflicts.
Sometimes I find pictures in magazines to represent my characters. With all of that in place, I start writing with a fair idea of what is supposed to happen. Sometimes the characters take over and surprise me. :) A supporting character in VERMONT ESCAPE took such a hold of the story that I had to promise him his own book before he’d let me get back to what I’d planned. He’s the hero in my sixth book.
I’ve been fortunate to travel since retiring as an elementary school principal, and some of those locations find their way into my books. While writing is a solitary activity, no book comes out without lots of input from others: experts we question about certain facts, critique partners, beta readers, editors, and cover artists. This whole process is mind boggling. It helps to have a supportive family, which I’m fortunate to have.
Has anyone ever told you they thought they might write a book? Has it ever crossed your mind that you could write a book? What would it be about? With the idea, training, hard work, sticking it out through the hard times, and luck, you, too could be a published author. For those of you who've written and maybe even published, what's the hardest part for you?
Hope you like this excerpt from VERMONT ESCAPE.
Jill Barlow reached for her make-up kit and brushed against the one thing she’d been doing her damnedest to avoid. Her heart rate tripped into overtime.
The package she received days after her dad was murdered. One month ago, but she couldn’t face opening a reminder of the nightmare.
Pictures of her vigorous father mixed with recent images of his closed casket. Nausea hit. Again. Damn. Why would someone blow off her father’s head? She didn’t stay to find out. She ran.
She’d pushed herself on a four-day trip from Texas to Vermont. Emotionally and physically exhausted, all she wanted to do was unpack her pajamas and climb into bed. Habit required she clean and moisturize her face. Habit provided comfort when life was chaotic. Habit could get her through the worst. Or not.
Her hand trembled when she removed the package and dropped it onto the bed in her Woodstock Inn suite. It lay on the white coverlet like a scorpion.
She leaned over and with elbows propped on her knees drew in needed oxygen. A minute passed, and then she straightened.
“Okay, open this. Every time you’ve come across the thing, you implode, morphing into a quivering mass of mush.”