Ask a writer to write, and they will shrug, nod, and get right to it. Until you drop the bombshell that you expect them to write about themselves. Then, the cold sweat, the deer-in-headlights expression, and the excuses begin. At least for this writer.
I can tell you what my characters like for breakfast, their favorite colors, their hopes and dreams. I can even tell you my hopes and dreams for them, and yet, when asked about myself no words come.
So, let’s see. I hate commas. I love chocolate. My husband claims I have no sense of humor. (Sadly, he’s right.) My kids on the other hand think I am hilarious. I make jokes all the time. Like, if you don’t stop sassing me, I’m going to string you up from the ceiling fan. Or, do you want me to turn this car around? Those are always sure fire ways to get ‘the look.’ You know the one, the one like they just swallowed a giggle whole, because they are sure that I must not be serious but they suspect it would not be a good idea to say so. Smart kids I have. No clue where that came from, not me, surely.
Early Years and Education
I wrote a fair amount as a child. Mostly for creative writing class at school, or to vent the things that my teenage self didn’t really feel like sharing. Writing was therapy and a way to escape. Reading of course could accomplish the same thing, and I did a far larger amount of reading than writing. My mother passed along the gift of being a fairly fast reader to me, and I used it to devour book after book. Nancy Drew, the Thoroughbred Series, Babysitters Club, Sweet Valley High, the list was endless. It wasn’t long though before I started taking my mom’s books. There grew a love of James Patterson, Patricia Cornwell, and Jonathan Kellerman. I added other similar writers to my lineup over the years – Lisa Gardner, John Sanford, Dick Francis…so many authors enriched my life.
After finishing high school on the eastern shore of Maryland, I spent a year at Delaware Valley College before realizing it wasn’t for me. College was wonderful, but the school and I just were not a good match. Or rather, a few of my instructors in the equine program and I were not a good match. I intended to re-enroll at a different school, but yadda yadda…paved with good intentions.
I put both writing, college and horses behind me and I focused on what I soon became – A wife and a mother. For many years, being those two things consumed me, and they were years well spent. As the kids got older, I began to indulge in creativity once again, and I spent time scrapbooking and taking photographs.
Introduction to Fantasy
My husband has taught me many things over the years (some I wish I didn’t know) but one of the greatest gifts he has given me (other than our kids) is a love of fantasy. When you are married to a gamer, it is almost inevitable that for there to be peace in the house, you will become a gamer yourself. (Two characters in Cornerstone are named after my EQ/Wow characters.) And I did, but I didn’t stop there. Aside from fantastical PC games and console games, my husband expanded my reading tastes, starting with Harry Potter. And then a friend sent me Twilight, begging me to read it. I moved on from there, discovering authors like Terry Goodkind, LJ Smith, and G R R Martin.
Writing Once Again and Deciding to Self-Publish
Shortly after we relocated to Northern Virginia I began writing again, which by then I hadn’t done in over ten years, for the simple reason of needing to get these characters out of my head and onto paper. Chapter 17, Daughter of Stone in Cornerstone was the scene that inspired the series. The image of Riya at the stone pass became ingrained in my head and it refused to go away. I spent a lot of wasted time telling myself that I could never write a novel, before finally deciding that it wouldn’t hurt to try. I wrote furiously for months on end, and her story unfolded rapidly. I dabbled with the idea of traditional publishing. I queried a few agents, and I waited. The full manuscript was requested and I waited again. While I was waiting, I found a critique group and began to polish Cornerstone even more. (In hindsight, this step should have come before the agent step, but I knew nothing.) The agent liked Cornerstone, but felt it wasn’t for her after she finished the full, but by the time I got the response back Self-Publishing had already caught my eye.
Writing for the YA Market
I wish I could say that I chose to write a young adult series because I am young at heart. Unfortunately, most days I feel much older than I am. The characters for Cornerstone, and the books in the rest of the series jumped into my head as young adults. Admittedly in the medieval era young adults were much more mature than the young adults of today due to necessity, but the fact didn’t change that my characters had to face coming of age type of issues. I still don’t really feel like it was a conscious choice though, it was more a matter of following my characters on the journey they wanted to take.
However, I am thrilled that I did write a young adult book. Many of the books I’ve enjoyed the most over the last several years have been young adult titles, and I am a great example of just how broad the appeal of the young adult genre is. My Grandmother and her neighbors in her retirement village love Cornerstone, and I love Cornerstone and my friends twelve year old daughter loves Cornerstone. It is incredibly exciting to write a book and craft characters that have the ability to appeal to so many different age groups. My own daughter wants to read it in a few years (she’s nine now) and as a parent, that makes me really aware of the type of content that goes into books, especially young adult books.
I’d have to say that was the only factor that I really did target especially for the younger portion of the young adult audience. One of the only full length scenes I cut during my writing process was a more mature, adult oriented scene that I ran by some adult critique partners with children. Their feelings were unanimous that the content would have kept them from allowing their teens to read it. I truly tried to keep the swearing and the mature content to a minimum, but I’ve agonized over it. In Cornerstone we have two characters that are betrothed, and that leads to adult situations that I hope I am able to handle tastefully going forward to keep the series both realistic (or as realistic as fantasy can be) as well as broadly appropriate for even the younger fans. While I don’t personally mind more mature content in young adult books, it wasn’t how I wanted to write mine and the story itself didn’t require it.