As the descendant of a civil war scythe-murderer, I could be said to have murder in the blood. While I have been known to kill an insect or two when provoked, my own interest in murder is restricted to reading and writing about it.
Neither of the fellows in these intriguing photos (I can never get enough of old photos) are my actual ancestors (of whom no photos exist), but you get the idea.
What happened with the scythe-murder…. well, it’s a mystery, no one really knows. It’s another story, a long story, for another time.
To return to me and the present…
I never wanted to be a writer. Although I was a voracious, precocious reader from an early age, I never dreamed of being a writer, never thought I could be one. But my brother says I was always making up stories as a kid. I don’t remember telling him that, but I do remember the stories in my head. I thought everyone did that, that it was normal. Apparently not.
Even though I didn’t see myself as a writer, I did write fiction as a kid. When I was ten, I wrote my first novel long-hand in a booklet I made myself (this was in the days before laptops). My little friends saw me and decided to write books too and so my first writers’ club was formed. Then the teacher saw us and had the brilliant idea of writing a book as an assignment… And then my classmates hated me because they were forced to write books and they considered murder…. It’s a miracle I made it out of fifth grade alive.
That incident was traumatic and for a long time afterwards, I stopped writing novels. During my teenage and college years I was more interested in good grades and boys, not necessarily in that order, and avoided anything artsy to my great regret now. It wasn’t until I got to grad school and was looking for ways to avoid writing my dissertation in medieval history that I returned to fiction writing. What a bad idea, a very bad idea! Both my first novel (deservedly buried in a drawer with a couple of other novels) and dissertation suffered, and went slowly, excruciatingly slowly, but I persevered and eventually finished both.
Along the way, I came to understand that a story in your head isn’t quite the same as fiction on the page. Imagination is definitely necessary for fiction, but it’s not enough. Writing is about getting the words right. (Yeah, I know, how obvious!) Well, it’s not as easy as it might sound, especially for someone who never really wanted to be a writer in the first place. It took me years of hard work–workshops, courses, how-to books and articles, joining writers’ organizations, an awesome local critique group (see my Writing Life), and lots and lots of practice to get published.
I am represented by Helen Heller at The Helen Heller Agency.