I wanted to write things ever since I learned to write my name. I started with letters to my grandmother like: “Der Grammey, I went on the ralerode trax today and finded a big pees of gum by the raleing. I piked it up and ate it. It was bananna. I chwed it till it did not have inymor flaver in it. Aftr I swaloed it I kind of thot I had sum majic in me frum the persen who first ate it. Mama sayed wat I did was veree nasty but I beeleeve in that majic.”
To this day, I remember that gum and the way it made me feel. I continued to write about things that happened to me. Sometimes they were pure non-fiction. But other times they were invented, like when I wrote a one page story about my father being Superman. He was an Air Force Fighter Pilot and often had to leave on secret missions he was forbidden to tell us about. He told us his Superman costume was hidden in the flight bag he always took with him when he left. So I wrote a page about how he didn’t need his jet on that mission. No, he flew in the plain air and directed the other pilots where to go. Because of his instructions, all the enemies scattered and were never seen again.
And then I grew up and became a woman, but not before I wrote hundreds of stories. When I was about 28 or so, I wrote a very long historical romance…with my 2 year old son hanging on my leg the whole time. I sent that manuscript to every publishing house in NYC, and the editors rejected it every single time. You want to know why? Because I was writing what I thought the publishing houses wanted to buy. I was copying other authors’ styles. I didn’t know any better.
After 17 rejections, I decided to write the book I wanted to read. Not a book for an editor or even readers. Freedom, at last! Freedom to invent characters that made sense to me. Characters whose thoughts mirrored mine, whose ways of doing things were my ways of doing things.
Whose hearts were offspring of mine.
I never thought to submit that manuscript to anyone. It was going to be mine, all mine, and no one else’s business because the heroine was so wild, so outrageous and different. She was not a romance heroine, Chickadee McBride. She defied every romantic heroine in the publishing rules.
But I did end up sending her and story in, and Avon Books bought her. The editor told me Chickadee McBride was a gamble, but Avon was willing to try her out. That book was THE BAREFOOT BRIDE.
After that sale, I never again wrote what other authors wrote. I stayed true to what I loved, what made me cry and laugh and be surprised. I never knew what my characters were going to do or why. I just wrote.
And eventually I became a Publisher’s Weekly Bestselling Author, which gained me a place on Romance Writers of America’s Honor Roll and the accomplishment of becoming a RITA finalist. I won Romantic Times’ Lifetime Achievement Award and Career Achievement Award as well as a Reviewers’ Choice Award for Historical Romance Fantasy and a Best Love and Laughter Award.
None of these things would have happened for me had I not decided to write a book that appealed to my quickness to laugh, my love for the outrageous, my deep sensitivity. . .
. . . or the belief that if I can dream it up, it can happen.