All of my life, at least as far back as I can remember I’ve told stories. I’ve always been able to take two people and create a story about them, from the mundane to the elaborate. If you were to ask any of my friends from Kindergarten to 5th grade what they remembered the most about it, they would tell you it was my stories.
When I was entering high school my family moved from my small rural town that I’d spent my ENTIRE life in I stopped sharing my stories. Oh they were still there, only there were there for me alone as they helped me traverse the rocky road that was big city high school in the 80’s. I also took refuge in the little satellite library in my new neighborhood. It was there that I discovered the Gothic romances of Victoria Holt, and then the love stories of Harlequin, in fact I can still remember the ENTIRE plot and stories of my very first two HQN books. Books that if I ever find I’m buying. From there it was Brave the Wild Winds by Johanna Lindsey. Let me tell you that was an eye opener.
I’ve been hooked on romance stories ever since. So much that my stories changed, and were all romance based. My characters found true love as they traversed whatever my imagination came up with. I still never shared these stories with anyone. Not even my creative writing teacher.
Fast forward several years and I’m married and a story comes to me…one I want to share. So I tell my mother-in-law. She looked at me and told me I was stupid for wanting to write a story. I ignored her, and then quietly proceeded to write that story.
As I did, other characters and stories flooded my imagination. I suddenly had so many stories and not enough time to write them all down. Especially as I had two toddlers to chase. But every chance I got I wrote…and shared them with no one.
When my boys were 4 I went back to school for a degree in foreign language literature. This more than anything made the stories and people in my head come alive even more. This time I couldn’t NOT share them. So I did. With the one person I knew who loved reading as much as I did, only she wouldn’t tell me to stop. She was honest in if the story sucked or needed work. But more than that, she encouraged me to keep writing. My baby sister.
Slowly over the next several years, as more and more people asked me when I was going to start sharing my stories I thought I could. So I joined RWA, and then my local chapter, where I met my writing partner in crime, the other half of Kenzie MacLir, and I pitched my stories. And some one bought it, and then another person. And soon I had people I’d never met telling me they loved my stories.
I managed to get the most amazing literary agent, and things were looking up.
Then my personal world crashed…and in came the depression I’d battled off and on for most of my life. For the first time ever I couldn’t beat it. I’d watched it almost destroy so many women in my family I’d vowed that it wasn’t going to do that to me. But this time…this time it was beating me. And the words…they just stopped.
That was 18 months ago.
In that time I’ve had to battle for every single word as I had writing obligations. But new stories, new characters. They were all gone.
I did everything I could think of. I read books (so many books) but then I realized I wasn’t reading new authors or books. I was re-reading only. If I read a new book it was by an author on my keeper shelf. I stopped reviewing books.
Everything that made me me just stopped. I was just coasting through life. My husband noticed, my kids noticed, the friends I hadn’t let fall to the wayside noticed.
And then something amazing happened…
I went on a football recruiting trip with my oldest. We decided to drive instead of fly so we could see parts of the country we’ve never seen before. I looked at the map and the different routes we could take and settled on one. No interstate highways for us. It was all state and county roads. From Denver to Oklahoma City. We were going to drive through small town America. Places were FFA (Future Farmers of America) the 4H were the main clubs.
As I was driving, listening to country radio in these small towns, (places where there were no fast food restaurants) and where the oil companies delivered the gas to the farmers and where you shared the road with tractors and trucks. My mind wandered. It does this when you have no one to talk to, no social media to distract you, and the stories, the characters they suddenly were back.
I wanted to pull over and start writing…or wake up the teenage boy who told me “I’ll drive most of the way mom so you can write or whatever” and instead slept for 10 of the 12 hours we were driving. I didn’t…though I did stop at all the historical markers I saw.
I asked him if it would be okay if while he was doing his football stuff if I went back to the hotel and wrote…he said yes (but gave me that look) so I stayed and visited with parents from a part of the country where football is life. And I let the stories come.
When I got back to real life I wanted nothing more than to sit down and start writing, but I wasn’t able to as I came back in time for me to start going back to work full time. Getting my lesson plans in order, updating my class website, writing letters to parents. And looking at the calendar, knowing that in 2 weeks I will have 3 hours every day after school all to myself where I can sit and write.
And I’m so excited. Because these characters they are so flawed and aching for their shot at happiness that I can’t wait to write them.