I’ve always been a story-teller. My earliest memories of this go way back, to a time when I was maybe five, or six years old. I remember getting tucked into bed, beside my twin sister, the two of us giggling into the wee hours. (The wee hours being eight or nine o’clock, before my fed-up father would yell up the stairs and tell us to zip it!) I would happily entertain her with my made up stories, just so I could hear her laugh. Oh, how her approval motivated me.
As a teenager I continued to write, a few stories here and there, but mostly poetry. It soothed my brooding soul, my teenaged angst. I had pages and pages of those bleeding words, recounting tales of my anguish, misery, and of course, the heartbreaks. It’s amusing to read them now, and revisit myself at fifteen. If only I could go back in time to reassure that young woman, that all the suffering would one day pay off. That those painful lessons had value, serving to brace me for even bigger challenges, with grace and dignity; to make me a strong woman, a wiser mother, and ultimately, a better story-teller.
I’m not sure why I didn’t write in my twenties and thirties. I suppose I was far too busy living life, focusing on raising three feral kids, with the hope they would, one day, turn into good citizens. Anyone that says that’s an easy task has never had teenagers. There’s good reason other species boot their offspring out as soon as they learn to eat solid foods. One, they consume their weight in food on the daily, and two, they’re nuts…and crazy is contagious! I know it’s not politically correct to voice that out loud, but it’s the truth. I’m just grateful we came through those years relatively unscathed. I guess I was too busy chasing my sanity to jot stuff down.
Writing was always such a personal affair for me. Yes, I shared my work with a few close friends, but I never thought I could earn a living with it. My father, a very pragmatic man, told me from a young age that writing was only a hobby, that it wouldn’t pay the bills. I suppose I believed him. It was one of many ‘practical things’ he shared that got stuck on the wheel of doubt, spinning through my brain. Today we’d call him a dream-killer, but I know he meant well. He wanted to make sure I didn’t get caught up in my fancies, and risk disappointment. How can you fault the man for that? Besides, it was the 80’s….parenting didn’t require the effort it does today. They just had to feed you three squares meals a day, put a roof over your head, and remind you once in a while, with a hearty smack, to stop being a smart-ass. They didn’t have to be your therapist too. Ah, the good old days.
Fast forward to my forties, when I finally got some time back…and a brand new laptop I didn’t have to share with three, sticky-fingered children. It was heavenly! I started to write again! Poetry, stories, and this new thing called BLOGGING! I could share my stream of consciousness and upload it instantly to the planet? I could change people’s lives with my wit and wisdom? It was a whole new world! I had ambitions, I had ideas, I could change the world…but in truth, I just wrote spicy novelettes only my husband would read. I’m not going to lie, they served a purpose, ahem, enough said. Then, one day I saw an ad on Facebook that changed my life. A publisher was looking for ghost-writers to write under his pen-name, in the romance genre. He sought authors skilled at penning words that sizzled. I just happened to have a few things I could send him, and three days later he hired me. I was getting paid to write.
Working as a ghost-writer has been an invaluable experience. It’s offered me the opportunity to develop my skills, while building confidence as a writer. I was able to learn the ins-and-outs of the self-publishing world, under the protection (and guidance) of someone else’s name. It was the best of both worlds, but like all good things, it came to an end. My publisher was ready to move on to other things, and we parted ways respectfully, with mutual gratitude. I enjoyed creating five novels for him, but I was bound to a specific formula and format; and now I could write what I wanted to write, say what I wanted to say, develop my own style. I could take credit for my work. It was both exciting, and a little daunting, but I was ready!
Like most of my stories, ‘Fated’ sprang out of a cool experience. I get bored easily, and make shit up all the time, fabricating stories in my head just to entertain myself, and pass the time. (If writers didn’t write we’d be chronic liars, that’s the truth.) I’ll meet someone who sparks my imagination and within minutes I’ve created an imaginary life for them; or I’ll visit a new place and the setting will trigger a story. That’s what happened when I visited Scotland. My sister and I were on a tour of the highlands and we stopped for lunch in a little town over looking Loch Linnhe. It was deliciously quaint, with small stone cottages built on the hillside to take advantage of the sweeping views. I wondered what it would be like to live in such a magical place, relaxing on an old, wooden swing overlooking the water, a book in one hand, a teacup in the other.
That image eventually turned into Meg’s story…a woman certain her fate is to be single forever. She’s content with that. Nothing like the heroines in the novels she devours, she escapes a difficult relationship, and moves from Virginia to Scotland, destined to live her life as a bookworm, happy but alone. Of course, it wouldn’t be a romance novel without messing up her plan. Enter the sexy, Scottish carpenter…
You Are Not Alone: stories of hope, by Lisa Browning