You'd think something as important as a new career would start with a bang--but my writing career started with a whimper.
I've worked in bookstores all my life, and I love my work. Not only do I get to spend all day, every day playing with books and talking to readers, but I'm able to put ideas into people's hands and encourage them to buy the books I love.
But working in retail means you're on your feet all day, every day, and after twenty years, it had taken its toll. My feet were permanently fixed in a high-heel slant, like Barbie doll feet. And they hurt.
I needed a sit-down job.
I decided to try medical transcription. I type fast, I'm a good speller, and I love using big words like desquamation and borborygmi, so it seemed like a great fit.
Unfortunately, doctors drone. And desquamation and borborygmi aren't nearly as entertaining when you realize they're happening to real people.
But I dutifully tapped away at the keyboard, transcribing my little heart out. Once in a while, though, I needed a break. So I'd bring up a new document, free my mind from all the depressing medical jargon, and start typing freely, letting whatever I was thinking flow from my brain to the screen.
Here's what came out one day:
A chicken will never break your heart.
Not that you can't love a chicken. There are some people in this world who can love just about anything.
But a chicken will never love you back. When you look deep into their beady little eyes, there's not a lot of warmth there--just an avarice for worms and bugs and, if it's a rooster, a lot of suppressed anger and sexual frustration. They don't return your affection in any way.
Expectations, relationship-wise, are right at rock-bottom.
That's why Libby Brown decided to start a chicken farm. She wanted some company, and she wanted a farm, but she didn't want to go getting attached to things like she had in the past.
She'd been obsessed with farms since she was a kid. It all started with her Fisher Price Farmer Joe Play Set: a plastic barn, some toy animals, and a pair of round-headed baby dolls clutching pitchforks like some simple-minded version of American Gothic.
Take Atlanta, just give her that countryside.
Well. That was way more interesting than pachyonychia or zooerastia.*
I kept going, and eventually learned that Libby was a big-city journalist fleeing a failed romance. Determined to live a solitary, self-sufficient life, she moves to the most isolated area she can find: Lackaduck, Wyoming.
She's looking forward to a quiet, peaceful country life--but then Luke Rawlins shows up. Luke is a genuine Wyoming cowboy who looks like Elvis, talks like John Wayne, and cooks like Martha Stewart. Suddenly Libby's not alone anymore. She's not looking for love--but she tells herself it's okay to have a friend who makes your heart beat a little faster.
I'd never written fiction before, and I loved it. I loved the feeling of discovery as characters revealed themselves, and the way I could organize real-life events to point out little truths about our lives. I loved living on another plane, among people of my own invention.
And when I went to my first writing conference, I discovered that I loved talking to other writers, learning tips and tricks to make my books better, and studying the business itself.
Then, when I read my first few pages in front of an agent, they loved my writing. At that point, it had a long way to go, but the encouragement went straight to my head, and I started believing I could actually get published.
Miraculously, that belief stayed intact despite the inevitable rejections and crises of confidence that every writer encounters. And finally, this March, Cowboy Trouble hit the bookstore shelves. Since medical transcription never really got a grip on me, I'm still working in the bookstore--but now I'm selling my own book right alongside the work of all the authors I love. So who cares if my feet hurt? Not me!
I know my writing career started much later than many; most of you Casablanca ladies probably knew you wanted to be writers from Kindergarten or so. But do you remember the moment you first realized that this is what you were meant to do? Stories, please!
* Actually zooerastia could be pretty interesting, as long as we're talking shape-shifters.