I started writing romance in my late forties, saw my first contract around age 51, and at age 52 have four books on the shelves—for which I’m very grateful. To appearances, I got a late start, but a good one, in the published author biz.
And I was lucky—I didn’t have to do much pitching, didn’t have to query a zillion agents, didn’t have to revise and resubmit a dozen books. I wrote a few manuscripts, sent them around to some contests, pitched an editor, and here we are, several Regency romances later, loving life.
Except that characterization, while not deceptive, is not accurate either. Trace the threads of my writing story back to their origins, and you’ll see me forty years ago, being lent a copy of “The Wolf and the Dove” by a junior high acquaintance. Trace them back further, and you’ll find me reading my eyes bloodshot at the age of eight, when I got hold of my first Hardy Boys adventure (never did find much of interest about Nancy Drew). When I was seven, I started keeping my first journal—large print before it was popular.
Roll forward, and I’m in college pursuing political science and music history degrees, while I work on the campus newspaper as an arts reporter, copy editor, and arts editor. I learned AP style, got some writing basics down, and laid the groundwork to do some concert reviews for The Washington Post. I also landed a couple jobs after college as a technical writer and editor, (and learned that proofreading is not my thang).
It never once occurred to me to pursue writing fiction professionally. I was a musician, a document production coordinator, technical editor, a lawyer, a mediator… “Commercial fiction,” I said as I bought every Mary Balogh, Loretta Chase and Judith Ivory I could find, “is for people with writing talent, tenacity and imagination.”
I did not consider myself a writer, even though in law school I had to write one term paper after another. I endured this (while working full time and taking on single parenting) solely by reading a half dozen romances every week. For my master’s degree, my advisor let me write a romance novel that evaluated the American legal system from a conflict management viewpoint (which I also endured by consuming romance novels voraciously).
By the time I “started” writing romance novels for fun, I had read at least 12,000 romances, I had filled at least 100 handwritten journals, I had memorized two style manuals (though I’ve forgotten GPO style number rules, thank God), and published at least 200 byline articles. The only person in my family who was surprised when I was offered a contract so soon after I “started” to write was me.
The point of this diatribe is to note that I had no idea what I was beginning when I read “The Wolf and the Dove” all those decades ago.
Beginnings are usually invisible, and this is a wonderful thing. Every day, going about your usual routine, you are very likely sowing the seeds for entire new careers, whether you know it or not. You are nurturing dreams, fertilizing hopes, and finding the keys to doors you can’t even see yet. See your day as an accumulation of clues to the treasure map of your future, and everything takes on the aspect of a wonderful new beginning.
What about you? How far back did your current dream start and at the time, could you see where those threads were leading?