For those of you who don’t know me, I’ll start by opening my kimono (or black leather catsuit, as it were), bearing my chest (And I’m not even tipsy! Go figure):
I’ve been nearsighted since the second grade, when my teacher, Miss Lawson, insisted that I move to the front row because I was squinting too much.
The upshot was a pair of glasses with lens thicker than the glass used for Coca-Cola bottles.
Another ignominious distinction: I was the tallest girl in my class, from kindergarten through middle school.
I also had the curliest hair. And since the rainfall where I grew up averaged 50 inches a year, my short hair (my mom’s preference, not mine) sprang into a Chia ‘fro even before I got to school.
Because I’m flat-footed, Mother insisted that I wear saddle oxfords. And not just the black and white kind, either, but black and brown.
We’re not talking “cute” here, folks. The operative word is utilitarian.
Or just plain ugly, if you will.
Not that I blame Mom. She was the one who had to ride out the the late night Charley horses which knotted up my calves, causing me to wake everyone in the house with bloodcurdling shrieks. (Flat feet is a family trait that none of our womenfolk are proud of, which is why we envy those of you who can wear stiletto heels.)
Keep in mind, this was an era in which you weren’t cool unless you owned a pair of white patent leather go-go boots.
I owned them, too. I just never got to wear them–
Until the summer I turned thirteen, when we had moved to a different county, and a different school system.
This gave me the chance to reinvent myself.
By then my hair had grown out and I’d learned to tame it by rolling it around frozen orange juice canisters, or by wrapping it around the biggest orb at my disposal: my head, pinning it into submission with finger-long bobby pins.
It was also the year in which I got my first pair of contact lenses.
Best of all, the pituitary glands of my male classmates had finally kicked in. Soon most of them were taller than me.
I was now the “Me” I’d always wanted to be.
At least, I thought I was.
Especially when, finally, I was invited to play Spin the Bottle.
But even after my first kiss, my first boyfriend, my first love, my first job, my first (and only) marriage, and my first child, I’d always felt that there was a piece of me still missing.
I found it in the process of writing my first novel, True Hollywood Lies.
Had I always known I would be a writer? Deep down inside, yes: I think that was the case. But my own detour went on for over a decade. I didn’t believe I could write a novel.
I didn’t believe I could sell any novel I’d written.
When, finally, I made up my mind that, yes: I COULD be an author, I never looked back.
Once again, I had reinvented myself.
You can imagine, then, how thrilling it was to me when my agent got three editors excited about my book, and it went to auction.
It’s just as thrilling now. Just last month, True Hollywood Lies ranked #9 in Amazon/Literature/Comic, and #38 in Amazon/Literature/Romance/Contemporary.
Even with a firm foothold on the path to building my career as a novelist, I’ve had many tears and fears along the way. You know: the typical mid-list drama: agent changes, editor changes, pub house changes–
But if you want to stay in the game, you learn to adapt. To keep focused. To reinvent yourself.
Believe me: the women who write this blog have fallen (and picked themselves up again) on every square on the publishing industry’s version Chutes & Ladders. When it comes to the craft and business of writing, they have experienced every high and low there is.
Survival is a constant road block on the journey to self realization (as Laura Griffin pointed out, in a recent post). The fear of failure (which was so aptly covered in this recent blog post by Allison Brennan) adds additional chasms for us to cross.
It’s all part of the game.
But if you don’t play, you can’t win.
If you want to play — and play to win — you’re in the right place to get inspired.
I know this because, in some way, each of the women who write here at Murder She Writes has inspired me.
And now that they’ve welcomed me here, I hope I can follow their examples, and inspire you, too.
Does competition egg you on? Does it fuel the fire in your belly? Does it make you mutter to yourself, “Hell, if she can do that, then so can I….”
Yes? Great. Then let a recent success of mine be the kick in the ass you need:
Just this fall, one of my books, Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives, was optioned by ABC television for a dramatic series to be produced by Jerry Bruckheimer.
I’m still in shock. I mean, heck, it was one of my orphans: a book that had been dismissed out of hand, by my agent at the time. (Yes, sometimes it’s best to move on!)
But placed in front of an editor I’d pitched during a luncheon –who loved my voice but not the book I was pitching her — Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives found a home, got onto bookstore shelves, and into readers’ hands–
Including Mr. Bruckheimer’s.
Because I hung in there.
If you aren’t in the game, you don’t get to run the bases, let alone make a hit now and then.
Writing is a tough business.
Many try. Few succeed.
One who did was Stieg Larsson, the Swedish author who wrote The Millennium series (The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo; The Girl Who Played with Fire; The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest), which, by 2010, had sold 27 million copies in 40 countries around the world. The last book in the series, Hornet’s Nest, sold the most books in the United States, according to Publishers Weekly.
Unfortunately, Larsson didn’t live long enough to enjoy his fame and fortune. He died of a heart attack in 2004, at age fifty: just a few months before the first book was published in his native Sweden.
Do yourself a favor: if you want to write — to make a living as a writer —
Just. Do. It.
No more excuses.
Yes, you can make the time. Larsson is proof that life is short.
Yes, you can develop the skills. There are TONS of creative writing courses and workshops, including many at local chapters of such trade associations as the Romance Writers of America and Mystery Writers of America. Find the ones that fit your needs and your budget, so that you become the best writer you can be.
Yes, you will network with other writers who will help you learn the ropes: about which publishing houses are best to approach, based on what you write; and which agents are actively seeking clients; which editors are joys to work with; and about other writers in your ‘hood are looking for critique partners; and why your book may be right of self-publishing.
If you do all of this, then yes: you will see your book published.
Larsson’s books have inspired a very successful Swedish movie franchise, which catapulted the lead actress, Noomi Rapace, into international renown.
The recently released English-version movie, which stars relative newcomer Rooney Mara (seen in character, above; and here, prior to her awesome transition) along with the latest James Bond, Daniel Craig, is also worth seeing.
The movies are different, and are excellent in their own right. If you loved the books (as I did) I’d recommend viewing both versions.
One thing that both lead actresses have in common: prior to the movies hitting the screen, no one (let alone fans of the books) could envision them as the bad ass anti-heroine, Lisbeth Salander. They were considered too girly. Too bland. Too blond…
Well, guess what?
They proved everyone wrong.
They reinvented themselves for the role.
For their careers.
And so can you.
If there are people in your life who doubt you can write that book, prove them wrong.
Only you can stop you from writing. From succeeding at writing.
From doing the one thing that completes you.
What niggling doubts keep you from your keyboard?
Come on, speak up! Anyone who comments below is automatically entered to win a copy of my digital eBook*,
I’ll announce the winner in my next column,
Monday January 23rd!
(Pssst! You should also read an excerpt, here–and then enter my contest for a $25 gift card to the bookstore of your choice…)
*Gifted via Amazon Kindle, BN Nook, or Apple iTunes Bookstore;
If winner does not have an eReader or app to any of those eStores, another print book of your choice will be substituted.