The first story I ever wrote was about two dinosaurs falling in love. I believe there was a girl stegosaurus and a boy T-rex involved. (Not the best pairing, obviously). But my first-grade teacher enjoyed it and told me that I would be a writer one day. My mother, in her usual no-nonsense Southern manner, told me that writers didn’t make any money. So therefore, I determined that I would be a doctor to make money and a writer on the side because I wanted to keep writing my stories.
My writing progressed as my love for reading grew. In the midst of complete teenage angst, I wrote really horrible poetry and stories about misunderstood nerdy teenage girls (aka me) falling in love with their crushes. And in the stories, their crush loved them back. In real life, not so much. I was an awkward teenager, unsure how to talk to boys and oftentimes more immersed in daydreams than real life. I was great at getting good grades, but ugh, social settings were hard to navigate. Still are, honestly. I’m an introvert with occasional extrovert longings.
One thing I’ve always believed in is love and falling in love. My parents divorced when I was thirteen, but even that didn’t discourage me. I wholeheartedly believed in the fairy-tale ending. And I greedily read every romance I could get my hands on, starting from the age of about twelve when I would steal my mom’s Harlequin novels and read them under the covers late at night. I looked at romance authors such as Nora Roberts as celebrities and women to admire. Instead of rock stars, my heroes were writers. Imagine getting to write about love every day. What could be better than that?
For years, I would start stories and then never finish them. So many couples are still in limbo because of my tendency to stop writing mid-story. For a long time, I couldn’t figure out what the point in finishing would be. I was in the medical field. No one wanted to read my stories. They weren’t good enough. I wasn’t good enough.
Then 2020 hit and the year started with my father dying in January. My dad was a complicated person. He was not an introvert with extrovert longings. He was well and truly lodged in the introvert camp. He very rarely left his home. But the one thing he loved more than anything was my sister and I. We were the center of his life, and I never doubted his love for us. He loved hearing about my accomplishments and worried himself sick when anything went wrong in my life. He never followed his own dreams, but he desperately wanted us to follow ours. When he passed away, I thought long and hard about what was holding me back from writing all the stories in my head. My dad let fear of people’s judgment hold him back from doing all the things he wanted to do. He let fear effectively cut him off from so many opportunities. Was I doing the same thing?
So, for once I finished a story. I sat down and wrote and wrote and as my friend Carol says I decided to finish the damn thing. I wanted to write about a heroine who was obsessed with love stories, but a little skeptical about real-life love. I wanted her to experience some of the ups and downs I had as an eighteen-year-old. I loved writing Ronnie’s story, and after Ronnie, I found myself writing about all of her friends too. The Growing Pains series is my ode to that time in my life when I was so damn awkward and trying to figure things out, especially guys.
Now I try to write the stories that get stuck in my head. Strong heroines overcoming obstacles to find themselves and falling in love with men that are their equals. That’s what happened to me. It took a long time and a lot of really awful relationships to get there, but I met my equal and he truly is my best friend. And I’m a little biased but our love story is pretty darn funny too (I’m sure I’ll write about it one day).
I’m just beginning on this journey and no, money is not rolling in, but the satisfaction I get from writing a good story is incomparable. Like any journey, there will be bumps, but I’m hopeful you’ll take this journey with me. Come fall in love with worthy heroes and heroines and lose yourself in their stories for a little while. You won’t regret it.