This month’s blog theme presented me with a tough question to answer. I never categorized my writing as a career, more something I felt compelled to do which was never intended to take me down any particular road. Comprising stories of places and times past was a way of exploring those days in a way which was realistic to me. I would create a family and work through the problems they faced which wouldn’t happen now. The more research I did, the more I came to understand that life in any time frame or location has always been a challenge, especially for women. Even royals could not always do what they wanted when they wished, and those who tried soon learned their mistakes, as in people like Charles I and Tsar Nicholas II who paid the ultimate price for stubbornness and vanity.
My family never understood my need to write, whether as a child, a teenager or a married woman with children. That I preferred to spend hours at my keyboard writing while they were out in the ‘real world’ while the dust gathered and the dinner overcooked.
I suppose the first person who ever told me I could write, was an online friend named Lisa Yarde, an excellent author herself who encouraged me to take a short story further. When I confided in her I was also writing an historical novel, she recommended I join the Historical Fiction Critique Group run by AnneMarie Brear.
That’s where it all began, and between them, Lisa and AnneMarie convinced me to submit my first novel to an Inde publisher. I would like to say it was all simple from then on, but nothing ever is. Publishers close their doors and sell out to other firms like any business, while authors and their books sink without trace without proper promotion. I have also been fortunate enough to find an agent who believed in me, so Kate Nash, you also deserve thanks for all your encouragement whenever I lost heart in my work.
My family do understand me – to a point – although I am convinced only writers can really understand other writers. Those hours of silent contemplation when composing a specific phrase or sentence to suit a scenario. The tunnel vision when flood, fire or earthquake can barely penetrate my concentration. And the editing - editing is something no one can appreciate or sympathize with. That set of fresh eyes on a manuscript that pick out weaknesses and inconsistencies I simply do not see.
‘The book’s done isn’t it? Why do you need to change anything?’
I cannot contemplate submitting a manuscript to my agent or a publisher without first putting it through my critique group - a small unit of writers who all know each other’s work and trust our judgement. If they tell me my storyline is confused or a character is weak, I know I have to change it – they never steer me wrong.
I would also like to thank Victoria Chatham, my writing partner for the Canadian Brides series. She has supported my synopsis for the story of Grace Mackinnon and agreed to everything thus far, no matter how sketchy I made it sound – which might change when we start picking through an actual manuscript, although I am confident we will work well together. Like her, I also appreciate the readers who spend the time to read my novels, and hopefully, enjoy them.