When I was young, I spent most of my summer days and winter evenings curled up with a book, frequently reading the same novels two, five, or a dozen times in a year. Not only to revisit the characters (who came to be good friends; you know the feeling) but to rekindle the emotions that the stories made me feel. There is security in the familiarity of a beloved story. Stories are uniquely human. Stories are life distilled into words.
I read my first “adult” novel when I was in sixth grade: THE ABYSS, Orson Scott Card’s novelization of the 1989 movie. From there, I discovered Dean Koontz novels, and I devoured half a dozen of them in a matter of months. I’m sure I was too young for the material (and unfortunately I’ve since discovered that my old friend Dean and I certainly wouldn’t share similar political philosophies over dinner), but I consumed them as fast as my dad would loan them to me.
Then, early in high school, I read my first historical romance novel, ISLAND FLAME, by Karen Robards. I don’t even remember where I got it, though I’m pretty sure it was in a bag of paperbacks from my best friend’s grandmother’s basement. My idealistic teenage mind and restless heart were hungry for romance, and the drama and adventure of that story was like nothing I’d ever read (problematic content by modern standards notwithstanding).
After ISLAND FLAME, I discovered Judith McNaught, Julie Garwood, Catherine Coulter, Virginia Henley, and so many more. I checked out piles of yellow-paged romance paperbacks from the public library, stacking them as high as I could in my arms, tucking them under my chin so they didn’t fall. For entire weekend afternoons in the summer, I’d lay on a blanket under the maple tree in our back yard, finishing a novel or two in a single day. Being a book-lover was a critical part of my identity, and I discovered myself in those stories.
Being a Young Author
Even before I’d discovered romance, as a kid I used to construct outlines for my own novels, creating characters, imagining plots. I’d tirelessly feed nickles into the copier at the public library, gathering research for the stories as though I were actually going to write them. I ripped articles out of my dad’s old National Geographics as fodder for adventure stories, tucking them into my ideas notebook.
Many of my ideas were saved on an old Smith Corona electronic typewriter floppy disc, never to be seen again, and my ideas folder is long gone. The one remnant of those old materials I still have is a dog-eared paperback baby names book. It is filled with annotations about which names went with which story, which name was a prospective main character, or supporting character, which was a villain.
Rediscovering a Love of Stories
Over two decades have passed since I picked up that first historical romance. Once I became a mother, I didn’t read regularly for seven years or so. I didn’t have the mental bandwidth at the end of the day to do much more than watch TV and vacantly stare at my phone. The fatigue of motherhood was all-encompassing for me, and over the years, the book-hungry girl that I was faded like newsprint left in the sun.
In the autumn of 2014, while I was away on a work trip, two characters popped up in my imagination. On that flight home, I wrote a scene between them in an Evernote doc on my phone, and within a few weeks, I realized the story wouldn’t stop with them. There were three other books starring their loved ones that would also need to be written. It took me years to finish that first story, but I did it. I wrote a book.
My Debut Novel
BEND TOWARD THE SUN will debut with St. Martin’s in Spring/Summer 2022. In the final manuscript, there are still remnants of that scene I originally wrote in Evernote nearly seven years ago on that plane home. Writing this book has also reignited my love of reading, so it’s been doubly wonderful.
Thanks for joining me here.