Each author has a unique path to his or her authorship. Some of us set out to be authors from an early age. For others, it came about almost accidentally or as a previously undiscovered passion. For me, it was my dream since age ten.
I still remember the first short story I wrote. We were about to move from Virginia to Iowa, and all I knew about Iowa was that it got tornadoes. So what do you think that short story was about? A tornado striking a little girl’s house, naturally. It ended with them all screaming as the roof caved in. I had a long way to go to learn the art of writing a satisfactory story conclusion.
The next year, I tried my hand at writing a mystery. “Mystery Man” made it to two chapters, my longest composition yet, and it certainly was a mystery—even to myself. When I realized I had no idea what was actually causing the strange appearances in the window of an abandoned house, the story was also abandoned. I have yet to try writing another mystery.
When I was twelve, I began writing “Lila’s Summer Adventure.” I hand-wrote fifteen chapters and would read each one out loud to the school district’s homeschool coordinator at our weekly meetings. She taught typing to my brother and me, and I began to gradually type my chapters onto our first-ever monstrosity of a desktop computer at home.
Around that time, I began writing regular short stories and putting them in a printed “newsletter” called “God’s Great Big World” which I foisted on all of my friends, far and near. My parents were super supportive and paid for a lot of postage for my six-page-and-stapled monthly production. My best friend and I also began “The Book Writers’ Club.” I was the president and demanded we each produce one short story per month or add one new chapter to a longer story.
When I was fourteen, I began another book. I was crazy about horses, so as you might expect, this story was about a fourteen-year-old who was…crazy about horses. I was also beginning to notice boys, so this story was my first to include a romantic sub-plot for the teenagers. But since I wasn’t allowed to date, my copycat character stuck her nose up at her bad-boy neighbor who loved to throw winks at her, even though he was “drop-dead gorgeous.” She was too busy having Bible studies with her new Christian friend for romance.
I labored intensely on this story for a year, concluding with twenty chapters. After each chapter written by hand, I typed it, printed it double-spaced, edited it, reprinted it, and shared it with a friend at church. The next week she would return it with her thoughts, and I would edit it one more time. This process created a surprisingly clean draft by the end. Then one day, I popped the manuscript in the mail with a self-addressed stamped envelope, on its way to a religious publisher. I never even considered that they might not want it. WHO wouldn’t want a novel written by a fourteen-year-old? Two weeks later, an ominously thick envelope, with my handwritten return address front and center, appeared in our mailbox with a polite rejection letter.
I was devastated. Shocked. Broken.
Reality can be cruel.
I didn’t write again for a year, but I love crafting stories too much to ever stop. Eventually, I tried my hand at some historical YA stories, but none of them got past the first few chapters. It wasn’t until my junior year of college when I enrolled in a creative writing workshop-style class that I began another book. I recycled some of the characters from my rejected manuscript, including the main character Shannon, but made her seventeen instead, as it suited my new plotline better, and changed many of the side characters and the location. The winking bad-boy neighbor was a permanent fixture, though. I have a thing for redeeming bad boys.
It took eight years to complete that manuscript, and then I was terrified to do anything with it. After several more years of rigorous editing, I started sending query letters to Christian literary agents. I mostly got non-responses, along with a few polite no-thank-yous. In early 2019, after researching the growing industry of independent publishing, I decided to go that route, and I still thought I would become a best-seller. I knew nothing of genres and market expectations or publishing in general. I was in for some more cruel reality checks. A New Shade of Paint didn’t fit into any niche, and I had no idea how to market. It took me forever to even realize it could loosely be considered coming-of-age Christian fiction. I had more stories in the series planned, but since Book 1 wasn’t selling great, I wasn’t sure if it was worth it.
I noticed that romance was a huge genre. So, I thought, why not write some shorter Christian romance that will sell better to fund my passion projects? It was a great idea, but in more cruel reality, I couldn’t figure out how to make my Christian romance sell all that better than my coming-of-age fiction. However, I had an epiphany. I discovered that I LOVE WRITING ROMANCE! So, my project to fund my passion project became…a new passion project.
I now have ten published Christian romance titles and three coming-of-age Christian fiction novels. While I am beyond grateful for a small but loyal fan base, even if my books didn’t sell at all, I can’t imagine ever stopping writing. It’s part of who I am and has been since I was ten years old.