How it All Began...


I have been asked many, many times when it is that I started writing. Though I may not have written my first manuscript until my early 30’s, I’d been dabbling in the craft most of my life.

It all started with a great love of reading; being transported to another world, through beautiful characters and their complicated lives. I started reading obsessively at a very young age and began sharing Harlequin Romances with my mom when I was about 12; back when every book was G-rated and only minimal kisses were exchanged.

I was that kid, living inside my head, in my books, always wondering what if. By the time I entered high school and decided to take a Creative Writing class, I knew I wanted to write stories, but I had no idea where to begin.

After some very positive feedback in that class, I shelved my writing bug for the life of a young adult; partying, finding my soulmate, getting married and starting a family.

When my daughter was two, I began working odd jobs at night and on the weekends, so I could be at home with the kids during the day and still bring in a little bit of money. One such job was as a clerk in a small dress shop. I worked Sundays only, and though we occasionally had some good foot traffic, I mostly sat behind the desk and day dreamed.

On one of my Sunday drives to my job, I dreamed up the idea for my first novel…a fated love story between a married woman and her co-worker. Nothing like biting off more than you can chew your first go-round.

Like all my other writing since then, once I was bitten, the story was off and running. That long-ago book was written longhand, in a spiral bound notebook; page after page of my chicken scratch, illegible in some places because I couldn’t get the words down fast enough. It was a hot, hot mess of redundant words and too damn much crying (the main character, not mine), but it was a beginning. I had no idea what character development was, or that an outline even existed. I wrote willy-nilly for days on end while my kids played outside, sitting in the shade and watching my haphazard story come to life.

I never finished that story, abandoning it near the end because I had no direction…and because it sucked. It really, really sucked. So I tried again…once more with no character development, no outline, just a few random ideas that I pieced together. I didn’t do any research (why the heck would I need to research a love story?). That story was better, but still makes me cringe as well. At the time, I wrote around certain subjects, keeping it mostly PG-13, afraid to write the truth; that sex is real and it’s messy and it shouldn’t be breezed over if you want to portray how connected your characters are.

In any event, I finished that story and moved onto the next one. Keep in mind, no one but my husband knew about my little hobby. I wrote in the early morning hours before the kids were awake, and late at night whenever I could squeeze in a chapter or two. I’d moved on from longhand to a clunky laptop my hubby bought for me that didn’t even connect to the internet (I still have it, by the way). I churned out one story after the other, slowly discovering my writing voice, and learning by doing. One more thing I should mention, this little hobby of mine was never a life pursuit. I was too embarrassed to show my writing to anyone, and the one time I did share something with the hubby I was a mess of nerves.

I banked over a dozen stories – each 200 plus pages – weaving my way through each manuscript and setting each one aside for the next magical idea to come along. And they did…one after the other…and still I hid away like a little drug addict, writing in secret when I had time, amidst driving my kids around, work, and various school volunteer jobs.

And then 2010 happened. My best friend was hospitalized (again) in her fight against breast cancer, and my then 44 year old husband almost died from a massive blood clot. Suddenly what I thought of was a life long-lived, began to be measured in what-ifs and hopes. Life became real and the saying “life is short” had meaning in a way it never had before.

He, thankfully, is healthy as a horse. My friend – well, you all know that story. But in a way it was because of her (and the scare we had with him) that shoved me out of my closet of fear and I took a chance on myself. The hubby coaxed gently, telling me often that I should look into self-publishing. I still had my doubts. Could I really do this?

In early 2014 I wrote “Losing Faith”, a semi-biographical story of girl who lost her best friend to cancer. The ink was barely dry on the manuscript when I reached out to AuthorHouse publishing for help. Yes, I’d be “self-publishing”, but with their assistance (and I assumed expertise) I could get the book out and into readers hands.

It was then that I finally showed up at my parent’s house and announced to my family as a whole (manuscript in hand) that I’d written a book and it was being published. Clearly, they were all thrown – I’d never once even hinted that I liked to write - but thankfully they were as excited as I was. And as the news of the book began to leak out (courtesy of my mom’s furious emails to every single person she’s in contact with), I suddenly had all this encouragement in my back pocket and I stepped off that jagged cliff into the world of being a “real” author.

Believe it or not, not everyone I know or come in contact with knows I write. It’s easy for me to hide if I want to, given that I use a pen name. Easing into this crazy world and doing so without a thousand doubts weighing you down is a challenge. I didn’t even call myself a writer out loud until early last year when a friend of my mom’s said, “Aren’t you the writer?” I blushed (of course), nodded, and replied firmly, “Yes I am.”

My story is not much different than others out there. Sure, there will always be the one amazing writer who puts out a book and has instant fame. But as I’ve learned the past few years (after publishing my 4th book), being a writer is about patience and fortitude, always having to shove that damn self-doubt away so you can push forward. It’s a one step forward, forty-two steps back kinda thing. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

AJ

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