During my twenty-plus years in this career, I’ve met hundreds of writers, both published and unpublished. Writers of mystery, suspense, horror, inspirational fiction, poetry, westerns, erotica, literary fiction, sci-fi and fantasy, nonfiction, children’s literature — and of course, romance. Contemporary, Regency, Historical, Futuristic, any time and place their imaginations take them.
I enjoy talking to those other authors about the process of writing. What draws them to the type of fiction they write. I find certain traits in common among writers of those different genres. Some love research, spending hours reading diaries and journals and old newspapers and reference books. Others like interacting with their contemporary sources, haunting police stations and attending FBI academies and questioning doctors and coronors and weapons experts and anyone else who might provide information to make their books more realistic.
I’ve been asked why I’ve never written a story set in the past. A historical romance, perhaps. Whenever anyone asks me that, I think of something historical romance writer Shirl Henke once said to me, that she sometimes felt as though she were born a hundred years too late. She wasn’t the only historical author who has said something like that to me. So when people ask me why all my stories are set in the present, my answer would have to be that I can’t really identify with any other time.
I have always enjoyed seeing artifacts of the past, visiting museums and historical restorations, leafing through old photographs and diaries. When I was young, my family would take trips to Branson before it was the bustling, glittering tourist mecca it is now. It was still possible to imagine then what it must have been like to live there in the early 1900s when Harold Bell Wright wrote THE SHEPHERD OF THE HILLS. Silver Dollar City was like stepping back into that era, and I loved pretending that we really had gone back in time for a visit. It was fun, but I never wanted to stay in the past.
I’ve said a few times that I’m addicted to modern conveniences that haven’t even been invented yet. I remember as a child having only one television set, and that black and white. Fighting with my brothers over whose turn it was to wash and dry dishes after dinner. Hanging clothes on the line because we didn’t have a dryer. And — shudder — no microwave oven.
I wrote my first book on a little electric typewriter that belonged to my mother-in-law. Editing involved either using bottles of correction fluid, or retyping the entire page — and hoping to end on the same line so I didn’t have to retype the next page, as well. Using carbon paper as my “back up.” When I sold that first book, my husband took the money he’d been saving for a table saw and bought me a computer. It had a small, amber-on-black monitor, and a 40 meg hard-drive. The man who sold it to us said that we would never possibly need more storage than that. My first word processing program was called “Volkswriter.” I learned to use it within a few days, and I fell in love with “search and replace.” Now I can’t imagine living without my Sony Vaio and I use the latest incarnation of Microsoft Word (definitely don’t want to get into the Apple vs. PC argument here). Every morning, I edit the writing I did the day before, and I’m so glad I’m not having to retype pages!
Before I sold my first book, I was in advertising and employee training for the now-defunct Magic Mart Discount Department Stores. I was a copywriter, then wrote and produced slide shows for training new associates. I did all the photography for those slide shows. I was also the photographer for three weddings, which effectively put an end to my photography career. The stress of that was too much for me. Knowing how treasured those photos would be, and that they couldn’t simply be reshot if they didn’t turn out well was so nerve-wracking. I once shot all my Christmas morning photos of my kids without realizing that there was no film in the camera. Now I have a Canon digital camera — and I love it. I’ve taken all the photos in this blog (except the ones of me, of course, mostly shot by my daughter, Courtney), which means I have to confess to owning a Star Trek Uno game. It’s so nice to see what I’ve shot immediately without waiting for processing and to not worry about running out of film (though I do worry about losing the photos someday because the technology will have changed too much to view them any more).
As for music, I’ve gone from records (I still remember the thrill of getting my first stereo system for Christmas), to 8-track (still have a few James Taylor and Carole King tapes around here somewhere), to cassette and now to digital. Those 99-cent instant downloads make me very happy.
The problem now is that technology is moving so quickly I simply can’t keep up. I haven’t upgraded to HDTV yet — there’s nothing wrong with my 27 inch Sony. I still tape programs I don’t want to miss with a VCR, though I also have a DVD player for watching movies (no Blu-Ray yet). I don’t have an iPhone and I’ve never sent a text message. I spend a lot of time asking my son for help with various computer applications. And you know how far behind I am on the internet, since I’ve only had a blog for a couple of months now. I try to stay aware of all the new developments, whether I use them yet or not, so the characters in my books aren’t “living in the past.” That requires a lot of reading and researching in itself — sometimes I feel like I’m living in the future!
I had to laugh recently when I was walking through WalMart with my son, who’ll be twenty this week. We passed the toy department and something caught his eye. “Man,” he said, “the little kids today have the coolest toys! I didn’t have anything like this.”
Welcome to my world, son.