Writing was my secret. For a very long time. I wrote stories ever since I could pick up a crayon, but I didn't get serious about it till high school. And I had a ritual. It had to be in pencil on a yellow legal pad. I wasn't that good a typist and anyway I didn't compose on a typewriter. I needed that visceral sensation from a pencil. And further, no one knew that I wrote. It was for me alone. That first finished novel was a Tolkeinesque quest saga, finished when I was sixteen. And then I wrote on and off for the next fifteen years, finally switching to a typewriter...once I had one with an erase tape on it, though I used that as much as the ink ribbon.
I never told anyone or shared the work. It was for me. And anyway, I wasn't planning on doing anything with it. I didn't have any aspirations to become a writer. It was just one of the many artistic things I liked to do, like my painting, calligraphy, acting and singing, and later sculpting and wood carving. It called to me like any of those other disciplines, and so I just did it.
When did that tide turn? Well, after giving up the idea of a theatre degree and career in acting while in college, I switched to being an art major and turning some of that interest in calligraphy and inventing fonts to a career as a graphic artist. Which I did for another fifteen years in competitive Los Angeles as a graphic designer and art director. Those were fun years, those eighties, and I made a good living at it. A fast-paced job for advertising agencies and all sorts of small and large studios. Had I kept at it, I would have eventually opened my own studio with hired freelancers, just like I was. But life intervened. It was time to have a family, and after my son was born I wanted to get back into it once he was a toddler, continuing my work at home. But life intervened again, because in the two years of my semi-retirement the entire graphics/advertising industry had turned to computers, and I, alas, had not. And we couldn't afford to buy the computer or take the courses anyway. AND after living at home with a child, I felt I didn't want to get back into that hectic world of advertising. So I turned back to the thing I also loved to do and thought, "Maybe I could become an historical novelist. How hard could it be?"
When I told my husband that I wanted to give it a try, he said, "Sure, hon. I'll support you in this. But, uh, do you write books?"
"Oh yeah! I have boxes of them!"
I researched the industry, learning about query letters, that one needed an agent, and how to format manuscripts. I finally did get a computer, but not a fancy Mac for design but a much cheaper PC for writing. If Macs hadn't been so expensive, if I could have learned how to use them cheaply, I would have stayed a designer and there would never have been a Crispin Guest.
I wrote a LOT! At least one book a year, learning the ropes. Some books were great, while others...well. We chalk it up to experience. Unfortunately, writing historical novels didn't get me published. Not the kind I liked to write, that is, about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. But that sort of thing translated much better into a medieval mystery, where a fictional detective solved fictional crimes against the tapestry of history and real people from the era. Too bad it took be nearly fourteen years to discover this and my first Crispin Guest novel was published way back in 2008.
And now some of those historical novels are finally being pulled from the "vault" and seeing the light of day. Books that publishers didn't think would sell are now selling.
The first one I chose to stick my toe in the water of self-publishing was THOUGH HEAVEN FALL, my "medieval parable" concerning a crippled beggar who reluctantly helps a stranger who claims to be an angel.
And a few days ago, another from 2001 got the rewrite treatment, my Tudor novel called ROSES IN THE TEMPEST.
This new-fangled publishing paradigm where authors are being published by large, medium, and small publishers while at the same time self-publishing is a boon to the midlister. I'm seeing income I wouldn't have seen before had I waited--sometimes interminably--for a publisher to tell me yay or nay. And it's good to see these older books get new life. After all, a lot of research and hard work went into those books. I'm grateful that they are getting this chance.
I guess the secret's out.