I never would have guessed that waking up to a naked drunk in my bathtub and a heroin junkie on my couch would be the eventual inspiration for my first novel about a morphine-addicted Civil War veteran looking for redemption, but life is funny like that.
Yes, I was that good girl who ran with the wrong crowds. Call it “poor lad syndrome” or whatever, but I liked the sad and bad boys until I married one. Oops. Not so much fun after all. Yet there was that still, small voice in my head convincing me that even in the ugliest of situations there was hope for people—even ones like me.
I didn’t want to write because I didn’t want to fail, but I found failure anyway. In life there’s no escaping it. Everything I vowed I’d never do, I did. Every last bit of self-righteousness was smashed upon the rocks of life experience. After a failed marriage and a brush with death I was ready to write, not about perfect people but real people. If I’d have written my flawed characters sooner it would have been without compassion or humor.
Now from my place on a farm with goats and sheep grazing all around me and a strong husband of integrity building shelters for a menagerie of animals just up the hill, I see that second chances and late starts are not just something that happens in corny books. Life can be gritty and dark, but there’s hope. Hope for Civil War veterans, self-righteous military cadets and even authors.
It’s never too late to begin. Every bad thing can work for good. Compassion grows if you let it. Those things that fascinated you as a child are still there. I loved the 19th century ever since my mother read us Little Women before bed. I love corsets and hoop skirts (especially after wearing them for research). I have great compassion for men—bad and good—and love writing about them. I love research and sharing it in stories about people who always seem to screw up, but eventually find that the screw-ups aren’t as important as forgiveness and friendship. LOVE is what writing is all about.
I want to wear a bustle one day. Life as a writer is never about tons of money. I feared the failure once of bad reviews or not finishing what I started, but the life writing has given me is so rich and wonderful I only feel sad that others are afraid to share their stories. Maybe it just hasn’t been time yet for some would-be writers to dip their pens in ink and begin. Maybe today is the day. I hope it is!
All the best~