Series: Questions from Readers

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I knew I was going to be a writer from early childhood.  I didn’t know what I would write because I didn’t enjoy reading.  In fact, I was a very poor reader. It wasn’t for lack of opportunity.  My mother took me and my brother to the library every week to pick out books.  My brother turned into a voracious reader (still is).  I just didn’t catch the reading bug until much later (after I married into the Rivers family).

We lived on “chicken alley”, two miles out of town.  Both of my parents worked. I came home to an empty house, though my great-uncle and later my grandmother lived in a cottage on the property. I carried on conversations (with myself). I spent my childhood exploring the hills, creeks, and an old graveyard.  I was more interested in finding tadpoles than playing with dolls, crashing my brother’s forts and hideaways than hanging around the house. I had a bike and rode it every day, sometimes all the way around “the valley”, pedaling faster down and up a dip to get by a dog who liked to give chase.

My mother wrote daily in her diary. She also wrote trip journals whenever we went anywhere, for a week-end or two-three week “camping” adventure in the family travel trailer.

I had no idea what I would end up writing.  So – to cover the bases, I majored in English with an emphasis in literary writing and minored in journalism.  I worked one summer as a newspaper reporter and knew I was not cut out to be in that career, though writing obituaries proved interesting. Everyone has a story, sometimes hard to pack into a few short paragraphs.

I had a variety of jobs before, during and after college:  waitress, summer nanny, playground instructor (planning activities to keep 40-60 children occupied every day for summer vacation), lifeguard, hotel maid, clerk for a researcher studying aberrant groups in America (That was interesting!). I worked briefly for the IRS, clipping and collecting articles on one (in)famous movie star.  Pointless. I wanted to travel and became a stewardess.  Short six-month career before marriage.  (You had to be single at the time.)  I then worked as a PBX operator (Yep, I’m that old.), a secretary, went back to college to earn my teaching credentials and became a substitute (K-6) in inner-city Oakland, then a preschool teacher.

My mother-in-law, Mom Edith passed me novels. I became hooked on fiction.  Westerns, gothics, romances, steamy historicals, Harlequin romances, I loved all of them.  I read some very poorly written ones and said, “I think I could write better than this.” To which Rick said, “Then do it.”  So, I outlined a western-gothic-romance, wrote in the evenings, and put the finished manuscript in a closet. He asked why I wasn’t writing in the evening.  I told him I’d finished the book. “Well, where is it?” “In the closet.”  And he said, “I don’t think an editor is going to come to the front door and ask if you just happen to have a manuscript hidden in your closet.  Send it out.”  I did.

How it got published is the subject of another blog.