M.K. Tod, in her excellent blog, A Writer of History, recently posed a series of questions for those who “…think of yourself as being a second-career author…” Well, that is undoubtedly me. With my first book, The Scattering of Stones, debuting, along with a few more wrinkles, in early February 2018, I most certainly qualify. While Ms. Tod solicited guest posts, I decided to answer her questions here on my own blog. She’s welcome to use anything I have to say. I love her site and would be honored. So, here we go.
- Question 1: “What sort of career did you have before becoming a writer?”
My life has been a series of reinventions. First, in my twenties, I was a dancer and artist. Next, in my thirties, I was a mother (still am). Then, in my forties and fifties I was an elementary school teacher and principal. When I retired, everyone asked me what I was going to do next, and I always replied, “I’m going to reinvent myself.” I did.
- Question 2: “Was there a triggering event that prompted you to begin writing.”
The usual answer to this question is: “I’ve always written.” It’s not so different for me. As a preteen I wrote Little House on the Prairie knockoffs. A book of names that my parents owned is underlined in ink, a testament to my name research for the characters in my stories. I wrote in my Anais Nin style diaries incessantly during the college angst years. As a curriculum specialist, language arts and history were my specialties, and my career as an educator required extensive writing. But while reinventing myself in retirement, I delved deep into genealogy and wrote a history for my family. I kept wondering about the emotion behind the lives I discovered, beyond birth and death dates on a page. So I included my imaginings in the book, using italics to separate them from fact. When my son told me he liked those imaginings and thought I should write a book, I did. Then I wrote another and am writing another.
- Question 3: “Do you now write full time or part time?”
I’m obsessive. With research, blog, fiction, and non-fiction, I “work” about 35 hours a week. My husband demands an equitable amount of attention.
- Question 4: “What parts of the writing career do you enjoy the most/the least?”
Taking a few factoids about everyday humans, pulling them up from the reaches of the past, and depositing them in the world of my imagination? That fills me with joy. Having these characters take over my being and write their stories? How exciting is that! Researching a time and a place? Traveling to that place, and meeting people who have the same passion? I love learning. (I haven’t figured out the time travel thing yet, except in my mind.)
I’ve even come to appreciate the tedious: blocking out the story, editing, editing again, waiting for publication, editing again, and waiting some more. While “appreciate” might be too strong a word, I see the importance of these tasks. However, because I started writing late in life, waiting for query replies, editor timelines, and publishing opportunities is, well, frustrating.
The hardest thing, though, is promotion—selling both my book and myself. I was the mom who bought all the See’s Candy my child had to sell, a version of task avoidance. I just don’t have the hard-sell gene.
- Question 5: “What parts of your former career do you miss/not miss?”
Which former career? Life is a journey. I love the place I hang my hat.
- Question 6: “Do you have any regrets?”
Of course, but they have nothing to do with my various renditions of myself.
- Question 7: “What advice would you offer other second career writers?”
Beyond watching out for too many ellipses and the corralling of commas, get feedback, listen to it, prepare yourself to be hurt by it, don’t take it too seriously (yeh, right), and then digest it and learn from it. If you are doing what you love, as with any reinvention of your life, you will grow into your dream.
(By the way, besides surveys such as these, M. K. Tod’s blog site includes historical fiction book reviews and writing tips. Check her out here.)