Ten years ago, on April 1, 2006, I wrote the first word of my first book.
Sometimes it’s easy to pinpoint those moments in your life where everything changes. When you look across the room and say to yourself, I’m going to marry him. Or stare down at those two pink lines on the pregnancy test, when you’re only twenty-two and been married for a month and a half and are living on only $800 a month because you’re both still in school and my God how is this going to work?
And sometimes it’s a bit harder to remember.
Until I was eleven, my parents tell me they thought I was going to be a ‘hippy’. I wandered through the trees, swamp, and fields of our 2 ½ acre lot, making up poetry and songs and singing them to myself. I’m not sure what happened by the time I’d turned twelve, whether family pressures or the realities of school changed me, but it was like I put all that creativity and whimsicalness into a box on a high shelf in my mind. By the time I was in my late-teens, I routinely told people: ‘I haven’t a creative bone in my body.’ It makes me sad to think of all those years where I thought the creative side of me didn’t exist.
When I was in my twenties and a full-time mother of two, my husband and I took our family to a picnic with his graduate school department. I was pleased at how friendly and accepting everyone seemed.
And then one of the other graduate students turned to me out of the blue and said, ‘do you really think you can jump back into a job after staying home with your kids for five or ten years?’
I remember staring at him, not knowing what to say. It wasn’t that I hadn’t thought about it, but that it didn’t matter—it couldn’t matter—because I had this job to do and the consequences of staying home with my kids were something I’d just have to face when the time came.
Fast forward ten years and it was clear that this friend had been right in his incredulity. I was earning $15/hr. as a contract anthropologist, trying to supplement our income while at the same time holding down the fort at home. I remember the day it became clear that this wasn’t working. I was simultaneously folding laundry, cooking dinner, and slogging through a report I didn’t want to write, trying to get it all in before the baby (number four, by now) woke up. I put my head down, right there on the dryer, and cried.
It was time to seek another path. Time to follow my heart and do what I’d wanted to do for a long time, but hadn’t had the courage, or the belief in myself to make it happen.
At the age of thirty-seven, I started my first novel, just to see if I could. I wrote it in six weeks and it was bad in a way that all first books are bad. It was about elves and magic stones and will never see the light of day. But it taught me, I can do this!
Even though I still think of myself as staid, my extended family apparently has already decided that those years where I showed little creativity were just a phase. Not long ago, my husband told me of several conversations he had, either with cousins or aunts or ones he just overheard, in which it became clear they thought I was so alternative and creative—so far off the map—that I didn’t even remember there was a map.
My husband told me, ‘give it five years,’ and in the five years that followed, I experienced rejection along my newfound path. A lot of it. Over seventy agents, and then dozens and dozens of editors (once I found an agent), read my books and passed them over. Again and again.
But what my husband meant, which he told me later, though it wasn’t what I heard when he said it, was that he hadn’t said, ‘give it five years and see if you’re making any money’, but rather ‘give it five years and see if you still love it’.
It had been 4 1/2 years in September of 2010 when my agent gave me The Last Pendragon back and said he couldn’t sell it after a year and a half of trying. Throwing caution to the winds, I uploaded it to Barnes and Noble for free … and gave away 10,000 copies in 3 months. At the end of December, I received an email from a reader who told me that she liked the book but that she would have paid for it–and to please not give away my books anymore.
I still give them away, but that was the push I needed and on December 28, 2010, I uploaded The Last Pendragon to Amazon. In the subsequent weeks I added Footsteps in Time and Prince of Time, other books I hadn’t been able to sell … and sold 22 books the whole month: three to me; three to my mom; three to my writing partner. You get the picture.
But in February, 52 books sold. In March, I sold 282, and on March 19, 2011, I published Daughter of Time and my life changed. It sold over 1000 copies in April, and my writing career became a career instead of a hobby.
And as it turned out, my first paycheck from Amazon came on March 31, 2011, five years after I first put fingers to keyboard. And as it turned out, while the money allows me to feed my family, I really do still love writing.
My years as a published author now equal my years as an unpublished one, and ten years ago, even if I’d dreamt of being a published author, where I am now would have been beyond my wildest imagination. To have sold nearly half a million books, to be supporting my family as an indie author, was at the time an impossible dream. The Kindle didn’t yet exist! Through writing, I’ve found a community of other writers, support and friendship from people I hadn’t known existed a few years ago.
And best of all, thousands of readers have found my books. In the end, it is you, my readers, who make my job the best in the world.
Thank you for reading and enjoying my books. Here’s to the next ten years …