Search This Blog

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

How I Became an Author

I was asked the other day to share the story of how I became an author, so today that's what I'm going to talk about.

I'll be the first person to admit I never thought this is what I'd be doing at this point in my life, although I can't say its entirely a shock either. When I was in high school I co-wrote an unfinished book with a friend and I was always writing poetry. But it's also true that writing and reading have never come easily for me and the idea of making a career of it wouldn't have been my first thought.

I am severely dyslexic as well as dyscalculaic; I didn't learn to read until I was in second grade, after years of special classes. It would be fair to say that my initial experience with the public school system was difficult and there were other bumps in the road as I went along. Once I did learn to read I very much enjoyed the ability to lose myself in other worlds and to learn from diverse sources, but writing, particularly spelling, never ceased to be a challenge. I don't know how to explain what its like to someone who isn't dyslexic but part of the challenge is that when I make an error no matter how many times I re-read the sentence or word I may not see the mistake. The only way I know to compensate for this issue is to proof read everything dozens of times (including books) and even then there will still be mistakes in them.

So perhaps you can see why if you'd asked me years ago if I thought I'd ever be an author I would have said no. Its not that I didn't think I could tell a good story or had anything valuable to say, but I am aware of the learning disability that I live with and how it effects my ability to communicate in writing.

Two things happened though which set me on the path of public writing. Firstly I was in a position where I was not writing everything by hand anymore (which I had done previously) and instead I was typing on a computer which offered spellcheck services that helped me greatly. Secondly I was a member of a Druid Order in the late 2000's which required dedicants to complete a project to become Druids. My project was to repaganize sections of the Carmina Gadelica, and my mentor for the project, Ellen Evert Hopman, suggested that the finished project would be valuable to put out as a book so that other people could also use it. I had never thought to do something like that before but self-publishing at that point in time made it feasible. And so I did it, realising a small book of repaganized prayers. I was so inspired by the project itself that I went on to do another selection from the same source this time aimed at charms as well as prayers; this was also released as a small book and then the two were combined into an omnibus edition.

I was emboldened by this writing success to begin a blog, this blog, as a resource for the community. I envisioned it as a place to share research I was doing and to offer good sources for people as well as just to share my thoughts on things. Its undergone different changes over the last 6 years, but I do hope that it has at least provided a resource for people, if nothing else.

In all honesty that probably would have been the end of it  - I had no further ambition beyond occasionally submitting poetry to magazines or anthologies - but shortly afterwards I was approached by small publisher through a friend because they were looking for someone to write a children's book on the Fairy Faith. It was my first publishing contract for a book. Not too long after that I had the idea, inspired by a book by Cat Treadwell, to use my blog material as the basis for a book. I put it all together and submitted it to a newer (at the time) imprint called Moon Books. Why Moon? Several reasons, including that I had friends who wrote for them at the time and that I liked the ease of their submission process online. My first full length non-fiction book came out of that, Where the Hawthorn Grows, which is a look at my thoughts on Druidism* and being a Druid in America. From there of course I have written other titles for Moon, and I found that I not only enjoyed writing but seemed to be good at it. I currently have seven books out with Moon, two more forthcoming in the next six months and three more under contract.

Once again though, it probably would have stayed with non-fiction if not for another friend and a conversation. I hadn't written fiction since high school but I had seen several friends on social media talking about doing National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo or NaNo) in November and I kept thinking it looked like fun. I am always coming up with stories in my head but I had never written any of them down, at least not since the 90's. But I was talking with my friend Catherine Kane in 2012 about a NaNo project she was doing that ended up as a published novel 'The Land that Lies Between'** and when I mentioned having some NaNo envy she strongly urged me to try participating just for fun. In 2013 I did give it a try and I quickly realized that I genuinely love writing fiction, specifically urban fantasy, and to my surprise what was supposed to be a project just for fun took on a life of its own. I had taken to posting little plot summaries and word counts on my social media as a motivator to hit my goal and 'win' NaNo and I had several people asking me when they could read the finished book. This led to a brief attempt to find an agent (lots of very polite responses saying they liked it but weren't interested) and then to submit to a trade publisher. I was offered a contract on the first book, but I decided to self publish because they wanted me to re-write something in the book which was intentionally being left a mystery and because I knew at that point it was meant to be at least a trilogy and I was afraid if it didn't sell well the other books wouldn't see print. I am really glad I chose to self publish my fiction as its given me the freedom to write the series up to book #6 and to release new books on my own schedule.

I never planned to be an author but writing is something I really enjoy doing. I seem to be reasonably good at it, and I hope that my work on both my blogs and my books has been useful to people. I used to say, after each book, that I felt like that would be my last one and I wouldn't write anything else but I think at this point I will write until I feel like I have nothing else to add and no more stories to tell.

*I don't actually consider myself a Druid anymore, as my path has diverged from there and returned to focusing solely on witchcraft, however I will say that I still think Hawthorn is a good book.
**I highly recommend it by the way if you enjoy urban fantasy that is light and fun to read.

1 comment:

  1. I had no idea when I first purchased your book 'A Child's Eye View of the Fairy Faith' for children that I had already read another book you wrote under a different name! I had your book of repaganized sections of the Carmina Gadelica for years, and had read several of your Moon books before I finally figured out you were the author. :) niniann