Friday, June 21, 2013

My Debt to J.K. Rowling

Unless you count a brief attempt to write a historical novel  at age 13 (aborted after one meandering chapter), I have not harbored the ambition to be a writer all my life. As a young child I read as voraciously as Eric Carle's caterpillar ate, and the magic of novels has continued to captivate me as an adult. So what turned this reader into a writer? The answer involves both J.K. Rowling and motherhood.

Once upon a time there was a mother who (mistakenly) believed that Harry Potter was He Who Shall Not Be Read. She lovingly read all the classic picture books and new favorites to Daughter #1, teaching her to read from age 2 so that she, too, could inhabit the wonderful worlds found in novels. When Ms. Rowling’s books became famous, the mother grew sad that the local library had so many books unsuitable for her precious now-ten-year-old child and not enough fantasies to meet her standards. Wanting something completely different from HP (though she never read the books!), the mother determined to write her own bedtime tale to tell her princess. An image of a hedge and a forest and a princess grew in her mind. But princesses, or girls who become princesses, fill the pages of countless fairytales. Novice though she was, the mother didn’t want to write the same old story redone, so she twisted the fairytale premise around: What if the princess discovers she is not a princess after all?

And thus was born my first manuscript over a period of about seven months of first scribbling frantically by hand, and then typing and editing into the computer. Daughter read and enjoyed, and then the book was put away. A few years later I had a journalist friend beta read it and tell me she thought it was charming and publishable. Just for fun I sent it off to a few publishers, who never pulled it from the slush pile. The story was meant for my children to enjoy above all, so I brushed off the rejection and the idea of writing, except I dabbled a little with a sequel until life got too busy.

 Then last year my youngest girls encouraged me to try again. “Mom, when are you going to publish that book?” I think they secretly hope that I am the next J.K. Rowling, as in “if you sell lots of books, Mom, you’ll be rich and we can have lots of cool stuff.” HA! I haven’t the heart to tell them how UNlucrative writing really is.

It is flattering to have your children believe you can beat the odds, though. Out came the MS from electronic storage. Several (okay, more than several) overhauls later, it is close to being query-ready. More importantly, I wrote another unrelated novel and somewhere along the way more ideas with plenty of details have popped into my head. With two completed novels in the polishing stages, I know without a doubt that I can turn my “what if’s” into books and I am hooked. Whether I can hook any publishers remains to be seen, but if my writing future has a happy ending, I’ll be sure to let you know. And yes, my first acknowledgments page will have a nod to Ms. Rowling for her unwitting inspiration.

So, for those of you authors born without pen in hand, what inspired your writing journey?


  1. Hey, I'd read your story! It reminds me of Robin McKinley's fairy tale retellings--except her style gets so dull after a while. Or Wrede's Dealing with Dragons series about the princess who runs away to the dragons instead of being captured by them.

    I started writing as a teen one boring summer day when I'd been banned from the video games. I wrote my first fanfic in revenge for not being allowed my game, and fell in love with writing. Still writing, although I've moved on from fan fiction. My stories are like superhero blockbuster movies-- larger than life heroes, superpowers, bad bosses, and explosions. The fate of the world usually hangs in the balance. They're great fun.

    1. Kessie,

      Very interesting what gives a writer the impetus to begin writing. Superheroes and the fate of the world at stake-sounds like stories I would enjoy. Thanks for commenting!