I can't say I've always wanted to be a writer. In fact, there was a long period in my childhood where I really wanted to be a horse - which just goes to show sometimes it's definitely good not to get what you wish for.
Anyway, back to writing... I have always had one of the prerequisites to be a writer - I daydream. My school reports regularly said "Sharon would do much better in (fill in the subject) if she would stop daydreaming".
I did write some truly terrible prose during my school years. Most memorable was the piece written in first-person from the point of view of a discarded nail rusting in long grass.
Needless to say, I didn't grow up to be a horse - or a rusty nail. I was born in New Zealand and grew up a regular tomboy around the Air Force bases where Dad was stationed. We even had a three-year stint in Fiji when Laucala Bay was open. It seemed like paradise to me at the age of five: beautiful beaches, clear warm water, fresh-caught prawn feasts, graceful gauzy mosquito nets, citronella oil on the pillow at night, tropical storms where the lawn turned into a sea of frogs... though they might have been toads come to think of it. And once there was a hammerhead shark dragged up on the slipway down at the yacht club!
I'm lucky because books have always been a part of life. My parents were readers. Christmas and birthday presents were often books.
Both parents wrote entertaining letters too, so I always knew that letters could be more than "we went here/saw this/did that" and "there was rain/sunshine/fog/a blizzard."
But it never occurred to me that writing could be an occupation.
Having a scientific bent, I got a job in a hospital laboratory and trained as a medical technologist. First day on the job, a senior haematologist took me up to the clinic to learn how to take blood from a real live patient. Not bad for someone with a 100% fainting score at her own blood tests up until that date.
After qualifying, I was between jobs and decided to see the world. I bought a one-way ticket to Australia and, apart from holidays, this is where I settled.
I met my husband when a girlfriend and I were setting up house. We advertised for a "Guy, 25 plus, to share house" and we specified that it needed to be someone quiet. My friend was a nurse working night shifts and I was studying for exams. As soon as I opened the door and saw Glenn, I felt a "connection" - perhaps not love at first sight but definitely a sort of recognition.
So the daily newspaper was my matchmaker and a very good one it was too. We've been together now for twenty seven years.
The idea to write a romance came after watching a television interview with Australian author, Valerie Parv. It was a revelation! This was going to be my new career path. Just like that, I decided. All I had to do was put 50,000 words on paper. How easy!
Well... as it turned out... not easy, at all!
It took me twelve months to dredge up the required number of words. I posted them off to Mills and Boon. I was going to be an author! A reality check arrived sometime later in the form of a rejection letter. Thank goodness! The story was awful beyond description. And, even at the time, I knew it was awful... I wouldn't let anyone read it!
But I was hooked. I joined a writing group, discovered Romance Writers of Australia, did courses, put more words on bits of paper. After more rejections (still well-deserved!), I hung up my romance pen for a while and dabbled with short stories and articles. Even some bad poetry! But it all helped me learn about writing and voice and discipline (still need to work on that last one a bit more yet!).
When Glenn's job shifted, we moved to country Victoria. Suddenly, there was time to write... and procrastinate! Yep, I discovered that the easiest thing about writing is finding a good excuse not to do it.
Alas, some of my very best creative inspiration has gone into the excuses why I didn't make my word target for that day.
And now that we had five acres and a collection of animals, there were so many good excuses to avoid writing.
Anyway, I began fiddling around with an idea for a book-length story but I couldn't seem to get myself past the idea that I needed to know more about the characters before I got too far. And somehow I couldn't work up the enthusiasm to do really detailed character charts for them - I really wanted to just write the story. Stalemate!
Then I found Stephen King's autobiography, On Writing.
After reading that, I made up my mind to finish the manuscript. No complex character charts, no polished plan, no perfect pacing. I had a hero and heroine that I liked so why not just write and see what I found out. And it worked! I finished the manuscript! Fifty thousand words that I was happy with!
I even let someone read it! My husband was my primary reader at this stage and I'd regularly find him dozing off in the recliner with my pages lying on his chest. Since books by some of our favourite authors have also lain there, I didn't get too upset.
The Romance Writers of Australia were running the 2004 Emma Darcy Award at the time. I entered and my story reached the finals! When it came second, I was thrilled. The following year, I finalled with another story and came third.
After that, I became an enthusiastic contest entrant. These marvellous opportunities provided a deadline for me to work towards and required a small, manageable amount of work depending on the contest: a scene, a chapter, a synopsis, a partial. The judges were fantastic, taking the time to give detailed feedback, suggestions of how to improve, tips for plotting and emotion, pats on the back where it was deserved!
My journey from that first dreadful manuscript until publication has been one of fits and starts and has probably taken about twenty years. And along the way I met the most fabulous, generous people, published and unpublished, who have shared their wisdom and friendship. It's been a wonderful apprenticeship and I've enjoyed it enormously even if I haven't been the most diligent pupil.
I had my first manuscript accepted on the 25 of September, 2008! (see Latest News September 2008 for my call story)