Marilyn Brant is a great friend and writer. I loved reading her story, and I know you will, too. It’s also my day for a giveaway, so I’m giving away DOUBLE DIPPING by Marilyn. If the winner has read it already, Marilyn’s next digital romance, HOLIDAY MAN, will be out by the end of the year, and I’ll send that as soon as it’s available.
We have a winner! Congratulations to Kate Sterling!
For me, becoming a novelist was a very secret dream… It was an idea that existed for decades, but only on the fringes of my mind. I didn’t know any real-life authors growing up and wouldn’t have known what to ask them about their profession if I did. Whenever the idea to write fiction would slide into my mind, I’d dismiss it with a swiftness that approached the speed of light. And for my fellow science geeks out there (c’mon, who else watches “The Big Bang Theory”?!), you know I’m talking 299,792,458 meters/sec!
There aren’t really “artsy” people in my family. No professional musicians or painters or actors. Certainly no writers. My dad is a retired chemist. My brother is a statistical research analyst. And just about every member of my immediate and extended family chose a career in the math or science arena—from medicine to computers to accounting. Everyone expected that I, too, would choose something similar and, for a while, it even seemed likely. I won my high school’s senior science award, started college on a biology scholarship and had originally intended to major in biochemistry/genetics.
Then something went horribly wrong with that plan (or delightfully right, depending on whether you’re talking to me or to some of my more mathematically inclined relatives, LOL).
I had an early morning bio lab one Thursday and found myself daydreaming as I stared out the window of my university’s science center. It was fall and the trees covering the bluff were on fire with color. The sky was a gorgeous blue, and I longed to write some kind of poem about it! I knew the air outside was crisp and clean and just waiting for me, but I was stuck in the lab with a microscopic amoeba for three whole hours. A few heartbeats later, it occurred to me that, no, it was not going to just be three hours…it was going to be days, months, years…probably my entire life, if I didn’t do something to alter the trajectory of my path.
So, as much as I loved science—and I still do—I realized I wasn’t the right person to be in a lab setting for long. And, although I considered other branches of the field that might let me do my research outside, like environmental studies, I really craved being able to express myself in a more artistic way. I wanted to paint the mountains and describe the rivers. It occurred to me then that other people who felt like this would choose to go into the arts…but the truth was that I just didn’t have the courage to do something so radical (for me) at that time. I did switch majors that very week, though, and I went into teaching, where I knew there would be a lot of opportunities to engage in creative projects on a daily basis…and, also, where there was a much smaller likelihood that my only companion for the day would be an amoeba.
After a few years in the classroom, I found myself taking a tentative step toward my secret dream and began writing a children’s book. I finished it, read it to my class of second graders (they said they loved it!), researched what I could on the publishing industry and submitted query letters to five agents. All of them rejected it. Every single one! I was crushed…because, of course, I didn’t know any other aspiring writers at the time and, with my lack of experience, I had no idea then that five puny rejections was nothing. But, since I didn’t know yet how much I’d need to develop the required thick skin of a novelist, I let those rejections stop me from submitting anything for a couple of years.
Then I became a mom, and the courage and persistence that had eluded me for decades finally appeared.
What happened was simple, really. I loved my son too much to want him to have to deal with a parent who didn’t have the guts to pursue her passions. A parent who might be tempted to push her unfulfilled dreams onto him someday. I’d seen this happen too many times with other people in my life, including with some of the students I’d taught. I knew I’d have to get over my fears and follow my own dreams, so he could see by example how to do it for himself.
Getting published didn’t happen quickly for me. There was nothing that occurred at the speed of light (or even a fraction that fast) when it came to writing my first novel for adults…or my second, third and fourth books either. I didn’t zip through the submission process, impress any editors or agents or sell a single one of those early novels. The rejections I received numbered in the hundreds before my fifth manuscript—a women’s fiction book called According to Jane—finally sold to Kensington in 2008, when my son was 9 years old. He and my husband were my biggest cheerleaders along the way, and ever since.
I still use a lot of science in my life, especially in my stories. One of the main characters in According to Jane is a doctor. The ice cream specialist in Double Dipping is a chemist. And the romantic hero of A Summer in Europe is a physicist who also loves the arts. My current work in progress involves an explosions expert…
But my son, who has watched the ups and downs of my author journey, has already informed me that he does not want a career in the arts for himself. He told me it looks like WAY too much work. His passion is to go into a math/science field, like economics or astronomy—go figure.