So here’s how this started. I grew up reading like crazy. I heard the phrase “Caitlin, put down that book,” far more often than I heard “Caitlin, turn off the TV.” I carried a book with me everywhere. Few minutes before class started? Read. No fun conversation going on on the bus? Read. Waiting for mom to pick me up from ballet? Read. Not on stage at rehearsal? Read. You get the idea. I love reading.
And I particularly love reading fantasy (and I was a fantasy fan before Harry Potter so you know I’m legit). I remember reading The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander in (I think) fifth grade and loving it. Then in sixth grade I was required to get a certain amount of reading points per semester – books were assigned a certain score based on length and difficulty, etc. I wanted to get it all done in one shot, so I looked through the list of books that I could read and found one for 26 points. Hey, I thought, that could get me all 25 points in one book! I moved my finger across the page to see what book could do this for me and read the title The Scions of Shannara. Now, I didn’t know what a scion was, or what a shannara was, but it sounded awesome and I went for it.
And thus began my love affair with epic fantasy.
And in the back of my head, I always thought, hey wouldn’t it be fun to actually write something like this? Wouldn’t that be so cool?! Luckily, I had friends who were equally as geeky as I was – we would spend hours listening to Harry Potter on tape (ha- remember tapes?), drawing pictures of the Shire, writing awful fanfiction on mugglenet, reading pretty okay fanfiction on mugglenet, wishing we could take fencing lessons (which one of my friends did – we were all super jealous), or archery lessons, dressing as elves and princesses, and playing out our favorite scenes from both books and our own imaginations. In short, I spent my childhood living out the fantasy stories I loved so much.
And then came college, and I thought I should choose something sensible for my degree, something practical. I didn’t want to do English, for the sole reason that my dad majored in English and he told me once that when he finished, he realized his choices were to be an English teacher, or a lawyer. He’s a lawyer. I would do anything to avoid that fate (no offense to any lawyers out there. Just not for me). I would have loved to be an English teacher but decided against it, for whatever reason. I chose Public Health as my major, and loved every minute of it. It’s very me. Just a different side of me.
Let me insert here a mini-anecdote. Sometime during my junior year of college, I stopped by the bookstore to see if a guy I was crushing on was working. He wasn’t, but his coworker ended up recommending a book to me. Mistborn, by Brandon Sanderson. He said it was super awesome epic fantasy, and that -wouldn’t you know it -Brandon was the teacher of the science fiction/fantasy writing class on campus! Neat huh?! I agreed that that was cool, bought the book, and proceeded to let it sit on my shelf for a couple years, unread.
The next time I was supposed to sign up for classes, I looked up this science fiction/fantasy writing class. It looked awesome, and I finally had enough credits that I got first pick at classes so there was space in the class. But. There was a creative writing pre-requisite. And I hadn’t taken that and didn’t want to. I toyed with the idea of trying to get into the class without taking the prereq but eventually decided against it. I was pretty close to graduating and I didn’t want to get sidetracked.
And then, right after I graduated, I finally picked up that book and read it. And it. Was. Awesome! I finished reading the series and declared that I hadn’t had that much fun reading since Harry Potter. I love those books and have reread them several times. And I’ve been kicking myself ever since for not taking Brandon’s class when I had the chance. Curses. (Although, I happened upon a blog a while back where one of Brandon’s students started posting videos of Brandon’s lectures! I was pretty much shaking with excitement. I’ve loved listening to them.)
Still wondering about that book I’m writing? Don’t worry, I’m getting there.
Fast forward another year, which takes us up to last summer. Terry and I had decided to move across the country for him to get a master’s degree. So I quit the job I loved and we packed everything up, shoved it in a giant truck, hooked our car to the back, and drove for days and days and days. (Don’t worry though – we had Harry Potter to listen to. On an ipod this time.)
And then I spent seven months being unemployed. Do you have any idea how long seven months can be? Um, really long. Especially when your husband is gone for 10-16 hours a day and you don’t know anyone in town and have no responsibilities. Suffice it to say, it was a pretty rough time of life for me. I’m usually a pretty happy person, but unemployment knocked me flat on my back while it laughed at me.
I remember one day in particular. My whole week had sucked and I felt like a worthless human being. I decided I needed to reset. Learn to be me again. Enjoy the things I had enjoyed. So what did I do? I didn’t look for jobs all day. I stayed in my pajamas, laid in bed, ate chocolate, and read an epic fantasy novel all day. And you know what? It really helped. Chocolate, as any Harry Potter fan would know, can cure even the worst attacks on the human soul, and fantasy helped me find enjoyment again.
So I decided I was done with hating unemployment. I wanted to find something that made it worthwhile for me. And wouldn’t you know it – National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo, was coming up in just a few weeks. I’d heard the term before and had always pictured it as some wild, crazy-awesome, intense thing that only the most hard-core writers would attempt. (For those of you who don’t know – NaNoWriMo involves writing 50,000 words of a novel in the 30 days of November. That’s somewhere around 150 pages of a paperback novel. The idea is that you don’t edit, you don’t look back, and you don’t stop. You just write.)
It seemed like a ridiculous idea, but I’d always said I wanted to write a novel. I just didn’t think it would be in my 20’s. And I certainly didn’t think it would be done in a single month.
But what did I have to lose? It’s not like I had anything important going on in my life, any pressing duties. So I decided to give it a shot. After all, all novelists have one thing in common – they eventually just sit down and write the book, right?
I just needed an idea . . .
…to be continued