“Shall I tell you the story of Jack in the glory?”
“Shall I begin it?”
“That’s all that’s in it.”
That utterly silly sequence of questions was a common joke among children when I was little, and there would always be some poor soul who would fall for it and be left bitterly disappointed while the narrator cackled with glee.
My sister asked me the first two questions one night. We must have been very young–we still shared a room and even a bed. She did not end the sequence in the usual way, however. She told the story of Jack in the Glory, making it up as she went, and it went on night by night in serial form. She would always stop at a point of cliffhanging suspense or when our mother called up from downstairs promising dire consequences if we did not stop talking and go to sleep. The dire consequence was usually an hour of Saturday morning spent sitting on hard kitchen chairs without books or any other form of entertainment, including conversation. It was cruel and unusual, let me tell you!
I can’t remember if my determination to be a writer came before those nightly stories or not, but I do know that at a very early age I was telling anyone who asked that when I grew up I was going to be an authoress. And it was not a mere pipe dream. Both my sister and I used to fill notebooks with our stories (oh, that I had kept some of them!), all of them full of wild, happily and triumphantly resolved adventures involving children. It’s no wonder I ended up writing romance. I remember as a ten-year-old being assigned a story in school that had to begin with the sentence, “Rat-a-tat went the postman on the door.” And off went Mary’s imagination on a wild ride. While everyone else in the class finished their stories within the half hour, I had to be given extensions for the next week to finish my 25-page story (and, oh, would that I had kept THAT!). My teacher and headmistress entered it in a competition, and I won a box full of Cadbury’s chocolate bars. This was during the post-WWII years when rationing had only just stopped and luxury goods were scarce even when one could afford them. I couldn’t have been more excited if that box had contained gold bars.
When I grew up, of course, it was to the sad discovery that I needed to eat (more than chocolate bars) and so I became an English teacher and moved to Canada from Wales. And then, inevitably, I fell in love and married and had three children. Life was full and busy. The dream seemed dead. Two things revived it, in addition to the fact that my children grew beyond the demands of early infancy:
(1) I pulled a Harlequin romance (Anne Mather’s No Gentle Possession) out of a Corn Flakes box, almost threw it away, and read it instead. I was enchanted. At the same time, I thought it looked easy to write and so dashed off two books of my own and sent them off to Harlequin with the idea of becoming instantly rich. Ha! Both books, quite deservedly, were rejected with the curtest of rejection letters. And no, I don’t still have either book, and no, I don’t wish I did.
(2) I discovered the Regency and Georgian romances of Georgette Heyer rather late in life, fell irrevocably in love with them and the world she created, and knew that THIS was what I must write for myself, creating my own world about the same historical period.
And this is my Jack-in-the-Glory story. I know every writer has a totally different one. Some writers do not know that is what they want to do until they sit down to produce their first book. Others, like me, were born to write, though their path to actually doing it was very different from mine. We are all different–thank goodness. Life would be dreary without variety.
To one person who leaves a comment before the end of next Tuesday, August 13, I will send a CD audio copy of either FIRST COMES MARRIAGE or THEN COMES SEDUCTION, or AT LAST COMES LOVE. Last week’s winner was Melissa Tarun. Congratulations to her, and thank you to all of you who left such interesting comments.