Friday, August 6, 2010

Living the Dream

With less than two months to go before my book release, and to kick off the maiden voyage of my first blog, I think it's only appropriate to explain how I became a writer in the first place. So pull up a chair; only don't get too comfy lest you fall asleep. I'm afraid there's nothing juicy in this particular story -- no kidnappings, deaths or forbidden love. But I am rather partial to it, myself.

I was 12 years old when I decided to become a writer. My sixth-grade teacher assigned all of us to write a "novel" - complete with a cover of our own design. It was the first time I ever showed enthusiasm for an assignment; I was so excited that I wrote the whole thing that afternoon based on an idea I "borrowed" from a Twilight Zone episode about a novelist whose books come true. It was also the first time I received an A -- not just that, but an A+. Soon after that I saw the movie Romancing the Stone in the theater (yeah, yeah you can do the math if you must), and when I saw Kathleen Turner's book covers mounted on the wall as posters, this became the shining trophy in my mind's eye: someday I would have a book cover of my own mounted on the wall. A Young Writer's Conference in eighth grade really cemented the writing idea in my head, as did a few successful short stories in high school that knocked a couple of teachers' socks off.

While I didn't actually start writing a book until my 20s, there was no shortage of ideas, and oddly enough, my teen years were the most fertile for my imagination. I just discovered there is a word for the imaginary world I invented in my head: paracosm. The word in itself sounds like it's right out of a science-fiction novel. I had a whole cast of characters with soap-opera story lines that I envisioned on a daily basis, which were based on characters I had created in early childhood. Because they were foxes until I hit puberty (go figure, right?), I tried to keep the vulpine theme alive in some form. Thus the Fox series was born.

While my main character Jared certainly isn't a fox per se, you won't have to read much in order to get the fox vibe. And don't worry: while I may have created some of these characters and ideas when I was five, I promise you'll find the themes in these stories to be anything but juvenile. The three volumes are dark fantasy, and my daughter will have to be at least sixteen before I'll let her read them. And they gain momentum too; Shadow Fox is just dipping your toes in the pond before you get smacked down by the violent waves in the subsequent volumes.

I won't go into much detail about the grisly and bloody world of my rejections; I'll save that for another post because THAT story is almost as long as this one. I will tell you that while I was frantically sending out my first fantasy novel, several more novels were born. During a 10-year stint running a theater company I even tried my hand at playwriting and managed to publish a stage adaptation of Sense and Sensibility. I gave historical fiction and literary mainstream novels a try, and placed well with both in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest. While my reading taste runs mostly with more literary faire, I still have a huge desire to write fantasy. I don't even read much fantasy because I'm really picky about it. I just love to write it. While Shadow Fox may not be the work of a literary titan, I think you'll find it a compulsive read. It certainly was compulsive writing.

I still have that first "novel" I wrote back in sixth grade. It has the tackiest cover made out of hot-pink construction paper, with the title Angel written in my atrocious handwriting with a Sharpie. You can see where I got the E and the L confused and had to switch them; I couldn't even be bothered to start over. But I love having that reminder in my life, a tangible memory of where it all started. And guess what? On my wall, above my couch in the living room, is a 16 x 24 framed poster of my cover with my name on it. I stare at it everyday, because after so many years of obsessing and hoping and worrying, it's really happening. In two months the ebook will be out (Champagne Books), and in another three after that, I'll be holding the paperback in my hands. No matter what happens after that, I can actually say that I achieved my greatest, lifelong desire.

I'm livin' the dream, man.

To my fellow author buddies out there: did any of you create a fantasy world in your childhood?


  1. Woot woot! I get to be your first 'follower' - although I'm sure you'll have many more. LOVE your book's cover, btw!

  2. Aw, thanks Gemi. You're awesome!!!

  3. AH, how awesome!!!! I got all excited reading this because I know how you feel! On your question about creating a fantasy world, YES, I did. Thus, Zirconya was born! I created it with my best friend when we were 14 but the idea was there a long time before. Years before, I had another world that sort of transformed into Zirconya but back then, I called it Genesis. The first idea about fantasy came from an oddity that I had when I was little. Around 6 or 7 yrs old, actually. I used to "see" cats in the house at night(i had a lot of imaginary friends LOL) and I "saw" a HUGE one at one point that eventually turned into my character, Kieren, a black panther, in my book. Ah, memories.
    Great first blog post :)

  4. How funny. I did have an imaginary world when I was younger and I wrote my first book when I was twenty. (It's under the bed now gathering dust) Congrats on the upcoming release and the new blog. I loved reading more about you. My imaginary world involved ghosts and I used to haunt the libraries for true life ghost stories.

  5. nice blog, Ashley!

    I definitely had a fantasy world as a child and wrote all sorts of stories, but never let anyone see them for years. I had an imaginary horse who had great powers of perception...

    I think living your dream is the more important step you can take for your SELF-ness, and to share a fantasy world with people who don't know you is actually quite courageous!

    Congratulations and keep writing!

  6. Thanks so much everyone for coming over to read my blog and share your own experiences -- it's great to see I'm not the only one that had a rich fantasy childhood.

  7. Yes yes yes! Lyndaria, in my Legends of Mynos series at Samhain. :) Thought of the story when I was 13.

    My "heroes" in fantasy as a kid were Terry Brooks, David Eddings, and C.S. Lewis.

    Later, when I married DH and he was into roleplaying with D&D, I REALLY got into dragons and fantasy and decided to finally write "The Book" that was on my mind for ages. Finished it eight years later. Got it published.

    And the rest, as they say, is history. :)