I’ve always had voices in my head. The benign kind who just want their stories told, thankfully. It was probably inevitable I became a writer of some kind. As so many of my peers know, writing is an outlet for those voices.
I’ve had opportunity recently to look back at a couple of my earliest books. When someone asked about them, I reread a few passages here and there. I have to admit, I had a couple of “Did I really do that?” moments. A part of me wishes I could go back and rewrite a few sections to polish them up. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I’m not proud of my early work, but I find I learn something new every day in this business and I suppose I wish I knew it all right from the start.
If given the chance, however, would I really change anything significant in any of my books, even if it meant greater sales and bestseller lists? Probably not. And there is one reason why.
Ultimately I have written the books I wanted to read.
At times I needed fanciful romances, full of mysterious figures. At other times, I craved stories full of human frailties and mistakes. Either way, I wrote my books because something inside me needed to hear and share those narratives.
This is one lesson that serves as a constant reminder. If the story doesn’t speak to me, it will never speak to anyone else.
I’ve been reading a lot of submission calls from publishers lately. Some look interesting and others don’t. If they don’t get me jazzed, I don’t submit. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that I can’t force a story to come. If it doesn’t spring from my heart, it will never leap into another person’s heart. At the end of the day, I need to dictate from those voices in my head and I need to trust their tales will find an audience. Luckily I have a great audience and I think they appreciate those wacky personalities dwelling inside me, the ones who end up spilling onto the page.
If I write a story about a museum conservator who fawns over a statue of a Greek god in a Toronto museum, it’s because I’ve walked those same museum corridors, dreaming about what it would be like to love a god. If I write a book about a lonely woman who cries seven tears into the cold North Sea, it’s because I have also known loneliness and wondered what would happen if I was thrust into a strange, new world. If I write about a modern woman who decides to picket a Las Vegas casino because her life has been destroyed by gambling, it’s because I understand the basis of those sentiments all too well.
When all is said and done, any story I give you is one I also need to give myself. It’s an exploration, a journey of self-discovery. Sometimes it’s a poultice, nurturing old wounds. It could be a bit of whimsy, penned by a woman who needs frivolity and laughter. And if I tell a story that has love at its core, it’s because I still believe in a world where love can conquer hatred.
I have given you the stories I need to read. Knowing others might need to read them too is the most wonderful validation.