Once upon a time, while I was staring in shock at my internet bill, AOL offered me a position reviewing books. Free books and free internet? Sold. Everything went well until one day a perfect storm of flat rate access and a heroine named Blueberry Hill sent me running. (My review was polite, but all these decades later I can still quote my private emotions. This book is an argument against English as a written language.) Time passed. I was in a bookstore and saw Diane Farr’s second or third Regency on the shelf. The cover blurb seemed naggingly familiar, as if I’d … written it. Go me. I waited for my reaction but I felt nothing. Well, nothing but an urge to read another Diane Farr novel. Life went on. I was still a Writer.
Instead of actually sitting down and writing a book, working out a plot, imagining characters, I thought there was some answer that would instill in me a desire to be an author. A desire I still didn’t have. Could I do better than Blueberry Hill? Absolutely. Did I want to? It was time to figure this stuff out. Who better to ask about how to avoid writing than authors? I’m pretty sure I drove Edith Layton crazy. She explained a lot about the business while gently indicating that maybe I didn’t really want to be a Writer? Nora Roberts told me to suck it up and do it, then promptly killed my brother off in a J.D. Robb book. I think she was annoyed. Kay Hooper suggested finding what I wanted to write about then letting the stories unfold. This was pre-Seinfeld, so I had no idea writing about nothing was an option.
Julia Quinn admired my shoe displays, envied my pretzel bites, and explained (on more than one occasion) that the desire to tell a story generally (but not always) comes before the desire to sell it. I told her I like to sell things, actually. She thought I should look into becoming an agent. I can’t. I said, I’m a Writer. Everyone says so. We agreed that was a shame. I thought she was absolutely brilliant at selling things, and very fine indeed at telling stories. So I was almost there! Julia moved out of New England. Joe Wallace thought I should keep honing my craft, or something equally gentle. It began to dawn on me that annoying authors wasn’t going to make either of us any happier. I kept reviewing. I’d go to this website, I’d go to that website. I told myself I was reviewing books to learn more about how they were constructed, which would lead to a better understanding of what sold. Once I understood what sold, I could work in that direction and not waste my time as a Writer. (True fact, once you’re an author you get letters from prison inmates. I already knew prison inmates. One more way I was building my portfolio!)