C.S. Lewis once said, “Whenever you are fed up with life, start writing; ink is the great cure for all human ills, as I have found out long ago.”
I remember as a child, when things got too much in my dysfunctional family life, I would grab a book, go to my special hiding place, and lose myself in the pages of the story. I could be shivering in the cold, damp rooms along with the Marsh sisters as they practiced for their Christmas play. Or I could be running along the sandy beaches of a deserted island, with only a magnificent, black Arabian stallion as my companion. Or I could be finding clues in the old oak tree behind the deserted mansion with my friend, Nancy Drew.
Books were my escape to another world. A better place, that shielded me, if only for a few hours, from the unhappiness of reality.
Perhaps that is one of the reasons I became an author. I fell in love with opening the door to the wardrobe that allowed me to step inside and explore both frightening and fantastic places.
And now, so many years later, I am a gatekeeper to that same world. I put words on paper and open a passage of escape for my readers. I invite them to leave their cares and worries behind, if only for a few hours, and escape. But the position of gatekeeper/writer is not an easy one to obtain. It’s not just sitting in front of a computer and typing, as all of you know. There is a price to be paid. There are roads to traverse. There are journeys to complete.
J. R. R. Tolkien said, “One writes such a story not out of the leaves of trees still to be observed, nor by means of botany and soil-science; but it grows like a seed in the dark out of the leaf-mold of the mind: out of all that has been seen or thought or read, that has long ago been forgotten, descending into the deeps.”
We write what we know. Not in a finite sense — you can only write about police work if you have been a police officer. But in a deeper, emotional sense — you can write about the fear a child has experienced when she hears steps on the staircase, because you have felt that fear before. You can write about soul-wrenching sorrow because you have felt grief that reaches into your very core. You can write about a broken heart because you’ve experienced the disappointment of loving with all your heart when that emotion wasn’t reciprocated. But you can also write about laughter so intense that your sides ache and cause you to lose your breath. Gratitude so intense that it spills out from your eyes onto your cheeks. Love so real that it wraps itself around you like a warm blanket and soothes away your fears.
During these past twelve months the entire world has been overshadowed with a cloud of despair. I can’t help but liken it to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings as the powers of Mordor increased, even the creatures of the forests were affected. The shadow of evil crept unchecked across the land. It’s affected all of us in one way or another. Perhaps, as authors, as observers of humankind, it’s affected us more than most. What can we do?
I believe we need to remember that we are the gatekeepers. We are the tellers of tales. We are the observers of life. We offer our readers a respite from world-weariness and hopelessness.
Samwise Gamgee, who in my opinion is the real hero in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, said, “It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going because they were holding on to something. That there is some good in this world, and it's worth fighting for.”
We need to take the experiences we’ve had in the past year and write our stories. We need to incorporate some of the feelings we’ve experienced—sorrow, fear, hate, prejudice, negativity and mix them liberally with others we’ve also felt or seen—hope, love, compassion, selflessness, and courage.
Yours is the story that will matter. Yours is the story that will lift a burdened heart, soothe a troubled soul, or open a closed mind.
I believe there is no greater compliment than a note from a reader who tells you that your story made a difference in their life. That your story touched their heart or made them laugh or cry.
We are the gatekeepers, and we have both a noble and important job.
And as Samwise said, “Books ought to have good endings. How would this do: and they all settled down and lived together happily ever after?”
Terri Reid is the author of the Mary O’Reilly Paranormal Mysteries. An independent author, Reid uploaded her first book “Loose Ends – A Mary O’Reilly Paranormal Mystery” in August 2010. By the end of 2013, “Loose Ends” had sold over 200,000 copies. This year she celebrates the 10th Anniversary of Loose Ends.
In addition to the Mary O’Reilly Series, she has written several other series including The Willoughby Witches, The Blackwood Files, The Order of Brigid’s Cross, The Legend of the Horsemen, and A Shear Disaster Mystery Series.
Reid has enjoyed Top Rated and Hot New Release status in the Women Sleuths and Paranormal Romance category through Amazon US. Her books have been translated into Spanish, Portuguese and German and are also available in print and audio versions.
Reid has been quoted in several books about the self-publishing industry including “Let’s Get Digital” by David Gaughran and “Interviews with Indie Authors: Top Tips from Successful Self-Published Authors” by Claire and Tim Ridgway.
She was the keynote speaker for Book 'Em North Carolina Writers Conference and Book Fair in Lumberton, N.C., a guest presenter at Love Is Murder in Chicago, a guest lecturer at a number of universities, and has been the opening speaker for the Illinois Paranormal Conference.
Reid lives in northwest Illinois near Freeport, Illinois, the setting of the Mary O’Reilly series. A mother of seven and a grandmother of 21, she loves sharing ghost stories with her family.
She writes a weekly blog called Freaky Friday through her website at www.terrireid.com and can be reached at email@example.com.