Do you ever wonder what roads an author traveled on the way to her current release? For me, it’s been a long and winding road. I hadn’t expected this post to have a musical theme, but as I keyed those words, the Beatles’ song popped into my brain, the melody and snippets of the lyrics lingering even though I tried to banish them. And when I Googled the full lyrics, I realized how appropriate much of what Paul McCartney wrote was to my writing journey.
It’s definitely been a long road, because I’ve been writing since I was seven. I’m not going to tell you when that was, but I will admit that my first attempts were less than stellar. What do you expect from a seven-year-old who’s trying to write a mystery? The best I can say about those stories is that they helped fuel my never-ending fascination with the written word. Fortunately, as the years passed, my storytelling improved.
There’s no doubt that the road has been winding. As a child, my writing goals changed from fiction to journalism, with a brief interlude writing plays for my fifth-grade class to perform. Imagine the costumes we had for “All About Thermometers”! College and marriage to my high school sweetheart led me along a different path into a career in Information Technology, but even though it wasn’t at the forefront, I never completely abandoned my goal of being a published author. McCartney was right when he wrote about being led back. Something kept bringing me back to writing, although it took me years to discover exactly what that something was. What was it? I’ll tell you at the end of this post.
By the time I was an adult, my focus was clear. I wanted to be a novelist. And, since I’m a goal-oriented person, I set myself a goal of selling my first novel before my thirtieth birthday. When I tell you that I met that goal, you might think the road had stopped winding. Not so.
Selling my second book was much more difficult than the first, and so, while I was collecting an impressive number of rejection letters, I began writing articles for IT journals. I also wrote five books as writer-for-hire before I sold my second manuscript. Even then, the road wasn’t straight. My first books were short contemporary romances for the secular market, and although I continued writing them, a love of historicals led me to write a number of those. The final turn came when a dear friend’s death from leukemia sent my writing in a direction I’d never considered: inspirationals. It was only then that the road stopped winding, because I’d finally found my true calling as a writer.
The long and winding road isn’t the only parallel between the Beatles’ song and my life. McCartney’s words about being alone resonate with me, since although it takes a team to publish a book, writing itself is a solitary task. And while it can be rewarding, it’s also difficult work. Let’s start with the rewarding part. I’m not talking about royalties, although they provide a tangible reward. For me, the true reward is knowing that my stories have touched readers’ hearts. Nothing can compare to having a reader say, “Your story helped me through a difficult part of my life.”
The hardest part of writing, at least for me, is creating characters whose goals and challenges are different from the others I’ve created. And that leads me to The Spark of Love. It’s the third and final book in the Mesquite Springs series and, in many respects, it was the most difficult. Part of the reason is that I have two villains, and while they have similar objectives, I needed to ensure that readers saw them as distinctly different. No doubt about it: that was a challenge, but the biggest challenge was Alexandra, my heroine.
Alexandra is an heiress from New York. When you read that, you may have formed an image of a pampered, possibly spoiled woman whose fortune is her main attraction. While it’s true that some men covet her inheritance, Alexandra would forfeit every penny if it brought her what she most wants in life: her father’s love. And so, when an unwanted suitor threatens her, she flees to Mesquite Springs, the town in the Texas Hill Country where her father is building a hotel.
Their reunion is far from what she’d expected, but no matter what Papa says, she’s determined to stay and establish both a relationship with him and a new life for herself. That’s not as easy as Alexandra would have hoped, because her father seems to be hiding things from her. To make matters worse, two men, each with his own agenda, have followed her. Furthermore, Gabe, the charming man she met on the stagecoach, is an investigator searching for a con man … her father.
It’s a complex book but one that I hope will linger in readers’ memories long after the last page is turned.
Now for the answer I promised you. What was it that kept me traveling the long and winding road, which kept bringing me back to writing? There were times early in my career when I was so discouraged by the seemingly endless stream of rejections that I tried to stop writing. Notice the word “tried.” The hiatus lasted a month or two until I realized there was a huge empty hole inside me that only writing would fill, and so I’d start another story.
It was years later that I learned why I was always being led back to writing. That day the keynote speaker at a Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers conference challenged attendees to answer one question: Is writing what you do or who you are? It was a classic lightbulb moment for me, and all the pieces to the puzzle fell into place. Writing is who I am. It always has been. It always will be.
Amanda Cabot is the bestselling author of Out of the Embers and Dreams Rekindled, as
well as the Cimarron Creek Trilogy and the Texas Crossroads, Texas Dreams, and
Westward Winds series. Her books have been finalists for the ACFW Carol Awards, the
HOLT Medallion, and the Booksellers’ Best. She lives in Wyoming.
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