June Shaw (Guest blogger)
Sandy Parshall asked if I’d write on this topic. I assume she wasn’t saying I’m middle-aged. Probably she was thinking about the Middles Ages. She surely didn’t mean I’m getting older because I have eight grandchildren and finally sold a book.
Maybe she was talking about me. I’m proud to say I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since ninth grade—and now I am one!
Back then, my English I teacher wanted me to practice writing a paragraph because he was sending me to the literary rally. He said to write about a splinter.
I ambled to my desk, deciding the man was definitely boring. I wrote a grammatically-correct paragraph describing a sliver of wood and carried it to his desk.
He skimmed it. “June, this is boring.”
“Yes, but you told me to write it.”
“No. Like this.” And then he wrote, “Ouch!” He said, “Take it from the splinter’s point of view. Somebody just sat on it.”
Wow! My inspiration. All of my creative writing instructions.
I placed first in that rally but don’t remember what our paragraphs were about. I’ve always recalled the splinter that came to life. Before then, I’d thought all good writers were old dead men from Europe. Besides, I hadn’t been exposed to humorous writing.
Once I realized writers could create any thing or person and make it do or say anything, I decided one day I’d do that. I’d be a writer.
I didn’t try until I was a young widow with five children.
I was busy throughout high school, married my older school sweetheart soon afterward, and had five children in six years. “Good Catholic or sex fiend?” people asked.
“Both,” I’d reply.
Once my mind kicked in after my husband’s death, I knew I needed to do something to bring home money. What would I like to do? Write. That thought came, along with images of the talking splinter. Yes, I still wanted to be a writer.
But my silly children wanted to eat and wear shoes. And I hadn’t read novels in years. The main thing I’d been reading was backs of cereal boxes, but I seldom had time for a whole one.
I never considered writing novels back then. I had to earn money and do it soon. Re-enrolling in our local university, I completed a degree and started teaching young teens. My own kids started becoming young teens, too, and they drove the younger ones to practices, giving me a pinch of free time. That maimed splinter emerged in my mind. The time had come—I’d be a writer!
I had no idea what to write.
Gradually I wrote and later sold a few essays and stories. Along the way I read and tried writing novels. The first two or three (okay, maybe four) didn’t sell, but I don’t think you’re supposed to sell those first ones. They’re practice, like athletes practicing for the pros. There’s a learning curve. Of course I still hope one day I’ll be an important enough author that editors ask to see everything I’ve ever written. That happened to my idol, Janet Evanovitch. Some people have compared my style to hers. I’m deeply flattered.
Finally I sold an e-book, a romantic suspense. I liked it. But e-books didn’t sell well except for erotica, which I wasn’t writing. I decided to work harder until I could sell a book that my family and friends could hold in their hands.
I did it! Creating and selling that hardcover book took forever—but it happened! Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and others gave Relative Danger great reviews. Deadly Ink nominated it for their new David Award for Best Mystery of the Year. Oh my gosh, it wasn’t just some of my own gown kids liking my book. Harlequin bought reprint rights. At eharlequin.com Relative Danger is available in paperback. And my publisher just bought its sequel. I’ve started the third book in the series. What fun!
Now instead of being confined to my house with kids, I travel and write off the trips. Somebody has got to cruise Alaska (in August—and I’m from south Louisiana). I asked people on board where would be a good place to find a body. Got one! It’ll be in my third Cealie Gunther book. (Don’t ask where her name came from. She is who she is. I tried to change her, but she is so stubborn.) I get to fly to Dallas and Washington, D.C. and lots of other places to speak about writing (me!) and sign my books. And people interview me for newspapers and newsletters and blogs. And people give me money for my writing. How cool is that!
My best friends asked if I’d still talk to them after I became rich and famous. I laughed and said, “I don’t know. You’d better talk to me now.”
I love being with my friends and large family. They’re extremely proud of me. All of them cheer me on—and tell my younger grandkids they have to wait until they’re teens to read my current book since it’s PG13. I keep the little ones whenever I want to play. And my mom lives with me now since she’s almost blind from macular degeneration. She loves to dance (check her dancing at www.juneshaw.com), and I dance with her, and we read my book to her, skipping some parts.
Life is good. Different. Interesting.
So Sandy, does reaching middle years mean a woman slows down? This gal is just getting started! I loved meeting you and some other terrific ladies from Poe’s Deadly Daughters at Malice Domestic. Y’all have a great blog. Thanks so much for inviting me here.
Visit the author’s web site: www.juneshaw.com