For some creatives, there’s a moment, a spark when they know they were meant to do something with their art. For others, it comes slowly, and works its way into their hearts without them even knowing. We asked our Bella authors to tell us when they knew they wanted to be writers, and their responses are as unique and wonderful as they are.
Karin Kallmaker: It was the probably the fourth grade, which makes me about nine or so. I was already a huge bookworm. I brought home stacks from the library every week, which was just down the street from our house. Heaven! I had probably seen Errol Flynn’s Adventures of Robin Hood because I went through a phase of wanting to know everything about what really, actually happened. How could there be competing versions? Why didn’t anyone know for sure that he even existed? When an assignment came to write something creative, I wrote a story about an unhappy queen who is helped by a plucky serving girl. (Who adores the queen and just wants to be her best-bestie friend. Clues about my future anyone?)
My teacher asked me if I’d written it all by myself and tested me by asking what the word “abhor” meant. I’d used it to describe how the Queen felt about the King. (Clues about my future anyone?) I can picture my schoolgirl cursive, in blue ink on white widely-lined paper, the word “abhor.” How I wish I could find that piece of paper now! After that, I relished any creative writing assignments. When we learned about the Donner Party and were asked to write a few paragraphs about what it was like, I did a diary that covered months of time on the trail and all the gory details. I’m sure it was mostly derivative. But I was hooked on storytelling. I have never wanted to do anything else.
Laina Villeneuve: I first knew I wanted to be a writer in elementary school. I’d read Summer Pony (which I recently read with my seven-year-old daughter) a half dozen times. My parents had recently bought a PC, and I sat down to write my own story with the exact same plotline. When I showed it to my mom, she said never said a thing about the blatant plagiarism. She just said, “keep going!”
Riley Scott: As a child, my parents and older sister read to me often, and I developed a love for books at a young age. I learned to read around age four and devoured any books I could find. I wrote my first poem at five years old (about my first love, pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving), and around that same age, my dad asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I told him without hesitation, “I want to write books.” It was my childhood dream, and I was rarely without my nose in a book or without my journal. I wrote my first book at nineteen, and although it never saw the light of day, I worked to hone my craft and am incredibly thankful to the readers who allow me to live my childhood dream daily.
Genevieve Fortin: I can’t remember how old I was because I think I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I remember taking the bus to school and staring blankly out the window, making up stories, dialogues, different endings to my favorite shows (long before I’d ever heard of fan fiction). Writing, or composition as it was called in school, was my favorite subject. I still have my first book somewhere, a notebook filled with words handwritten with a pencil and telling the story of a rock star in love. What else?
Melissa Price: The seeds of writing were planted in me the summer of when I was ten. I had written my aunt and uncle every day from overnight camp. When I returned home at the end of that summer, my aunt said to me in earnest: “You’re a beautiful writer.” Amazing what a kind word can do for a kid.
Tracey Richardson: I knew I wanted to be a journalist at about the age of 13, which stemmed from my love of writing but also from my insatiable curiosity about people and things and current events. I was able to realize my dream and work in the newspaper industry for almost three decades. But novel writing grabbed hold of my heart when I was in my late 20s and I had a couple of weeks off work to recover from a tonsillectomy. A friend sent me a couple of lesbian novels to read (my first introduction to the genre), and I was hooked. I decided that since I loved reading them so much, that I should try writing them as well. And I did! It’s been such a rewarding endeavor for me, and I can’t imagine NOT writing fiction.
KG MacGregor: I was traveling a lot for work and found myself eyeball-deep in Xena fanfiction to pass the time in airports and hotels. Incredibly, the show’s writers launched a new wave of lesbian fiction with an inspiring premise — that the ancient characters of Xena and Gabrielle were destined to meet in all their future lives. The floodgates opened with literally thousands of fanfiction stories of these imagined meetings. I’d written scholarly articles and business reports, but never fiction … until I imagined my own take on that fateful meeting — in the rubble of a Los Angeles earthquake. That story, which went on to become The Shaken Series, led me to my bliss.
Michaela Lynn: I always loved creating stories. Even as a young child, I had a vivid imagination. I would make small comic books where I drew the pictures and wrote the stories. But it wasn’t until in high school that I really thought about becoming a writer. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a happy event that inspired this desire. A close friend committed suicide when I was fifteen. Writing became more than entertainment to me—it became therapy, a solace, a catharsis, and even an escape all rolled up in one. When things became too much, I turned to pen and paper. The worlds I created helped to process the pain and the questions I had. Why, why did something like that happen? It was a long, long process but eventually, I began to heal and as I healed more and more, I started sharing my stories with others. I found that those stories had the power to help others, to touch them on a deep visceral level, sometimes in small ways, sometimes in larger ways. I found that the power of the word could be almost magical when shared with others. It was then that I realized that I wanted to be a writer.
Catherine Maiorisi: Not until I had written a one hundred thousand word mystery. Really. I’ve always been a big reader. In fact, I was voted the class bookworm in the sixth grade. But I never, ever thought about writing a book. Or any fiction.
I actually didn’t give creativity a thought until I came out at thirty and got involved with the New York lesbian scene. Most of my friends were actors, poets, playwrights, musicians, singers, songwriters, and novelists. I was a computer person. And, I was sure, the only lesbian in New York City with no talent and no imagination.
One day soon after I stopped working, I had the brilliant idea of challenging myself to write a mystery, not for publication but to see whether I could. I soon realized it’s not as easy as it looks. I didn’t have the vaguest idea about how to go about it. So I turned to books for the answer and spent the next nine months reading about writing. Once I actually started writing, it took about four months to complete a full one hundred thousand plus word draft of a mystery.
I discovered I loved the process of writing. But the biggest surprise was I loved the characters and the story I had created and, though it seemed scary to put it out there, I knew I wanted to share it. I knew I wanted to be an author.
Lara Hayes: When I was about five years old, I visited Louisville Kentucky for the first time with my father. My paternal grandmother and my dad’s twin sister had moved from Michigan to Kentucky.
On the ride down I asked my father if we would see cowboys. He said it was possible. l asked him if they carried guns. He said it was possible. I asked him if we would see saloons and tumbleweeds. He said maybe instead of saying no. I suspect my dad knew that I had seen Fievel Goes West one too many times, and I fully expected the south to be the Old West. Encouraging me was probably easier than an impromptu geography lesson.
I was sorely disappointed when we reached Louisville.
When I returned home my godmother asked me to tell her about my trip while she was giving me a bath. I remember thinking that I didn’t want her to be as disappointed as I had been, expecting saloons but getting apartment complexes instead. So I told her that I had an amazing trip. I told her my Grammy lived on a farm, and her house had a white wrap around porch with ceiling fans, and that every morning I got up to feed the chickens.
The lie was so immediate and detailed my godmother believed every word I said. When my mother picked me up later that night, my godmother remarked to her that she couldn’t believe my Grammy bought a farm. That was when my mother told my godmother the truth, that my Grammy and my Aunt lived in a condo in the suburbs. I was called into the room to explain myself, and that was the day I learned two important lessons: Lying is still lying, even if it’s meant to entertain, and if you believe your lie so will other people.
I’ve been telling stories ever since.
E.J. Cochrane: Even before I knew how to spell and make letters, I loved telling stories, usually in the form of elaborate (but harmless) lies just to see if anyone would believe me. The realization that I could be a writer rather than just a tall tale teller came upon me gradually–as high school friends hung on to the silly notes I wrote them when I should have been paying attention to class. And when my book-loving mother read one of my school essays and called me a good writer. And again when my father asked me to write Mom’s eulogy because I “have a nice way with words” (high praise from a man more inclined to doing than speaking). The final nudge came when my sister told me that I should probably try to get the book I’d written seven years earlier published. I’d written it for fun and had never even considered that other people might want to read it, but as it turned out, my sister was right (as usual). And now here I am.
Lise MacTague: I don’t know that I ever knew I wanted to be a writer, per se, but I do know when I decided to write my first book. I’d had insomnia for a couple of years and coped with it by telling myself stories in my head until I fell asleep. The next night, I’d pick up where I left off the night before, or I’d noodle away on character development. Eventually, I had enough of the story and the characters to actually do something with it. I hate to waste work, so I decided to write it down before I lost it all. And that’s how Depths of Blue and the On Deception’s Edge trilogy were born. Insomnia was awful, but without it, I don’t know that I would have taken those first steps and be about to release my fifth novel.
Heather Rose Jones: I don’t know that I ever wanted to “be an author” as such. Not in the sense of seeing it as a career. Not in the same way that, when I was four years old, I wanted to be a bird. But some time in my teens I had this feeling of having too many stories in my head and needing to free up some space in there. So I began writing. At first, there was no connection with the idea of anyone else reading my stories. Who in the world would want to? That came much later. It wasn’t until my mid-20s when I started going to conventions and meeting SFF authors that it really hit me that this was something that I, too, could do. It’s always been “do” not “be” for me. “Being an author” is an illusory thing, but the act of creating stories? That I can do.