MamaWriters are so pleased to have author Marilyn Brant with us today! Her debut book, ACCORDING TO JANE, winner of the prestigious 2007 Golden Heart Award for Best Novel With Strong Romantic Elements, came out in October, and it’s been mentioned in places like Library Journal, Barnes & Nobles Review, and in Family Circle’s online magazine, Inner Circle.
Please help us welcome Marilyn Brant!
I told him, “Because of you.”
He laughed at the time, but I was serious. I’ve always loved fiction and poetry, and I dreamed of becoming a published novelist. But it wasn’t until he was born that I pursued this dream with anything resembling the passion it required. However, in the months following his birth, there were three powerful forces suddenly driving me to write:
- I felt so many emotions at finally being a mom and had all of these new parental experiences…I needed to somehow express them. Tap dancing didn’t get it done (and my feet had gone up a size after pregnancy, so my old tap shoes didn’t fit). Piano was too noisy, especially during naptime. My painting skills were sadly limited. So, it was a toss-up between my only two remaining creative outlets—baking and writing. And, since I ate far too many cookies as it was, I chose the latter.
- I’d seen firsthand those parents who had way too much energy invested in their children, to the point of living vicariously through them. I was utterly terrified of becoming like that, having my kid end up in therapy and, later, seeing him join the speaker circuit and talk to huge crowds about what a fruitcake his mother was. I felt it was my responsibility not to suffocate my son with over-interest and, thus, I needed to make sure I had passions outside of my love for him and could model what it was like to pursue them.
- I was alone while my husband was at work, with an infant in our house—in a Midwestern winter—and I didn’t have a car.
At first, I jotted down poems about my son—the way he’d leave these tiny fingerprints on the windowpane when I’d hold him up to look at the snow outside or the determination he had to roll over or reach for a favorite toy.
Then it became essays about the typical day of a mother at home with her child and the little things that made those seemingly ordinary days anything but… I’d been a former elementary-school teacher, with a background in educational psychology, so I also started writing articles on enrichment ideas for parents and submitting them to magazines.
I soon wrote for a number of publications, including Pregnancy, Welcome Home and the regional Family Time. It was all quite nice, but my baby was challenging me. He’d begun to walk, then run, and as a result of his restlessness, I realized that I, too, needed to stretch myself and tackle some new skills. And, maybe, reach for a long-held dream.
So, when my son was about 20 months old, I started the first novel. It was a disaster (no exaggeration) in every way. I wrote when he slept and late into the night, not realizing I was breaking all kinds of genre rules and violating some fairly important tenets of storytelling. There are people out there who, after writing a manuscript on gut instinct and without having studied the craft of fiction, still manage to get published because their natural literary genius just shines through.
I don’t (completely) despise those people or (usually) want to fling cupfuls of plastic cocktail swords at them, but I wasn’t one of those lucky few.
For me, it took reading lots of books on writing craft, signing up for fiction classes/workshops/conferences, joining RWA (best decision ever!), getting contest feedback and taking part in manuscript critiques. It also took 7½ years of doing these things to sell my first book—According to Jane (Kensington, October 2009)—and another 1½ years to see it hit the shelves.
My son just turned eleven a couple of weeks ago. He’s never known a time when I wasn’t writing. He loves to create his own stories and was delighted when I ran through basic novel structure with him last summer. For the past couple of years he’s been working on an adventure series with these animals that talk, travel to foreign lands and defeat bad guys. (It’s kind of hilarious, especially when he reads it aloud “with voices.”) He’s drafting Book 5 right now, and last month he told me, “I’m for sure gonna be a writer, like you, Mom.”
I told him he already was.
He replied that he wouldn’t have been able to write these manuscripts if it weren’t for my help.
And I replied that I felt exactly the same way about him. That it took a lot of work and a lot of support from others to do this job, but sometimes important people in our life inspired us enough to want to begin. And he was my reason for becoming a writer.
This time he smiled, but he didn’t laugh. This time he believed me.
According to Jane~Golden Heart Winner, Out Now!
Fridays at Nine~Coming from Kensington Books, October 2010