Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A funny thing happened on the way to the book signing

Oh we all know the line.  "A funny thing happened to me on the way to the forum..."  For me it's a sounds more like, "a funny thing happened to me on the way to the book signing."

There is a course we take when we decide we want to do something. If you want to have dinner you make a reservation.  You want a car you plan to save.  If you want to excel in business you make connections.  I wanted to write the All-American Love Story. That's a piece of cake, right?  You just sit down and write it.  Sometimes it takes a few days or a month to make your dreams reality.  In my case it took twenty-two years.

Nothing really funny happened except life.  Isn't it interesting how it gets in the way?  And how it also becomes the very thing you absorb and eventually write about.

When I was in 5th grade they administered a test.  They gave you a picture and you wrote a story.  Trust me I dreaded this!  But... it got very high markings!  Then in 7th grade we did it again.  Not only did it mark high I got to do a second round!  I'm saying this as a good thing, because honestly, I have no idea what they were looking for, except that they took the best ones and had us write another.  Big ego boost for the twelve year old!

But... that got me interested!

It wasn't writing I became interested in.  Nope, it was reading.  Can you believe it, I didn't enjoy reading.  It was hard!  But I picked up a few books and took the time to read the story, and WOW! there were pictures in my head.  I wasn't sitting in a classroom anymore I was somewhere else!  The people around me were different and I was on an adventure.  Neat!  Then... came the summer I discovered the mini-series.  (If you are under a certain age and reading this, you have no idea what I'm talking about, I'm sure.) But the one that grabbed hold of me was The Thorn Birds.  Oh, Father Ralph de Bricassart was all that wasn't he?  And then... I found Sidney Sheldon!  I was all a flutter when If Tomorrow Comes hit the small screen.  We had a Beta recorder and I made sure I taped all seven hours of that show.  It took up two tapes.  The darn machine wore out before I was done watching it over and over and over again.  But it instilled in me that I wanted to be an actress in a mini- series.

Not what you thought, right?  

It wasn't too long before I realized I could write a movie and star in that.  Sure, that was the ticket.  So I began!  First my friend and I filled endless notebooks with letters between characters we created.  (Just to let you know I hijacked the last name deBricassart and pared it with Meghann!  Yep, I was that original!)  The notebooks were filled at school and I'd race home and write my movie scripts.  But suddenly the movie writing was tedious and too much work.  Wouldn't it be easier if I just wrote it all out, like a book?  BAM!  I'll write the book that becomes the movie!  And the first draft of my first book began about a woman named Jenna Reed who would become a Hollywood icon in the 30's and 40's.

Oh that story had it all.  Well, everything a thirteen-year-old girl could imagine.  Okay, it was a tragic love story that didn't have any experiences to back it up.  It had television scenes built in, but that was about it.  But the passion was there.  And that little book about Jenna would be rewritten no less than 100 times for the next twenty-two years. (But let me mention that when I was sixteen, I did send it out.  I did get a request.  I did get a rejection, but it was nicely worded and it never hurt my ambition.)

So off to college I went.  An education major who decided you couldn't pay me enough to put up with the parents who send their kids to school.  Hmmm, yep that was going to hurt my career.  But I loved to write.  Journalism!

Sounded glorious, but I wasn't great at it.  Writing a news article is much different that writing a book.  In the news the writer tells you the facts.  In a book the author tries not to do that at all, instead they show them to you, engulf you in the story so that you feel as though you are there.  It took me two years to decide that if I were an English major, that would make more sense.  I changed my major and left college.

I fell in love.  Isn't it interesting what will happen when Mr. Right shows up?  So the book was set aside and I opened the first of two salons I would own in the next seven years.  I met hundreds of people.  Each of them very unique.  Eventually, I decided to have kids.  This only lead to heartbreak when that didn't work out.  But thanks to science and a good insurance plan I got that baby.  And I fell in love again!  And agian! And again! And again! And again!  I tell you what, you learn a lot about the world when you become the mother of five little boys in six years!

In 2007 the book came back out.  This time I had first hand knowledge of what it was like to want to love and be rejected.  I knew what it was to find the right man and nothing else in the world mattered.  I had had heartbreak and joy.  I'd been married, traveled, given birth.  So many great things had happened along the way.  And my writing style changed.  Jenna's story had been a lovely but tragic story.  I found after my sister's divorce I couldn't write about certain things, but I'd learned what deep anger from an outsider felt like.  I'd been stocked by an ex and I knew what fear was.  I'd been praised by my husband, my dearest friend, and I knew what happiness was.  Then... I found a Nora Roberts book!

It was awesome!  People met back up after having lost contact for years.  They had some issues but they fell in love.  The story had a happy ending.  WOW!  I really enjoyed that!  Then I looked at my book and shook my head.  It was 120,000 words of betrayal and death.  It was horribly depressing!  But it wasn't done.  Now what?  It was going to be the Great All-American Love Story.  Yeah right!  But I had to finish it!  It had to be done!

I finished it.  I gave it an ending I was happy with.  I didn't kill off as many people and I rearranged a few scenes to make me feel better about humanity.  In the end I was satisfied and I shelved it.  Oh, someday it would make three really great books in a trilogy, if I could figure out how to make three happy endings.  I just don't know if I could.  But it opened another door.

Between 2007 and 2008 I wrote twelve more books.  I did!  All with happy endings. Oh, I'm a sucker for Happily Ever After.  I drew on all bits and pieces of my life which had happened from the first time I sat down with an old typewriter my father gave me until that very moment.  I began to pen stories of women, usually in their thirties, flawed from their personality, scarred from accidents, or simply over weight.  I wrote men, usually like my husband, not too Alpha, but not too feminine.  I got sick over writing sex scenes because my mother was going to read them.  (I have 5 kids...c'mon.  And my editor helps with those by the way!  haha)  I jumped every hurdle and learned a million new rules to writing.  Then I was published.

This was the plan right?  Get published, write another book, and that was how it would go.  The one part I never counted on was becoming a publisher.  Yep, it was just another funny thing that happened that I hadn't intended on.  But I was strict with myself.  This is for my books only, I-will-not-publish-other-authors, I told myself. That was until another house that I was with didn't quite make it to publication and the authors came to me and asked me to publish them.  They were very talented and the books were done.  What did I really have to lose?  Except sleep over screwing it up.

So from there I picked up a few authors and a few editors.  I'm now an editor, who would have thought!  (But my editor for the past three years has taught me so much, I'm just passing on her knowledge to better the literary community.)

So as I sit here thinking, it's my turn to write the blog, I'm looking at the edits I'm sending out.  I'm processing the edits I'm getting in on my next book.  I'm writing the book after that.  I'm tweeting and facebooking and blogging.  I'm a whirlwind of post-it notes and charts.  And all along I'm thinking about the book signing I have at Barnes and Noble next month and how that is a dream come true.

It's been twenty-seven years since I decided to take my spiral notebook character of Meghann deBricassart and turn her into Jenna Reed (who was later named Lillian Rose.)  I've had many careers, met many people, and learned many things.  Most of which you'll find in my many books.  And now I sit back and laugh.  A lot of funny things happened on the way to the book signing and it's made me the writer I am today.  What will happen in the next twenty-seven years I wonder?  One thing is for sure, I wouldn't change a thing!

Happy Reading!
Bernadette Marie
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  1. What a wonderful, encouraging outlook on how to approach things as a writer. I'm so happy for you! :D

  2. I love this. I love reading how your desire to write started in your preteens, growing and changing as you did.

    ~Rebecca Fyfe

  3. Thank you for your comments! :) I love what I do and it always gets better! :)