I get so busy sometimes, talking to you about other things, holidays, children, new dogs, relationships, travel, music, art that I rarely talk to you about writing. And in reading your comments at the end of my blogs, I see that you have a number of comments and questions that I thought I’d address here.
Most of you wrote extremely kind comments about my work, which really warm my heart. I work incredibly hard on the books, I try to make them varied and different on different subjects (you noticed!!! thank you!!!), and do very, very thorough research, whether they are historical or contemporary books. And it really means a lot to me that you notice and you care. You each have a favorite book, which are also varied and different, depending on what resonates for you, and what you’re personally going through. Many of you have offered to tell me your stories so I can turn them into a book, but I never write real people’s stories. I prefer to rely on my own imagination, although I often use things I’ve learned, the feeling of experiences I’ve had (like losing my son, or great joys), and emotions I’ve experienced, even if I use them differently than they actually happened. I am fascinated by the human condition, and human relationships of all kinds, between friends, between lovers, spouses, siblings, parent and child, even co-workers. I like what happens between people, how we impact each other, good and bad, and how we respond to the stresses in our lives, whatever they are. And those experiences are universal, we have all dealt with people we care about, or difficult families, or children, or friends, or relationships, and we’ve either been hurt or blessed or helped by those experiences. I feel strongly about what I write, which I think is why you do too. And it rings real for you, because all the emotions in it are real, and some of the experiences, so it rings real for me as I write it, and for you when you read it.
One of you asked how I can do the research, with all those kids (mine) running around. Unfortunately, they’re not running around anymore. The youngest is in college, the others are in their first jobs, and only one still lives at home. And they are running around their own lives now, I’m no longer driving carpool, or taking anyone to ballet lessons, or watching lacrosse games. I wish I were. I still spend a lot of time with them all, when they have time to see me in their busy lives, but my days are my own now. I’m not having dinner with them every night as I used to, or picking them up at school. And I miss those days. When they were little, at home and in school. I worked during their school hours, then picked them all up at school, and stayed busy with them til after dinner, and after their homework was on track and underway, and then I worked/wrote at night. I didn’t sleep a lot, and still don’t. I got used to short nights, and I still work til late at night, when it’s quiet and I have fewer distractions, and the phone doesn’t ring every five minutes. As for the actual research, which there is a lot of for every book, I have a fantastic researcher who has seen me through all 121 books, and is fabulous with both historical and contemporary research (like about locations, or an industry). She does the basic research and then passes it on to me to read, and process, and include what I need in the books. She narrows it down for me, so I can concentrate on what she gives me. I have worked with her since my first book. She is an amazing woman!!!
There is a question that none of you asked, but I’ll answer anyway. Some fans have written in the past asking who writes my books. I was stunned the first time I was asked that question. Who writes my books? Are you kidding? I do. Every word. I was shocked at the question, I even mentioned it to my agent who informed me that some very major writers actually hire writers now to write their books and the authors just give them the outlines. I can’t even imagine that, and it seems like cutting corners in a major way to me. I write every word of my books, and do all the editing and correcting. There are no gnomes or elves in my basement or attic. I do all the work myself!!!
Will I ever write a sequel? No. I’ve been asked a lot, even by my publisher. I think sequels are an invitation to disappointment. I don’t like comparisons, and would rather do something new every time. When I finish a book, that story is over for me.
One of you asked how many times my first book was turned down. It’s actually worse than that. I was turned down by my first agent, who told me to forget writing and do something else——and that agent pretended, once I got successful, that they’d never met me or told me that. But that person did, and I was heartbroken. A friend referred me to another agent, who read my book and signed me up the next day, and believed in my work. I was 19 years old then. She sold that first book very quickly, it came out in original paperback, and by the time it came out, I had already written another one. And that’s when things got tough. The next five books did not sell, ever, and never have. I still have them, and probably someone will publish them one day after I’m gone. I have moved on, and rarely look back at books, so I’ve just put those five away, for my kids to do what they want with one day. The 7th book I wrote was a novelization, that means it was actually a screenplay for a movie (that I didn’t write), and they wanted to sell a book of it when the movie came out. So I turned the screenplay into a book, and that was the book that started the ball rolling again, and I’ve been published ever since. It was a good lesson for me though, because I had 5 unpublished books, and if I had given up before the 7th one, I would never have the career I do today; it was a great lesson in persistence!!!
One funny topic that came up in emails from you was sex. Years ago, I got a letter from an 11 year old reader who complained that there wasn’t enough sex in my books!!! Wow. No one has complained since, but certainly sex isn’t the main focus of my books. With only a couple of exceptions, there are always some sex scenes in my books, although I hope they are tastefully handled, and they have to make sense with the characters and the story. But I write about real things that happen, unfortunately people do cheat on each other, or take advantage of others. There is a rape scene in “A Good Woman”, and those things happen too. My main characters tend to be decent people (except when they are intentionally male or female villains), who do their best in life, like the rest of us. And when I write about ‘bad’ people, it’s clear that that’s what they are. But in the recent comments to the blogs, one woman complained that I write about immoral events and people, that I shouldn’t be writing about cheating, or other immoral acts, and that all the sex should be between married people. Fortunately or unfortunately, that’s not part of real life today, and as a writer I chronicle the kind of real life experiences many of us have, or that exist in the real world. So I write about a broader spectrum, and I take a stand for integrity on all subjects. And I can’t satisfy every reader, and purify a world that isn’t pure in the real world. But that one reader considered me highly immoral!!! I’m sorry about that, but the books are more meaningful if they report accurately on what happens in the world today. We may not like what some people do, but they do it nonetheless. As I said, integrity is important to me, and being tasteful. I try not to offend anyone with what I write, and it always has to make sense in the story.
Another reader who answered the blogs complained that my stories aren’t more religious. I’m actually a religious person, personally, but I don’t feel right imposing it on anyone else. That’s a very, very personal thing, and once again, my stories would be much too limited if they only centered around a religious theme. Again, it’s about integrity and values, but I don’t think it would be fair to my non-religious readers to focus on only religious themes. I try to stay away from religion and politics as a good rule of thumb, although once in a while religion may become part of the story, if I write about nuns. But I try to keep things varied and not offend anyone.
I hope that answers some of your questions, and as you read this, I’ll be starting a new book!!! Thank you for reading them, and for all your wonderful comments!!!