I started writing to escape. It wasn’t that my life was so bad, it was just very busy and rather humdrum. I worked full-time and my kids were in grade-school. I felt like I had something demanding my time every minute of the day and none of it was about me. I started writing my first book on my breaks at my job. That progressed to writing in the mornings after my kids left for school and before I left for work (blissfully, I usually didn’t have to be at my job until 10 a.m.). Then I began to squeeze in a little time on weekends, after the usual chores were done. As my kids developed more and more activities and friends, I had even more time on weekends. (It helped that I wrote in on a computer in our family room so I could keep an eye on things.) By the time they were in junior high and high school, I could count on about fifteen to twenty hours a week of writing time. Over ten years, I wrote (and published) ten books. I look back now and don’t know how I did it. And yet, I do. The key thing back then was…
It was a treat, a reward, an escape from the daily grind. When I got my first publishing contract, I took the summer off to write, and it wasn’t nearly as much fun. Suddenly I was supposed to write. It was a job, rather than a treat. But that didn’t last long, as the market for my preferred genre (historical romance) declined, and with it, my income and any justification for taking time off from my day job.
Over the last ten years, my outlook on writing changed, and along with it, my productivity. Part of it was that my publishing career never really bounced back and that was discouraging. But even more important was that rest of my life became more satisfying and exciting. We had money to travel, and money to indulge my creative instincts in home-remodeling and redecorating and gardening. Suddenly, writing wasn’t so much of an escape. It was still enjoyable, but I was easily distracted from it. The rise of the internet didn’t help. So easy to read emails or blogs, or shop, or research the next trip, instead of write. Instead of predictably writing a book every nine months to a year, some of them took a year and a half or more. I began to wonder if I’d outgrown my need to write. And then…
Once again altered my relationship to writing. My husband had health issues and frustrations with his business and kept threatening to retire. My daughter had some bad relationships that took a serious toll on her mental health and resulted in her needing a lot more support and help. My stress level went from enviably low to seriously high, and stayed there. All at once, escaping into a book sounded wonderful.
I’ve always believed the act of writing changes something in my brain. It alters my brain waves and releases endorphins and takes me to a more positive place. My focus goes from my problems to my characters’ problems. And their problems I can solve! I can give them a happy ending, even when sometimes I’m in doubt about whether there are any happy endings in real life.
I’m sure my relationship to writing will go through more changes. In a few years I will retire, and my husband will sell his business (which I do basic bookkeeping for) and I’ll have a lot more time. Will I use that time to write more? Or will I squander the extra hours, and be less productive? I don’t know. A lot of it will depend on what’s happening with the people I love. If my kids give me grandchildren. If my husband stays healthy (and alive!). If I stay healthy and able to garden and hike and travel. But it’s nice to know that if things get tough, I always have writing. My magical escape to other worlds and times.
Mary Gillgannon is the author of fifteen novels, mostly romances set in the dark age, medieval and English Regency time periods. She’s married and has two children. Now that they’re grown, she indulges her nurturing tendencies on four very spoiled cats and a moderately spoiled dog. When not writing or working—she’s been employed at the local public library for twenty-five years—she enjoys gardening, reading and travel..
Best writing advice: Make sure the beginning of your book sets up the reader’s expectations correctly. The mood you set in the beginning will create their expectations, so don’t lead them astray with a light opening for a dark book, or an action-packed opening for a leisurely one.
Mary’s best marketing advice: The cover is crucial. It needs to be eye-catching and also show the mood of the book.
When hardened gamester Marcus Revington wins Horngate Manor in a card game, he’s delighted to finally own property, and undeterred when he learns he must marry the heiress of the estate to claim it. The heiress, Penny Montgomery, is happy with her life raising horses at Horngate and has no desire to wed anyone. When she discovers what her guardian has done, she comes up with a scheme to convince Marcus she’s unsuitable as a wife so he’ll give up his plan to marry her. Who will win in this battle of wits and wills? Or will they both discover the name of the game is love?