On the occasion of the publication of her 70th novel (!), author Emilie Richards offers advice for aspiring writers.
Today, my 70th novel hits bookstores. While most readers shake their heads in wonder, I know authors for whom 70 was a signpost on a longer journey. Still, for someone like me, who thinks every published novel is a miracle, 70 is delightful, particularly since this book, One Mountain Away, is the first of a continuing series.
Counting books is like counting birthdays. It's always good to pause when a zero's winking back at you. This week I've asked myself what I've learned since author copies began to overflow into my attic. Why have I continued writing? What one secret could I share with someone struggling to write a first novel?
Before you write that first sentence ask yourself this: What kind of book will you want to write 70 times? You're sure if you write a novel about the Amish or a vampire clan you'll get published, even though neither subject excites you? You might be right, but you might also be forced to write variations for the rest of your career, no matter how hard you try to break free.
In the mid-1980s, when publishers were enthusiastically scouting for new romance authors, I sensed I had found my niche. Did I want to tell the story of two people falling in love? Well, yes, that interested me, but I also realized there were other kinds of relationships to explore, as well. I was interested in the way people grow and change, the way they reach out or don't, the way they form bonds inside and outside families, and the way that they heal the wounds that life inflicts.
Could I write those stories inside the romance genre? Was it wide enough, deep enough? Did anyone care enough to read them? I thought so, and I was right.
Seventy novels later, the books I write are classified as women's fiction. They're longer novels, and the emphasis is different. One Mountain Away is about reconciliation and forgiveness more than romance. But in the most important ways, they are the same novels. Luckily I left myself room to grow.
A far greater writer said it best. "To thine own self be true." Just remember you may need to be true to yourself 70 times or more. Choose wisely.