I am a writer. I have always been a writer. I have never not been writing something for as long as I can remember. If you had asked me, when I was six or seven or eight or nine years old, what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have told you without hesitation, “An author.”
Stories are my life. If I’m not writing, I am reading. If I’m not reading, I’m thinking about something I’ve read, or wish I could be reading. If I couldn’t read, I don’t know what I would do. Turn to music, I guess. But for now, reading is my life, and writing is my vocation.
BUT. For a long time I had decided that I couldn’t be an author when I grew up. Someone very well-meaning (*cough*Mom*cough*) had a talk with me when I was ten or eleven about how difficult it was to make it as a writer. Perhaps, that someone said, I should think about something more fiscally feasible as a career, and do my writing on the side.
So I started looking for alternatives. Maybe I would be a teacher. A diplomat. A nurse, like my mother. (That idea didn’t last long– I’m terribly disorganized.) For a while, in college, I thought I’d be a singer– I even double-majored in vocal performance and English literature. Anything, clearly, was more possible than succeeding as a writer. Because being a writer is hard, and it was presumptuous to think I would be good enough.
But always in the back of my head there was the thought that if I ever finished a book– if I ever made it to the point where I could support myself solely by writing– then I would drop whatever I was doing then and devote myself entirely to the cause. All my brilliant alternatives were only placeholder plans to let me get to where I wanted to be: life as a professional author.
Then, recently, I came into some savings. Well, came into isn’t exactly accurate: I earned them myself over four years working overseas. I should have earned more: I should have saved more carefully. I was young, and didn’t think of more than doing the things I hadn’t been able to do as a broke college student or a bankrupt bookstore clerk. But I did save a bit– enough to give me a break for a while as I figured out what to do next.
And so I’m writing.
Now, the thing is: I write fantasy. I have always read fantasy; I have always loved fantasy; I have always written fantasy, when I was writing anything. (And, as I said, that was pretty much all the time. Ideas I had in spades– it was finishing things that was always my problem.) So now that I’m writing full-time– and with a serious aim of publication– it’s the fantasy market I’m aiming for, and YA fantasy more specifically.
BUT: writing a novel is a very long process. And so, to keep people from forgetting me while I finish (or, more properly, to let them know I’m here in the first place), I’ve been doing some short stories, as well. I’ve finished three since October, and am approaching completion on a fourth. Two of the four I’ve already submitted to professional markets, though whether I’ll hear back on them before I’ve died of old age is anybody’s guess. So I’ve had my mind on short stories, lately.
And so, with short stories in mind, I’ve been reading the 2010 volume of The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, edited by Rich Horton. And in the preface Mr. Horton makes some comments about how magazines in general seem to be a dying market for short-story writers. And what venue was flourishing? The anthology.
Anthologies, I thought. Of course. I’ll look for an anthology or two and write some short stories for them!
So I looked.
And I found.
Oh, how I found.
If you google “call for submissions” anthology 2012, you will come up with literally dozens of unique results. I thought I’d stumbled across a goldmine. I began to investigate further.
And I found (and this may surprise no one but me) that the vast majority of anthologies out there were calling for romance. Erotica. Those frilly… pink stories from the girl side of the bookstore.
And, yes, well… I am a girl, but like any good nerd I was brought up believing that the romance was a lesser form of story. A fantasy. An escape. (No, that’s not at all ironic coming from a self-professed lover of fantasy writing, is it?) And though I do have a certain fondness for romantic comedies, and I did always sort of hope that I would someday find my soulmate and settle down with him forever (I was raised Mormon, so it was a foregone conclusion that the soulmate in question would be male, though I identify as bisexual now), I always knew that these were not traits to be proud of.
But I do have a certain fondness for melodrama.
And I did spend all those years reading fanfic, wherein Harry and Draco found true happiness together and thumbed their noses at the world.
(Or sometimes Harry and Severus.)
(Don’t judge me.)
And so you might say I have a certain inclination to be a fan of the kind of stories you found in romance novel. But I always knew– I knew– that romance novels were bad. I was a feminist. I knew full well that finding a man was not the answer to life’s questions.
(I have never read a lesbian romance novel before. Would anyone like to recommend one to me?)
And so I sneered at the frilly pink section in the bookstore. I sighed when I walked back the paperback display at the grocery store. I pitied the sort of people who would read those things for entertainment. I even kind of pitied my younger sister, who’s a voracious reader of pretty much anything she can get her hands on, but who does have an admitted weakness for what she cheerfully refers to as “cake for your brain.” (It’s a quote from one of her favorite authors, but I can’t remember who.) You were a science geek! I thought. You’re smart! You’re discerning! Why are you reading this trash?
But I had never read the trash in question myself.
And now, I am thinking that I’d like to try my hand at romance someday. Just to see. I think I might be good at it.
However, there is the undeniable fact that over the course of my life– I’m not quite 28– I have read damned few of anything that could rightly be called romance novels. If I ever want to try and write one of my own, I have got to do more research. (I was a lit major, so researching nerdy things holds a kind of instinctive appeal for me.)
And what is the best way to research romance novels?
Reading them, of course.
And it just so happens that my sister is doing a book purge this week.
I suddenly have an abundance of research materials. A whole box of them. In my closet, under the to-read shelf (they would take up most of the shelf on their own, so they had to stay in their box.)
I’ve already gotten started, with Eloisa James’ When Beauty Tamed The Beast as my first selection. I’m halfway done already.
And you know what? I’m starting to get it.
Is it historically accurate? Er. Is the situation very plausible? Uh. However: the dialogue is charming, the chemistry is great, and the book is really fun to read.
And so I shall continue. I will read the books one by one, and in this safe and anonymous space– where I may wax effusive about unicorns and puppies and Twoo Wuv Conquering All without any strange glances from my friends– I will give my reviews, one by one. I won’t say anything I wouldn’t say within the context of a writer’s workshop. That’s my policy with reviews– I can’t keep silent when I have something to say, but I will do my best to be as positive and pleasant as possible.
And if I think, when I’m done, that I can make a home for myself in this strange new world, which is full of roses and kisses and girlish delights, I will start to make an effort of my own. And you who are are reading this will be the first to know what’s up with all that. Aren’t you delighted? Aren’t you surprised? You are witnessing the birth of a new age in the creative life of Katrina Pearl.
And if I ever submit one of these stories, and if I ever have the honor of joining the ranks of professional women (and men!) who make their living delighting audiences with stories of Love And Sexytime, I will thank you all for being with me from the start. And I hope we’ll all have fun getting there.
Thank you for reading–