Some say writers are born, not made. Personally, I think it’s both: Natural-born talent is basically useless without the persistence to go with it. I was lucky enough to have been blessed with a deep and abiding love of books and writing coupled with an insane stick-to-it-iveness, which, let me tell you, is a double-edged sword (great when carrying on in the face of rejection and hardship; not so great when it comes to relationships that should’ve died an early death).
As I child, I read voraciously–as many books per week as I could carry home in my bike basket. My early writings were inspired by fantasy and mystery (I was a huge fan of Nancy Drew). I won praise from my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Cherry, for my short story “The Secret of the Mossy Cave,” which is probably what inspired me to become a writer. An aspiration cemented, in high school, when I won third prize in a state-wide poetry competition and took Honorable Mention for another poem, in a nationwide contest.
When I took up writing as a profession, as a young single mom, mostly what I did those first few years was collect rejection slips. However, I persisted and went on to publish 32 novels for young adults (starting with the successful “Sweet Valley High” series), and, to date, 15 novels of women’s fiction, as well as numerous short stories and magazine articles. Also a cookbook, inspired by my passion for baking, titled SOMETHING WARM FROM THE OVEN.
My first adult novel, GARDEN OF LIES, enjoyed many weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, both in hardcover and paperback. I can still recall the thrill I felt when I saw it displayed in the window of the Barnes & Noble store on Fifth Avenue, in New York, where I live. As I stood there on the sidewalk looking in, it was a dream come true, the culmination of what I used to envision, in those early, hardscrabble years, as I was sat at my typewriter, on my desk in the kitchen, where it was often a struggle to put food on the table.
My definition of success? Getting up one more time than you fall down.
As for love…I finally found it in the most unlikeliest of all places: when I was home alone. I was being interviewed over the phone by a radio talk show host named Sandy Kenyon, formerly of CNN and now a correspondent for WABC-TV, here in New York City. He sounded so nice that when he asked if he could call back later on, I said, “Sure!” We talked for three hours that night…and every night after that. Six weeks later, when we finally met, sparks flew. We were married in September of 1996, and all these years later we still feel like we’re on our honeymoon.
Happy endings do exist, in life as well as in fiction. You just have to write your own happy ending.