Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Turning Points

Question: What’s the link between Enid Blyton, Mills and Boon, ‘The West Wing’ TV series, and an American Civil War battlefields tour?
Answer: They’ve all been turning points in my writing career.
I’ve always made up stories in my head, but it was when I was about nine and discovered the school series ‘Malory Towers’ by Enid Blyton that I started filling exercise books with school stories. My heroine was the same as Enid Blyton’s but I gave her different friends and different adventures during her six years at the school.
During my teens, I turned to writing romances – very cheesy ones, but half a dozen friends waited eagerly for each instalment. Jump forward about ten years to when my first daughter was a baby. I needed something more brain-stimulating than ‘baby-talk’ and started to rewrite one of my teenage stories. Initially, I wrote it simply for myself, but then decided to submit it to Mills and Boon. To my amazement, they accepted it, and gave me a contract for two more novels which I duly produced during the next two years.
When M&B were taken over by Harlequin in the 70’s, their ‘formula’ changed completely, and the stories I wanted to write didn’t fit that formula. I did have another novel accepted by a different publisher in 1980, but apart from some short stories, that was the end of my fiction writing for several years.
In 2005, I had no idea when I first became hooked on the TV series ‘The West Wing’ that it would prove to be another turning point for me. It led me into the world of fan-fiction, and eventually (and very tentatively) I started to write my own West Wing fan fiction stories. I was quite happy doing these and didn’t even consider doing anything else until...

Until 2008 when I did a week’s tour of American Civil War battlefields in VA, MD and PA – and happened to meet a Harlequin author who was also doing the tour. She encouraged me to start writing novels again and when I got home, I hunted out some old half-finished stories.

The rest, as they say, is history. I've had four novels published since June 2011, just submitted a fifth one (fingers crossed!), and I’m half way through a sixth. There have been other turning points along the way – not least finding my two fantastic critique partners, ‘meeting’ other writers online, many of whom have become good friends, and, of course, my trip to Egypt two years ago which inspired my latest novel, 'Her Only Option.'

What have been your 'turning points'?



  1. I also started with Enid Blyton. It was her Noddy books that made me want to learn to read. The list of authors that have inspired me would fill a book on their own, but it was Stephen King's On Writing that gave me the inspiration and confidence to actually finish something. I sent that first short story to a local magazine, which printed it and PAID me. Whilst I was writing stories and article I worked on a full length novel. Melange accepted it last year and the rest, as you say, is history.
    So glad your friend persuaded you to write again, Paula. What a waste it would have been to have left your unfinished manuscripts in a drawer!

  2. I have always loved to read, but my entry into romance came in the Atlanta airport. My flight was grounded by weather, and I asked a bookstore clerk for a book recommendation. She handed me a thick Bertrice Small novel. I was hookedad.
    My second hill came after I read a western romance by a NYT author. The last chapter was quick wrap up of convenience. All the buildup went unanswered. The heroine was poof!! home back east. Rugged hero knocks on front door. Butler answers as he shouts that he figured out the child playing in the piano room was his daughter. Yeck!
    I could write a better story, I thought.
    That was eight years ago. I have learned how naive I was.

  3. Jenny, I wasn't very keen on Noddy. I think my very first favourite was Milly-Molly-Mandy! And I sold my very first published short story to one of the D.C Thomson magazines, think it was Red Star or Red Letter (long since defunct!)

  4. Ana, I've never read anything by Bertrice Smallm but have heard other people mention her as their 'inspiration'.
    I've read novels with weak and/or contrived endings too (especially some of those from olne of the big romance publishers!)

  5. Paula, I've never heard of Enid Blyton? English, I assume? My first turning point was a short story accepted by a university literary magazine. I accepted the responsibility of being a "real" writer then. The second was when my first book sold to Kensington. My goal had always been to have a book published. And my last turning point was when I found my niche in digital publishing. My focus now is on getting all of my stories in print for others to share.

  6. Joining my local RWA chapter was definitely a turning point for me. It was then that my dream of 'someday' writing a book started to become a reality.

  7. Enid Blyton was a prolific writer of children's books, Linda. She fell out of favour later because of her style and vocabulary,
    and of writing, and later because her books were deemed dated and politically incorrect. But I'd still maintain that my generation started to love reading because of her stories.
    Oddly enough, I never really had a goal of having a book published. Maybe it happened too easily back in the 60's when the first full novel I ever wrote was accepted by the first publisher I sent it to. Even now there are still times when I don't feel like a 'real' writer!

  8. I wasn't a member of anything when my first stories and novels were published, Debra. And I don't recall ever having a dream of having a novel published. As I've just said in my reply to Linda, maybe it all happened too easily! Yes, I was thrilled of course - although astonished might be a better word!

  9. Brilliant story, Paula - you'll be glad you met that editor! Joining a local writing group in the early 90s inspired me to get short stories published in mags - and I've gradually progressed from then.

  10. Wish there was a writing group near me, Rosemary. The Manchester RNA seems to be defunct, and the Manchester NaNo group seems to consist of University students and twenty year olds, who meet at a bar in town - not my scene!