My editor once observed that the heroes of my first three books are “so different.” Gayle Windham, The Earl of Westhaven, from “The Heir,” is a studious fellow with a legal bent, a man comfortable with management and the complexities of business. His older half-brother, Devlin St. Just, from “The Soldier,” excels at the equestrian arts, has little use for polite society, and loves the scent of freshly baked bread. Rounding out the trio is Valentine Windham, who by virtue of obsessive focus has perfected musical skill to the point where his book is titled, “The Virtuoso.”
At first I considered that their individual traits were simply large-family dynamics at work, where differentiation occurs because (in my opinion) parents can’t focus as closely on eight separate children the way they can one. Then too, if a child is competing for scarce parental attention, the child is more likely to hone individual strengths and even capitalize on weaknesses, the better to stand out from the crowd.
Then I looked more closely at the heroes I’d written: A consummate manager, a consummate equestrian, a consummate musician. Heaven help me, I’d written into these men three of the largest dreams I did not make come true for myself.
When I started law school, I worked for Fortune 100 firms as a contract administrator. I negotiated deals with the federal government, oversaw subcontracts in the tens of millions of dollars, and generally wallowed in commerce—only to find I stank of corporate endeavors, and it was not a pleasant scent to wear eighteen hours a day.
Before that, I’d wallowed in music. My friends were musicians, my profession was music, my academic focus was music, and my recreation was music. I was playing catch up, though, because as intuitive as my grasp of music theory was, as much as I loved music, I was a lousy performer who’d gotten a late start with my instrument. I saw a lifetime of feeling inadequate stretching before me as a musician, and I headed off to law school instead.
And the horses? I love horses, but again, my love does not equate to proficiency in the saddle. I thought I’d contribute something to the sport by managing recognized equestrian competitions. I was good enough at it, but the job was thankless, full of liability, and without remuneration. I have managed my last horse show.
I still own horses, I still have a piano, and I still run my little law practice. My musical, business and equestrian dreams did not come true, though. I’d thought I chosen different roads in the yellow wood, and set aside the dreams I’d originally envisioned. Now I find those dreams served one more purpose by defining the heroes of my first three books. Their Graces have eight surviving children, and I’m looking forward to finding more resurrected dreams in their books.
What about you? Have you set aside dreams, only to find them back in your life in some altered, more enjoyable form?
To one of this week’s blog commenters, I’ll be giving away a signed copy of “The Virtuoso.”