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.”
Amen, sister. I gave different aspects of my personality to each of my characters, but more importantly, I resurrected (channeled) my brother who was killed in 1969 for one of my heroes. I integrated many of the stories I heard about him, updating them and I swear I could hear him whispering pickup lines and snarky comments in my head. I was only 9 when he was killed. I also gave him a younger brother who is everything my other brother would have been if he hadn’t been in Joe’s shadow, had a modicum of musical talent and we’d had wealthy parents.
Lovely post. Thanks!
I was nine when one of my oldest brothers went off to Vietnam. He came back in one physical and emotional piece, thank heavens. We would have been diminished as a family had we lost him, and his twin would probably have been devastated. You get big attagirls for integrating your loss into your creative writing. May Joe’s book be a bestseller!
I was an interior designer. It’s still a passion of mine & I stay informed via my hero (architect) & so many online designers/decorators.
I stopped because I couldn’t manage to swallow one more 100,000 dollar backsplash or 10,000 stained glass window above a garden tub, when I couldn’t afford to pay rent, much less a mortgage. After my babies grew old enough to go to school, and one was diagnosed with language disabilities (he’s now in college to be a writer himself!) I couldn’t let go completely. I went back to grad school to be a teacher for special education. Like you, I saw before me a long road ahead of continuing education – it doesn’t stop when you become a teacher with a job. It goes on and on and on….
Plus, my domestic nature suffered. Working, going to school, all left precious little time to cook, clean, and celebrate life’s achievements with my own family. I gave it up.
Only to say to my hero, “I’m going to write romance novels!” Well, he was on board with that plan!
And all my stories center around the characters of the interior design world, or the communication problems between people.
So, I guess now we have it all, don’t we?
There’s some book out now… “Aging Well” maybe, that points out that people who mature successfully and happily find a way to bring together several of their interests and passions later in life. Seems like you’ve hit that one out of the park, and found the guy who can appreciate you, no matter the paths you choose to travel. Well done, you!
Wow, I admire that you seem to have found a balance in everything you do. I am still working at the balance and have accepted that it may never work out exactly how I want it to, but that I can be happy in whatever happens.
I have had a lot put on hold and had it come back in ways I could never have imagined that were ultimately positive. Probably the most predominant aspect was going back to school. I had started college, got pregnant, got married, got pregnant again, and eventually night classes were even too much with kids and working. College was lost in the wind until this miraculous development of distance learning. I finished my AA in Business that had been hanging for years. Then went on to obtain my BA in Psychology. But the most interesting part about it was that I was in Developmental Psychology in 09 at the same time my 6th child was born and diagnosed with VeloCardioFacial Syndrome. I couldn’t get enough information and class discussions were great because I could relate so much to what we were being told about my son’s prognosis. Being in school with that responsibility also kept me busy enough not to dwell on things I could not change while we basically waited – waited for test results, waited in surgery waiting rooms, just waited to see if he would thrive. I graduated last year and while I cannot currently put my degree to use because of commitments to raising my son (and other children), the process of getting that degree and the unwillingness to let it all go when I was so close, kept me from losing my sanity when I was surrounded by uncertainty. And today, my son is doing well. You wouldn’t know how much he has been through to just look at him.
And thank you for Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish. I just finished it. The first of your books I have read – and enjoyed it very much. I look forward to getting to know the family even better.
Nothing informs my writing like my experiences as a Mom. We love our mates, but our love for our children is such a focused, primal thing. For me, I can defend myself from the heartbreak romantic relationships can bring, but vulnerability as a parent takes a whole different kind of courage. Six kids is PhDs and Nobel Prizes worth of loving and wisdom.
And your story reminds me of my brother Tom. Our dad is a retired college professors, our older siblings tore through PhD programs, but Tom never finished college. He exhorted his sons at length, “Don’t be like me. Get your degree when you’re young. It pays for itself, blah, blah.” But his kids pointed out that Dad no longer had small children, nor was he without a few coins of the realm: Why didn’t he go back to school if college was so important? HMMM?
Tom is a great dad and a smart nan. He’s also a college graduate–finally.
That is awesome! Well done of your brother. I wish I could make use of my degree, but I know eventually my time will come – just as my time to obtain the degree finally came around. The feeling of accomplishment when I look at that diploma is indescribable. And thanks for the compliments. The kids are the best thing I have ever done. They have changed my life in ways I never thought possible and I wouldn’t change a thing.
I started college with intent to be an English teacher mainly because I liked to read and liked to discuss. Got scared in college at how much work teaching was (basically I’m a lazy person!) and got a degree in public relations which I never used. Started work with the Feds and worked 10 years with increasing responsibility at an office job processing claims. Transferred to a field office actually dealing with the public and taking the claims (not just processing them) and discovered how much I loved working and talking with people–I was a people-person–how had I managed to be happy for those 15 years as a paper pusher? Then got a job teaching my skills to new hires. Loved that, too, and ended up teaching full time during the last 15 years of my career with the Feds. So I guess I should have stuck with my initial plans to be a teacher (even an English teacher) since I ended up where I began after all!! Of course, teaching hard-earned skills acquired during a 25 year career is a vastly different prospect than teaching literature appreciation or writing skills to youngsters. But teaching satisfied some need I had in me to ‘help others’ and I even got paid. I was sorry to retire but other factors demanded it! I guess you could call that a ‘resurrected dream.’
C–I call that a career that (eventually) drew on all of your education, training and skills. Something in you was willing to welcome those major shifts along the way. Another person would have clung to the known, and had much less job satisfaction to show for it. Good on you!