People are surprised when I tell them that my life isn’t glamorous. Sure, my eleventh novel hit bookstores in November and even managed to reach the New York Times extended list, and my publisher is already working on a major book tour for the release of book #12 in May, and I just bought the cutest, most impractical yet expensive shoes just to wear on TV interviews. But at the moment, I’m dressed like a homeless woman because I’m in “just finished a book and now I’ve got to get into the holidays” mode, I’ve been yelled at twice by each resident teenager (not including the one “You can’t make me!” from the 16-year-old male child regarding his haircut appointment later this afternoon), I’m sitting on a bed covered with three loads of unfolded laundry and umpteen unwrapped presents and wrapping paper, and I’m thinking I need to take the dog to the vet tomorrow because he’s chewing on his leg which means he has another skin infection.
See what I mean?
Sure, I get lots of fan mail—my favorite part of this job—but all I have to do is glance up at the sticky kitchen counters, the shoes, text books, and sports apparatus scattered liberally around the house like pepper on scrambled eggs, and I’m back to the reality of my non-glamorous life.
I don’t want to burst anybody’s fantasy bubble, but I feel a dire need to set the record straight. I recently signed a two-book contract for the continuation of my Tradd Street mystery series, but the books are going to come out two years apart because I simply couldn’t fathom keeping up with writing two books a year and having a life, glamorous or otherwise. When I mentioned this at a book club, the readers—and I love them all!—were up in arms that they would have to wait so long between installments. I told them if I could get the two teenagers, husband, guinea pig and dog to move in with them for a year, I might be able to write a bit faster. Oddly enough, I didn’t have any takers.
Yesterday, as I was cleaning dog vomit from the back seat of my car, I found myself wondering why I make my life so crazy. Why do I have to write? Couldn’t I just keep to a leisurely schedule of a book every five years or so? The answer is easy: no. Writing isn’t just something I do—it’s who I am. When I get a story snagged in my brain, I’m compelled to write it—even if it means carting my laptop to the carpool line, the horse barn, the football field or the laundry room to get it written.
In my November book, The Girl on Legare Street, the protagonist, Melanie Middleton, is forced to reunite with her mother 33 years after her mother abandoned her. There are so many hurts and misunderstandings in their relationship until Melanie discovers the real reason why her mother left her all those years ago. But that’s more than three decades lost to both of them, decades of stories Melanie and her mother never shared with each other. And in all that time, Melanie relegated her mother to her past, as if she’d never existed and her stories didn’t matter.
I don’t want to be like Melanie; I want to experience life and all its stories—good and bad—then put them down onto the pages of books to share with others. Even if it means getting less sleep than I should, and sometimes picking my children up from school at 3:30 in the afternoon still wearing the pajamas I wore when I dropped them off.
My life might not be glamorous, but it’s mine, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Besides, my children won’t be teenagers forever, and before long I’ll have a quiet, orderly life and house, and they’ll be calling me and telling me how wonderful I am and asking for my advice about life. And if that doesn’t happen, then I’ll just have to write them into my books so I can bend them to my will. Hey, I’m the writer and in my world, fantasies happen.
For more information about Karen and all of her books, please visit her website. Merry Christmas!