Lots of people have asked how long it took to write my first book. I suppose that’s a common question posed to authors. I say it took all my life. Or, at least, it seems that way. I knew I wanted to be a writer in the fourth grade when my little essay on “What Patriotism Means to Me” won first place in my age division in a national contest.
I won $25, which seemed like a huge wad of cash to me at the time. I also got to appear on a morning show in Memphis, where I read my essay from the news desk in front of television cameras. I felt like a celebrity. I reckoned if I had reached such heights by the fourth grade, my star could only ascend as a grown-up when I became a famous novelist.
That child-like confidence faded a bit during my awkward teen years. I did become a writer, earning a degree in journalism and working much of my adult life as a reporter at small newspapers.
But, the dream of writing my own stories and not just reporting other people’s stories never completely left me. And I have two really awful manuscripts stuffed in a drawer somewhere to prove it.
Third time was the charm. We moved to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for my husband’s work. I didn’t find a job, so I started writing the murder mystery that eventually got me an agent and a publisher.
So, how long did it take to write that first book? It took a little more than four years – plus my whole life up to that point.
(NOTE: My publisher has different ideas about how long it takes to write a novel. I know exactly how long it will take to complete my second book, since I’m contractually obligated to turn it in by the end of October!)