In 2012-2013, I was fresh out of grad school, newly married, and for those two years either unemployed or underemployed. I was applying for as many jobs as I could and not getting any. I wasn't even getting interviews. When I wasn't filling out job applications, I was doing what any self-respecting person would do: distracting myself by exploring other worlds, lives, made available to me in books.
I've always loved love. I'm a wear my heart on my sleeve kind of girl. Not just my heart, literally any emotion I'm experiencing is probably being demonstrated on my face in some way, shape, or form. So any story that I came across that had an element of romance (YA, fantasy, sci-fi, thriller, women's fiction, mystery, and of course, romance), spoke to me. I connected with these stories, felt hope and happiness from them. And I started wanting to spread these kinds of stories, create that hope and happiness, into the world. I wanted to write romance.
The first manuscript I started writing was THE HIGHWAY WOMAN. Eventually, I set it aside to write something else (that turned out to be a great practice book but will probably NEVER SEE THE LIGHT OF DAY). But it was around this time that I ran into a man I went to grad school with. We'd been friends in grad school. While I'd chosen to leave academia after 2011, he was continuing on his way to getting his PhD and I knew that, many years ago, he'd published his own novel.
We ran into each other at a tea shop and did the awkward "hey, how are you, what's new" shuffle. I asked him about grad school and he asked me what I was up to. I told him I'm writing a book. He immediately seemed interested and asked the genre. Romance, I told him. His response?
I'm sorry. He said, I'm sorry, in this sarcastic, belittling way. He laughed. Essentially, he made me feel like shit.
At the time, I wasn't very confident in myself or in my writing. I laughed it off, said nothing, said goodbye, and then immediately felt like an even bigger pile of shit for not sticking up for myself, my writing, the genre that brought me so much hope, or the incredible women who created that work.
Ok. So like five years later and I'm not really that upset about it anymore. He had a sexist reaction and made a sexist comment about a genre that generates over $1 billion annually and is created, predominantly, for women and by women. Essentially, he didn't know what he was talking about. But the moment itself was a defining one for me because it made me think about why I wanted to write romance:
Because it's feminist.
Because it's fun.
Because it celebrates women's sexuality.
But mostly because writing romance makes me happy.
This name has confused every school teacher I have ever had. I love my name. It's uniqueness has helped to define me as a person. But it's also the reason I use a pen name. My name is beautiful, unique, and really confusing so I use a pen name to make it less so.
And, I don't want to alienate any more school teachers.