I once wrote a personal experience piece called “Confessions of an Accidental Novelist” in which I explained that I hadn’t intended to become a fiction writer. In fact, I was quite convinced I lacked the “fiction gene.” I’d spent most of my professional life as a dancer and dance educator. Even though I enjoyed writing and had even moonlighted as a freelance journalist while I was still dancing, I stuck to nonfiction.
Until… age and injury led to my retirement from dance. Grieving over the loss of my lifelong passion and identity, I got an idea for a story about an aspiring fifteen-year-old dancer with lots of friendship and family problems. Writing about a dancer wasn’t the same as being a dancer, but it helped me work through my grief and became my first young adult novel, WHILE I DANCED.
By the time I finished it, I was hooked. I returned to school to earn my MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. After that, I just kept going and have since written three more young adult novels, IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN YOU, LEISHA’S SONG, and DEADLY SETUP. I’m currently working on another, tentatively called MISSING MOM.
It has seemed natural to me to continue to write young adult novels. Teens have always been my favorite age group to work with, and adolescence is such a dramatic period in our lives when we’re really trying to figure out basic questions of identity.
And then… I accidentally wrote a mystery novel for adults. My dear writing friend Beth Schmelzer challenged me to write a short story for Malice Domestic’s anthology, MURDER MOST THEATRICAL. I NEVER wrote short stories (well, unless you count the one in seventh grade, “Woman in the Dugout”), but I got an idea for one. What if an apparently healthy ballerina died onstage, and it wasn’t clear what, not to mention who, had killed her?
I liked my story, and it was fun to try something so different from my other work. But I felt frustrated that I really hadn’t been able to develop the character of the homicide detective within the confines of short fiction. So, I decided to expand the story into a novel. By the time I finished, it was as much about the personal struggles of the detective as it was about the mystery, and even the identity of the murderer had changed!
Long story short, MISSED CUE comes out on August 8 from Melange Books, and I’m excited to welcome my first mystery for adults into the world.
Sometimes, our writing lives take us in directions we didn’t expect, but the journey turns out to be quite wonderful. Accidental detours remind me of one of my favorite Yogi Berra sayings: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
You never know what might happen!