I always had a secret desire to be an author, but was taught from a young age that it was unfeasible. Growing up in the 90s, only people like Roald Dahl and Jodi Picoult and Stephen King got published. I was taught to focus on obtaining a ‘real’ job and only do my writing in my spare time. And I was always good at it: consistently high grades for creativity and so forth at school.
By the time I hit University, I was working towards a basic Arts degree because it was essential to get into the director’s course at NIDA. (Yeah, I honestly thought I had more of a chance at being a film/TV director than being a published author.) While I was doing my degree, the rules changed: you had to go through the acting course to get into the director’s course. I didn’t want to be an actor, I wanted to be a director. I had already invested time into this degree and didn’t want to waste it, so I re-thought my options.
In my third year, I chose to do a writing course. I already knew how to write creatively – a half-written epic fantasy and dozens of other short or unfinished stories. As part of the course we had to critique others. It was then that I fell in love with editing and helping a manuscript become great. So I decided, as being a published author was still too hard to break into, that I would rather work in a publishing house as an editor.
Right? I know. Cue laughter. Traditional publishing – especially the Big Six houses – is one of the hardest industries to break into. I even decided to do an extra year of Uni to get an Honours degree in something respectable – Shakespeare – to help me when I moved to England.
When I did move to England, the crickets chirped and all was quiet on the job front. I started a blog to ensure I was writing at least every two days, tried to find a job, wrote more stories and yearned to finish my fantasy novel, topping out now at 120K words.
No one cared about my degree. It only really helped me write my fiction better. After I competed in NaNoWriMo in 2010 and actually finished my very first full-length novel (The Edge of Darkness), I looked into self-publishing.
I always thought that maybe my fantasy series (which at that point was still only one book, Dadewalker) would get rejected from traditional publishing because it contains underage sex and pregnancy, gory violence, and strong horror themes while still being an epic fantasy without dragons, elves, or wise old wizards in pointy hats. It’s also written in 1st person from two points of view (my heroine and her shapeshifting sidekick), and my heroine is not like any of those paranormal heroines who remain passive and are victims of circumstance: my heroine actively shapes the plot of the entire series. One of her best friends is gay, and this isn’t a big deal. The love interest is not even introduced until the second book. All of these things, in my opinion, make the novel traditionally unpublishable.
But I believed there was a market for the type of books I was writing. Turns out I was writing books aimed specifically at women like me. Of course, I was writing what I wanted to read: strong women who ignore traditional gender roles and don’t need to be rescued by a big strong man. Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the 17th and 25th century. A Xena without all the Warrior Princess stuff. A Mulan of her time: not without fear, but feisty, brave, and capable.
I believe there is a market for my books. I hope I’m right. I’d hate to think that this journey, my ‘calling’ if you will, the thing I have wanted since I was a little girl – my dream rolled up and stuffed into a bottle, and almost delivered to the Archive of Lost Dreams – isn’t my path in life.