Here is the second part in the short series in which my fellow members of the APG tell what made them write their first book. This time: Donna K. Fitch.
Out loud: “Yes, may I help you?” In my head: “Where is the librarian who’s supposed to be watching the reference desk?”
“I just have a quick question,” the man said, sticking his head in my office doorway.
It was summer, and the university library where I worked was nearly deserted. I was deep in—something or other—when he interrupted me. I don’t even remember what his question was, because of what happened next.
I stood up quickly to show him where whatever he needed was—stepped on the hem of my wide-legged trousers, and fell, slamming into the air handling unit under the window on the way down. My left shoulder was a flame of agony, and I realized my arm had popped out of the socket. I groaned something in response to the patron’s anxious question. When I moved my arm, the joint slipped back into place. My ankle grabbed my attention next. It was throbbing in time to my heartbeat.
Things happened quickly after that. The patron returned with the library director, who had already called an ambulance. As the paramedics strapped me to a board and cushioned my neck with a brace, despite my insistence that I hadn’t hit my head, the librarian who was supposed to be on duty walked up and said the universal line, “But I was only gone a few minutes.”
Two months of physical therapy on my shoulder followed, and not nearly as much on my sprained ankle. The therapy consisted of manipulation of the joint by the therapist, and exercises at home. But at the end of each session, came the part I actually enjoyed. I would lie on the table and have either an ice pack or electric therapy applied to my shoulder. (I’m not sure what the therapy is really called; it was tiny, tingly electric shocks.) In that awkward position, I couldn’t read comfortably. Kindles hadn’t been invented yet. All I could do was lie there and let my mind roam.
And roam it did. I’ve always loved to write, since I was about twelve, and I took creative writing in high school, but I’d never written anything substantial. For some reason, though, bits of a novel started creeping into my head.
What if an ordinary person suddenly felt like he was a soldier in the American Civil War, being pursued by someone who wanted to kill him?
That seed started what is now Second Death. (At various times it was called Already Dead and A Debt Past Due.) As the head of reference in an academic library, I had plenty of opportunity for research. Although I read lots of books on how to write, I didn’t really know how. Second Death went through about twelve drafts before I figured out the story’s direction, and another seven or so drafts to come to the conclusion.
I spent what seemed to me to be a great deal of money to have it professionally edited, but I was proud of it and wanted it to be the best it could be. People who read it, whose opinion I trusted, as well as my editor, thought it was excellent. I shopped it around with high hopes.
Nope. Nobody wanted it. Not what they wanted.
I wrote another novel, The Source of Lightning, in the meantime, and some short stories and novellas.
I joined the Indie Publishing Revolution and published both novels myself in a circumstance that’s a whole ‘nother story in itself. The traditional route may be fine for some people, but it’s not for me. I’ve learned so much on the journey, about writing and editing and marketing. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Except maybe the shoulder dislocation part.