This guest post is part of the Turning Points blog series here on distraction no. 99—in which I asked authors the question: What was your turning point as a writer? Here is YA author Leigh Fallon revealing hers…
Guest post by Leigh Fallon
I haven’t been writing all that long. The first “real” thing I ever wrote was my debut novel, Carrier of the Mark.
For me, this Turning Points series has been a real eye opener. I’ve been reading of the struggles and major moments that became turning points in the careers of some of my favorite authors, and it’s been amazing. But I haven’t been writing long enough to have yet experienced those epic moments. The ones that make the light bulb start flashing above your head. This writing game is a rollercoaster of mind-blowing highs and stomach-clenching lows. I’ve had a taste of what’s to come, but I know it’s been just that, a taste.
I’ve only dipped my toe in the murky waters of the publishing world, but I did have a first turning point moment that urged me to take off my shoe, pull down my sock, and tentatively test the temperature. And that moment happened to me around this time three years ago.
I was living in the small fishing village of Kinsale, Co Cork, Ireland. I’d just had my twin boys, bringing my total number of kids to a whopping four. I was on an extended career break from my job in corporate treasury, and pining the loss of my independence. I was your typical harassed, stressed-out mom, trying to juggle too many pies. My two daughters were in ballet class, and my boys were in the back of the car screeching their little lungs out from boredom, and it was lashing rain. The windows had fogged up, obscuring the world outside. The sound of two babies crying and the pounding of the rain on the car roof became overwhelming, and I felt trapped in my foggy mommy bubble. And that’s when it happened, my turning point moment. I sought an escape.
I picked up a pen and a scrap of paper from the floor, and I started to write. It was the beginning of what would eventually become Carrier of the Mark.
The chapter that I scrawled onto the back of receipts and kids drawings would never make it into the final version of Carrier, but it was the pathway to the rest of the book, and it would launch a career I’d never even considered.
That was my big turning point. I suddenly realized, that hidden away under years of repressed imagination, bad advice from teachers, and strange career choices, I was a writer—though I use the term loosely.
Now that I look back on my life, there were clues, little hints of what was lurking below the surface. I used to do this thing, where if something annoyed me, I’d write my feelings and frustrations in a letter. It wouldn’t be to anyone in particular, and it would never be sent. I’d be mouthing out the words as I wrote them. A good letter-writing session would leave my face sore from all the angsty facial expressions I’d be making. But it delivered me to a happier place. I needed the release of the writing. It made me feel better. I never thought anything of it. Everything I wrote was for purely therapeutic reasons. As soon as it was out of my system it would be ripped to shreds. Gone. Done.
People used ask me for help with their communications. I’ve written letters of complaint, of praise, of love, and of resignation. I’ve dictated speeches, and fleshed out whole conversations for people over many a long-distance phone call. People came to me looking for words and the right format to put them in. I’d been writing all these years for other people, but never for myself.
Things changed on that rainy day in my car three years ago. I suddenly started writing for myself, and it was different. Because I wanted to share it, and to my surprise, people liked it, they wanted more. I sold the book, then the sequel.
So that’s my turning point, realizing I was a person who liked to write, and I had for many years. The problem now is accepting the label that goes with it. Whenever anyone asks me what I do, I hesitate and lower my voice before I tell them. I’m conscious that I blush when I say “I’m a writer.” I hear the words and they sound pretentious to me. In many ways I don’t feel I’ve earned the title yet. Yes I write, but I’m busy learning the craft of writing now, figuring it all out, honing my skills. I’m still finding my way.
So for now, I’m a person who writes books. I don’t know if I’ll ever arrive at the point where I’ll feel comfortable with the title that goes with that, but I’m sure having fun working towards it.
Leigh Fallon was born in South Africa, raised in Dublin, Ireland and moved to Cork in her twenties. While living in beautiful Kinsale, her novel, Carrier of the Mark, was conceived. She promptly abandoned her “riveting” career in corporate treasury and discovered Inkpop, a website for budding writers of teen fiction. Within weeks her manuscript hit the coveted top-five spot and was reviewed by an editor at HarperCollins. A few emails and some hysterical screaming later, she signed her first deal. Leigh and her family now share their time between Ireland and the US. You can visit her online at leighfallon.com.
GIVEAWAY WINNER ANNOUNCED!
Congratulations to the giveaway winner of a *signed* copy of Leigh Fallon’s debut novel Carrier of the Mark! The winner is…
Congratulations, Samantha! And thanks to the author for offering up her book for a giveaway. I’ll email the winner soon for her mailing address!