You’ve all heard the expression. “She’s no spring chicken.” In other words, she or he isn’t young. Inexperienced. Green.
I certainly wouldn’t call myself a spring chicken. In fact, I don’t think I’ve been able to apply this term to myself for a few years. However, age is good. Age brings experience. Age brings wisdom. At least that is the hope.
I began my professional romance writing career after my spring chicken years. Sometimes, I wish I’d gotten started sooner. Often, I wonder if I’d now be collecting Danielle Steel-esque royalties if I’d started writing in my twenties. Nevertheless, when I look back to the girl I was then, I don’t think I’d have made a very good writer. I certainly wouldn’t have made a very good author. (Oh, and there is a difference.)
Now, that’s not to say I hadn’t experienced love in my twenties. In fact, I got married at the relatively-young age of 26. I’ve had a lot of love in my life.
But did I understand it then? I’m not sure I comprehended all its complexities.
People in their twenties are still exploring. Some explore more than others, of course. I was never much of an explorer. I didn’t date a lot. My boyfriend list can probably be counted out on one hand. But I did enjoy dreaming about men. Unfortunately, dreaming does not equal experience.
A romance writer needs, I think, to have some experience with the world. She needs to know what it’s like to have her heart ripped out of her chest. She needs to experience loss and all its devastating side effects. She needs to feel joy and rapture and the toe-curling bliss of an amazing fuck. And she also needs to know what it’s like to make love. Note how I made the two thoughts distinct? That’s right. Fucking and making love are not the same thing.
And it’s not just about love. A good romance writer should have some experience with the world at large as well. Perhaps she’s had a few career changes. Perhaps she’s toiled over spreadsheets and given presentations. She may have gone to school and stayed up all night writing last-minute papers, or she may not have seen the inside of a classroom for years. She’s failed and she’s excelled. She’s been forced out of her comfort zone many times, but she also knows what it’s like to crawl into her shell and avoid those who’ve hurt her. She may have had children or she may have made the decision not to. She might have a dozen marriage proposals in her history, or maybe she still longs for the first. Perhaps she’s had days where she’s given up on men, and the human race, altogether. And maybe she finds delight in each new day.
In other words, she’s lived.
In my opinion, with the knowledge I had in my twenties, I couldn’t have written an effective romance. I’m so glad I waited. Yes, I floundered a bit while waiting, but it all worked out for the best. Because now, when I bring you a romance, I bring you all my love and heartache and agony with it. I show you my scars and my tears. I cut my wrist and bleed into the manuscript.
I live and die for you on those pages.
And I just don’t think a spring chicken can do the same thing.