Monday, January 09, 2006

Catalina Magazine named Hot Tamara as the #1 Chick Lit title for 2005 ... woo hoo!!!

Today I'm guest blogging at A Slice of Orange, the blog for Orange County Chapter Romance Writers of America. I'm talking about my first year as a published author and the "learning experiences" that taught me to emphasize my strengths as a writer, not put all of my energy into trying to do something different. You can read it at

Throughout the three decades and two years I've been around, I realized a tendency to want to be good at everything, especially the things I'm bad at. Looking back at some of my favorite authors, I realized that they all started at a very basic level, usually tapping into their own life experience to create those first stories. Have you ever watched those time elapsed images of a plant breaking through the seed and curling out of the soil? That's how I see the careers of my favorite authors and now myself. Like that new seedling, their work slowly eases away from the roots and their stories grow and sometimes branch out into different genres.

I have two of Nora Roberts early novels (I love her and if you don't, I won't hold it against you.) and every now and then I open them up to see her as a new writer. Within the gawkiness and the 1980's style of romance, I can see the beginnings of her greatness. At their publication, those works were groundbreaking, even titillating. But when I compare them against her most recent In The Garden trilogy, I feel a perverse relief that she, too, had to start somewhere and those early steps were uncertain and coltish.

It's an amazing thing watching your own work grow. I'm torn between embarrassment and pride when I read my very first book; embarrassment at my heavy reliance on adjectives and character stereotypes, but pride in the dialogue and the fact that I actually finished the stupid thing. Right now I'm re-reading Swithcraft and seeing the tears and uneven seams in the story. But I also see that I'm growing as a novelist. Within the wreckage of a first draft, I also see those shining moments when at the first try, I got a scene right, or surprised myself when the character seemed to take over for a moment and reveal something very human about him or herself. Nevertheless I have my work cut out for me, but I'm excited by challenge and confident that with two books under my belt, that I can do this.

You'd think that the accolades like having my first book be named #1 in Chick Lit would make this easier. But it doesn't. If anything it raises the stakes because now y'all have higher expectations. I hope if I can't yet exceed them, that I meet them.

With that, pray for me.


Bethany said...

This is a GOOD problem right? I mean you know you are growing (and still challenging yourself) as a writer. And hell, for me even in my unpublished status, I can see myself getting better.

And that is my issue. I set HIGH expectations for myself with each new project, each new step toward GETTING published, and now, I worry I won't be able to get those *right.*

But for now, you and I, can hope hard work and hopeful attitudes will get us through the next draft. Right? :-)

Mary Castillo said...

It's not really a problem. It's the life of a writer, or any artist who is impatient to grow in their work. I have so many ideas in my head - historicals, mysteries, etc. But right at this very moment, my strength is romantic comedy.

And yet, I argue with myself: shouldn't I be able to write anything that comes to mind? If I had the time to experiment, yes.

So you're right, hard work and hope will get us to those next plateaus in our journies. Which is why I should be reading chapter 8 than spending time on my blog!


Louise said...

Mary -- Congrats on the #1 ranking for HOT TAMARA!!!