Readers of my fiction will easily notice a common theme in my writing: passion – between characters, of course, but I hope it is also apparent that I am deeply passionate about the writing itself.
I have wanted to write for as long as I can remember, and writing romance became my dream once I discovered this genre in my teens – epic movies, sweeping book sagas, poetry, even romantic artworks, like Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss by Antonio Canova (see ‘Pysche and Cupid: the ancient story with a happy-ever-after’). For decades this passion for romantic writing has been unwavering; I have published six novels so far, and have so many more stories to tell; their characters call to me in my daydreams, demanding to be written into existence.
I cannot imagine not writing my romance novels. I cannot imagine writing something else instead about which I am not passionate.
Recently, the website LitHub published a letter of advice from the American novelist Louisa M. Alcott to a young writer in 1878. By that time, Louisa had become a successful and well-known novelist with her books Little Women (1868), Good Wives (1869) and Little Men (1871). In the letter, she wrote:
I worked for twenty years poorly paid, little known, & quite without any ambition but to eke out a living, as I chose to support myself & began to do it at sixteen… Little Women was written when I was ill, & to prove that I could not write books for girls. The publisher thought it flat, so did I, & neither hoped much for or from it. We found out our mistake, & since then, though I do not enjoy writing “moral tales” for the young, I do it because it pays well.
Like many young women, I read and enjoyed the Little Women series – especially for its bold and fiery character Jo (modelled on Louisa herself). How sad, then, to discover that the author was not passionate about these books; that she was simply doing as her publisher instructed in order to make money.
Louisa had to make an income from her writing; her family was in need of financial support. She looked at her situation thus: ‘the success I value most was making my dear mother happy in her last years & taking care of my family’. I admire very much her work ethic and self-sacrifice, but my heart aches for her that she could not follow her passion in her writing.
For Louisa was capable of writing with passion – and of passion. Before Little Women, she had written under the pen name A.M. Barnard, and these books were sensational. Indeed, A Long Fatal Love Chase, written for a publisher who intended to serialise the book, was deemed too sensational, and Louisa abandoned the manuscript. It was finally discovered and published in 1995 by Random House, and became an instant bestseller.
From the book’s description:
‘I’d gladly sell my soul to Satan for a year of freedom,’ cries impetuous Rosamond Vivian to her callous grandfather. Then, one stormy night, a brooding stranger appears in her remote island home, ready to take Rosamond to her word. Spellbound by the mysterious Philip Tempest, Rosamond is seduced with promises of love and freedom, then spirited away on Tempest’s sumptuous yacht. But she soon finds herself trapped in a web of intrigue, cruelty, and deceit. Desperate to escape, she flees to Italy, France, and Germany, from Parisian garret to mental asylum, from convent to chateau, as Tempest stalks every step of the fiery beauty who has become his obsession.
Passion abounds! How painful it must have been for Louisa to place this manuscript in a drawer and move on – to write a new book, on a publisher’s instruction once more, which she did not want to write.
Somehow, despite Louisa’s feelings towards Little Women – ‘moral pap for the young’, as she called it – it was the answer to her prayers: it brought the financial security her family needed, and literary success. We can hope that at the end of her life she made peace with the series; after all, she wrote the final book, Jo’s Boys, when she was dying, and she deliberately gave Jo an ending that was in keeping with Louisa’s feminist ideals.
In her letter to the young writer, she advised:
There is no easy road to successful authorship; it has to be earned by long & patient labor, many disappointments, uncertainties & trials. Success is often a lucky accident, coming to those who may not deserve it, while others who do have to wait & hope till they have earned it. This is the best sort & the most enduring.
Certainly, Louisa’s success was enduring – not only through Little Women, but also the work infused with her passion, A Long Fatal Love Chase.
I consider myself very fortunate that I am able to follow my passion in my writing. For me, the ‘lucky accident’ matters not; writing from the heart is what fulfils me and brings me to my writing desk each day, eager to write the next words, and the next.