Where do writers come from? Are they born or bred?
I don't really know the answer to that question, but I postulate that it is a little of each plus a pinch of something that cannot be defined or categorized.
I believe that our desire to create is inborn. Every one of us. We are all artists in our own right, but we use different mediums of expression, depending upon our individual personalities. Almost all that we do revolves around an innate desire to create, re-create and mold our surroundings into images of how we think they should be. Even acts of destruction are acts of creation in disguise, an extreme attempt to reshape reality.
The direction our creativity takes is often guided by the world around us--the people, places and events that fill our lives from childhood on up push us to develop the means by which we express our creativity.
As for me, I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, in a neighborhood that was both isolated and insulated, sandwiched between the sprawling acres of Prospect Park and morbid solitude of Green-Wood Cemetery (pictured above). Growing up in the shadow of an ancient graveyard in a house that had a creepy basement, off-kilter parents, a bitter Italian grandmother, and four older brothers who routinely viewed me as a perfect target for pent up aggression, I would not classify my childhood as normal (assuming the concept of normal actually exists). Yet I wouldn’t change a thing. Because of my un-Disney-like upbringing, I learned at an early age about the power of the imagination.
How does a child deal with fear? How does a child deal with insecurity? In my case, within the confines of my Brooklyn home, I invented characters that would both entertain and protect me from the bogeymen that surely prowled through the late night hours. They became at once a means of escape and a means of expression. Over time, entire worlds grew around those characters, invisible to everyone but me. Still, that didn’t make them any less real.
We moved out of Brooklyn when I was 16 years old, trading our city life for rural country living in upstate Pennsylvania. Our transition was marred by family disharmony and illnesses. I was plucked out of an all-girls city high school and plopped into a co-ed country school where everyone knew everybody else. Things did not go well. I was quickly labeled as the outcast, the oddball, the city kid who was too fat, talked weird and dressed funny. It was a good thing that all those characters I’d created came along for the ride. I relied on them, retreating often to the worlds they inhabited, and they carried me through those tough transitional years and beyond.
I've always loved writing. In fact I wrote my first "book" in 2nd grade--"Speedy the Mouse,"fully illustrated. You might still find the worn-out composition book tucked in the shelves of IHM grammar school’s library, where I had stashed it, hoping one day to become famous because of Speedy. Still, I never made the connection between my writing and my invented characters until much later in life. It wasn't until I graduated from the University of Scranton, and was halfway through law school at Syracuse University, that I realized those characters who lived in my mind could also inhabit other people’s imaginations. All I had to do was capture their essence on paper.
Thus, a writer was born.
Of course, by that time, I'd already committed myself to the legal profession, which I practiced diligently for 17 very, very long years. I still wrote, but only sporadically. All that time, my characters never gave up on me and often followed me into the courtroom, acting as my private cheering squad as I argued before judges and juries. Finally, due to circumstances that are too complex for inclusion here, my self-imposed prison sentence ended and I quit the practice of law. I freed myself to pursue writing full time while at the same time, freeing myself of a lot of extra dollars and cents (or is that "sense?") After all, who needs luxuries like food and clothes?
In the meantime, I somehow found the time to get married to a man I’m sure I "imagined" into existence. Otherwise, how else could he put up with my tripwire temperament and quirky nature? Along the way, we were blessed with two amazing, astounding kids who somehow managed to survive and thrive despite my clumsy attempts at parenting. We’ve lived in various places, including Florida (my personal favorite) and New Jersey,our current "home state." Along the way, we’veadopted and cared for a menagerie of animals, including a variety of dogs, a couple of cats, a pair of parakeets, too many fish to count,a turtle or two, a bearded dragon, and a few unlucky hamsters. I love animals because they so trustingly follow me into the intriguing dimensions where I spend my days behind what others see as just a plain office door.
Writing is not an easy profession and, despite the few notable exceptions on the front racks of the book stores, usually doesn't pay all that well. Still, it is a privilege, an obligation and an obsession all rolled into one, and is the most rewarding way I know of to create, re-create and mold reality. If I’ve done my job, the words I write will touch others and will allow them to recognize and interact with characters who live in a world otherwise inaccessible except through me. I am, in effect, a gatekeeper of sorts. It’s a hell of a responsibility and, despite the teeth gnashing and hair pulling that happens when I’m trying to get it “just right,” it is downright fun and the only thing I truly want to do for the rest of my life.
Since escaping from the practice of law, I've worked as a literary agent, a ghostwriter, an editor, a freelancer, a secretary, a substitute teacher, a one-on-one aide, and a receptionist. Yet, when people ask me what I do, I tell them the truth--I'm a writer.
I truly hope you will take the time to meet just a few of the characters who have kept me company over these many years. I know for a fact they are anxious to meet you. You'll find some of them in my novel SENTRY'S PAST: Veil of Darkness, originally published under the title TURN OF THE SENTRY, and since re-written as the first part of a trilogy. You'll find more of them in the novels to come. Fair warning, though--once you've met them and have lived in their worlds even for a short time, you may never be able to look at things quite the same way again.