Hello, my name is Cindi and I’m a romance writer…
It look me the longest time to own the fact that I really want to write love stories. I guess I always thought that if I ever did write, it had to be something more (substantial?) than a love story / chicklit. I’m over that kind of thinking now. I just want to write what makes me happy, and for now that’s romance. Oh, and I reserve the right to change my mind about genres without prior notice 🙂
I’ve always loved reading and very soon after devouring all the Danielle Steel books in the local library I moved onto the classics. Reading has never been a chore for me, so I dedicated myself to reading widely, although it was only in adulthood that I really embraced fantasy.
Here’s a list of the love stories, for varying reasons that have touched me and linger with me still (in no particular order):
Message from Nam – Danielle Steele, Like Water for Chocolate – Laura Esquivel, Possession – A.S. Byatt, The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger, The Promise of Stardust –Priscille Sibley, Me Before You– Jojo Moyes, Outlander (the book series) – Diana Gabaldon, Twilight – Stephenie Meyer, Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen, Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë’, The Age of Innocence – Edith Wharton, Love Story – Erich Segal, The Fault in Our Stars – John Green, Love, in English – Karina Halle, Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy, Norwegian Wood – Haruki Murakami.
At university in the late nineties I was totally in my element studying English, and that exposed me to even more genres and styles than before. I guess it also taught me how to think about stories, plots and interpretation and I definitely grew as a reader.
I lacked the self-confidence to write because I believed that if I ever did it, actually wrote something, I had to write something amazing and award winning and something “literary”. I was Michiel Heyns’ student, damnit, and if there’s ever pressure to be a late bloomer in writing and a phenomenon, well, he is it! Being a writer was nothing more than an elusive dream… until one day. I woke up and realised: holy cow, I’m 32 years old and I’ve never written anything! I no longer felt like I had the “rest of my life” to do thing I’ve always wanted to do. So, one Saturday morning in 2013 I started writing “A Piece of My Heart” – back then the title I had in mind was “The Kilim Collector”. It was the first time I’d ever attempted to write anything more than a short piece of poetry and it was an odd start – as in: I remember writing a whole chapter: the final chapter, essentially the ending of a story, to a book I hadn’t even started plotting.
My trip to Istanbul in 2002 had made such an impression me, and even though I met a Turkish hunk, I certainly did not embark on a romantic relationship with him. Perhaps if there was a real romance then I would not have battled coming up with a plot for my story initially! I really started writing the story blind. There was no plan, no plot, no nothing; just a whisper of a story in the back of my mind about a South African girl falling madly in love with a Turkish hunk who was too old for her.
My original ending for A Piece of My Heart, which I ditched
Perhaps it would tickle the people who have read it now to know that in my initial start, the book ended with Alkan arriving at Victoria’s door with an engagement ring. Ha! But every time I went back to that ending I was dissatisfied. It just wasn’t right, because let’s face it, your Turkish heartthrob isn’t just going to pitch up at your door with the family heirloom to put on your finger because you are pregnant. No, happily ever after had to be something else (more) for me. I wanted something more for Victoria than: then comes love, then comes marriage, and then comes a baby in a bay carriage! So although my book is a romance novel and although the ending isn’t tied up with a red ribbon and roses, it is a satisfactory ending where future happiness is still on the cards.
Being a writer was a romantic notion in itself. What a wake-up call.
I saw myself as a Carey Bradshaw in Sex in the City, sitting behind my laptop and the words just flowing. I saw myself writing with long stem goblets of wine perched on my desk, but always just writing. Hollywood is a dirty little liar. I never once saw Carey being distracted by toddler boys who were either hungry or needed the toilet that minute (or both!). I never saw her leave her perfect minimalist desk to go and wee or boil a kettle. And she never ever sat down to write in a styling combination of pajamas and tracksuits without a perfectly made up face and hair pinned up with whatever was lying on the bathroom sink…
And the biggest secret of all is that writing is hard work and hardly no-one wants to pay for you it. Most people, even those in the profession, do not tell you that. So it takes an enormous amount of sheer pigheadedness to actually write despite all of this. To write when you don’t feel like it. To write when you have no time. To keep going even though you believe more and more that what you are writing is the biggest load of sh*t. And to steak time to do it: on the train on your way to work, during lunch breaks, when your kids are watching Barney… Write, write write.
I hope that if you are writer that some of this will ring true for you too, and make you feel like you are not crazy or alone. Okay, maybe a little crazy, but certainly not alone.
[If you are keen to read my debut novel A Piece of My Heart click right here to start reading the first chapters.]