My journey to writing began as so many do, in a love of reading. My mother taught me to read when I was three years old, and I devoured everything I could get my hands on. We didn’t have a lot of books in our home, because she was a single mother and money was often tight, but I read the Bible, enjoying all the drama of the Old Testament, and whatever else we had, until I started reading Dr. Spock’s baby wellness book and self-diagnosing with all sorts of horrid maladies. Then we got a library card.
In third grade, I wrote the first piece that anyone really paid attention to, sitting inside my living room window watching my sister’s cat kill and eat a rabbit outside. The future journalist in me carefully noted each organ as it was torn out and chewed, documenting the entire event for posterity. My mother was so impressed, she took it to my school and my teacher read it to the class. The girls were grossed out, but the boys actually thought I was a little bit more cool.
As I moved into high school, my writing tastes graduated from Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time (one of my all-time favorite books) and The Island of the Blue Dolphins to romantic suspense. I read everything by Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt, Jane Aiken Hodge, and Dorothy Eden. Back in those days, romantic suspense was more about the mystery and danger than it was about sex. I knew in my heart I could write stories like this, and when I was 14, I wrote my first, a terribly Gothic time travel story about a young woman who enters an old house and is mysteriously transported back a hundred years, becomes the governess, falls in love with the young master of the house…you know. Pretty formula stuff. What the heck? I was 14.
Sure this was the next great thing, I packed it up (yes, we still sent snail mail submissions then) and mailed it to the Romance Editor at Doubleday. Looking back on that now, I’m flabbergasted. What’s even more amazing is that in 1970, a 14-year-old wannabe author without an agent could be read by a Doubleday editor and receive a polite and encouraging rejection letter, personally written and signed by said editor.
Of course I was devastated, but this editor’s encouraging words fanned those creative flames, and I was off to manuscript number two.
Tomorrow Barbara Mountjoy Day 2: The Adventure of Science Fiction
Barbara Mountjoy (writing as Lyndi Alexander and Alana Lorens) dreamed for many years of being a spaceship captain, but settled instead for inspired excursions into fictional places with fascinating companions. She has been a published writer for over thirty years, including seven years as a news reporter and editor in Homestead, Florida. She is married to an absent-minded computer geek. Together, they have a dozen computers, seven children and a full house in northwestern Pennsylvania.