There's no better topic to write about on a Monday than something we all desperately need after the weekend--inspiration. Specifically that of a literary nature...
What is your first memory of writing a story? When I was very young, I don't recalI my exact age, I remember tapping out a story for my grandmother, who helped raise me. She was in the hospital, and I missed her desperately. All I remember about the story is that the main character was a little girl who could move objects with her mind (a harbinger of my penchant for all things wildly weird), but I vividly remember my grandmother's reaction to it.
She was impressed.
Probably a little scared, too, considering the subject matter, but she never showed it. Her exact words escape me, but they were encouraging. An avid reader, one who could put away two mass market paperbacks in a day, I never saw her without a book in her hand. Her learned opinion meant the world to my tiny writer’s soul, and her words carried great weight with me then just as they do know. Like her, I read quickly and constantly need the stimulation of the written word. The image of her so-dear scrawl across the graying type on that yellowed sheet of paper flits through my thoughts every now and then, such a subtle, yet powerful, memory. Because of her, I kept daring to imagine and create and enjoy the stories that whip through my scattered thoughts. One moment of gentle inspiration, and I've been writing ever since.
Unfortunately, my grandmother didn’t live to see anything of mine published, nor did my mother, my greatest fan and greatest source of inspiration. She lived with cancer for several years, and I watched as her reading habits changed from reading stories to me as a child, to reading with me as I grew older, to reading to keep her mind active as her other activities became more and more limited.
Eventually, her reading also came to include anything of mine I put in front of her. She always read whatever stories I asked her to, and although her opinion was always the same--"Great!"—and didn’t help much in the way of a formal critique, her enthusiasm buoyed me. There’s nothing like the support of a parent during a rough patch, and writing is full of them. Her encouragement was a priceless gift in a profession full of disappointment and discouragement, as well as a reminder that the enduring image of mother and child, the sanctity of that bond, is real and not just a theme that artists exploit in the name of poignant drama.
I often wonder what she’d think of my writing erotica and erotic romance, and though I will never know for sure, I like to think she’d be thrilled. We’d often sit and read romances together, her with her favorite historical and me with my contemporary of choice. Much of what I incorporate into my work comes from observing what she liked and didn’t like during those sessions. For example, she once stated she loved the romance she was reading, but the author described everything to death, including the flowered chair and the curtains and on and on. The lesson? Don’t overdo the descriptive narrative.
Another time I found her giggling her way through a tome, one that became an instant favorite because of its bawdy humor and witty banter between the hero and heroine. The lessons? Make ‘em laugh, and don’t forget to develop the intellectual chemistry between the main characters through sly, sexy dialogue. Sex is 90% mental and so is romance, so there’s got to be more to the main relationship than heat that will settle after gravity and age take their tolls, as they are wont to do.
The more I write, the more I see the results of my mother’s and grandmother’s influence, but occasionally, even my husband’s mother gets in on the act. One night we were discussing her funeral during dinner, and the idea for A Stranger’s Desire popped into my head. Just like that, Beau and Lilly were born thanks to a lovely woman I'd never gotten to meet, but who passed on her zest for life to my hubby, a quality of his I get to enjoy every day. For this, I am eternally grateful.
Whether it’s a story about living with cancer, like The Survivors in Alyson’s Island Girls anthology, or a novel about bearing the burden of a lost loved one and finding new hope in a new kind of family, like Pleasure 2035, my experiences with my two greatest inspirations always slip into my work. Perhaps it’s my way of paying homage to the women who paved a path for me, one they could never be sure I would take, but they did it anyway. Why? Because that's what those who inspire us do.
So, on this Monday before Mother’s Day, and during this week of celebrating those people and things who make us seek to go beyond ourselves, I raise my glass to my two greatest inspirations--my mother and my grandmother--two wonderful, intelligent women who loved a great read, an exciting adventure, and, to my good fortune, me.