I bear a strong physical resemblance to my mom’s family, but we’re so different that, many times, I would have wondered whether I was adopted if not for that. For as long as I can remember, I never felt as if I totally belonged with the people with whom I was placed. My mother, my sisters, my aunts and uncles and cousins . . . we have a lot in common, but we also share a huge lot of differences. They’re very religious; my BF Dale tagged me perfectly when she said I’m spiritual, not religious. They’ve been content to stay rooted in the same area; since I was a kid, I dreamed about living elsewhere. They’re well-behaved, conservative and rarely question authority; my curiosity has gotten me in trouble more than once, I waffle between the far right and the far left with a few turns square in the middle, and I figure authority is there to be questioned.
When it comes to family, I’ve always been a little bit on the outside looking in. A lot of writers I’ve discussed this with feel the same with regard to their own families, which leads me to assume that this sort of distance is part of what makes me write when no one else in my family does. Writers are observers; we’re questioners; we’re experience seekers. And non-writers . . . well, aren’t, at least not in the same way.
My family think it’s cool that I write books (though most of them don’t read them – all that naughty sex), but it’s kind of a mysterious process to them. They don’t spend hours thinking “What if . . .?” They don’t have people in their heads demanding attention. They don’t understand the technical aspects of writing. (And, unlike most readers, they’re not interested in any of that. The best way to make one of my relatives’ eyes glaze over is to start talking business – my business. We talk about theirs often.)
Heck, I’ve been getting paid for this for more than twenty years, but most of the people in my life don’t even think of it as a real job. If I had a dime for every time someone’s asked me, “Are you still writing?” I could probably stop.
I’m different from my family. I knew that for years. But I thought I was pretty much a one-of-a-kind. The eccentric one. The weird one. Then, after selling my second book, something incredible happened: I met other writers. Other people who thought “what” and “if” were two of the most magical words in any language. People who not only heard voices in their heads but responded to them. People who understood instinctively who and what I was. It was so cool!
Don’t get me wrong – I love my family. I started to add “and my non-writing friends.” Truthfully, though, my best buds, my twisted sisters, are all authors. There’s just something about another writer – that immediate connection, that shared weirdness – that makes me feel like I belong. I’m not on the outside looking in any longer. I’m right smack in the middle of the best bunch of talented, eccentric, demented, daydreaming, living-in-another-world people around.
Which is exactly where I always wanted to be.