ORIGINS: Stephanie Burgis

I was seven years old when I made a life-altering discovery. Needless to say, I made a formal announcement to my family.

“I’ve found something that’s even more fun than reading!” I announced to my mom, as we drove to the grocery store.

Even my four-year-old brother, in the back seat, was impressed. Everyone in my family knew how obsessed I was with reading. What could I possibly find more fun than that?

“Writing!” I said. “I’m going to be a writer!”

And that was it…well, in a way.

From the time I was seven, I knew without a doubt that I was a writer, and that I wanted to become a professional author. The *knowing* part was easy. Actually getting there, on the other hand…

First I tried writing poetry, because poems are shorter than novels, so – I decided, as a seven-year-old – they must be easier, right? Well, I did manage to sell one poem to a kids’ magazine…which promptly folded, leaving my poem unpublished and me unpaid. (At least it was a fair introduction to the brutal realities of a publishing career!)

Then, all through middle school, I kept trying and trying to write novels…but I just couldn’t get past the first twelve pages, no matter how hard I tried. I still remember crying about it one night, broken-hearted over my own ineptness. And I still remember the comfort my dad gave me that night, as he put his arm around my shoulder and promised that I really would manage novels one day, if I only gave myself time.

(My parents, being responsible and caring about my future, weren’t too crazy about the whole idea of me going into writing as a career – but they always had faith in my *ability* as a writer, and that was absolutely priceless.)

I finally finished my first novel when I was fourteen…and sadly, unlike Alma’s novel, this one really isn’t worth any adult revisions. It was called “The Mystery of Castle Clew”, it was fifty-seven pages long, and it was a re-hash of every Gothic romance I’d ever read. It was also set in Wales, which I’d never visited and knew nothing about.

I asked the adults around me, in East Lansing, Michigan, for advice about my setting, and was told: “Put in a lot of sheep!” I also asked them how long it took grown-ups to fall in love, and was told “At least three months”, so I carefully measured out my heroine’s schedule and had her fall in love with the hero at exactly the three-month point.

Looking back now, I find Castle Clew pretty funny, albeit unintentionally so…but in a larger sense, it was so, so good for me to write it. It reassured me that I genuinely could write a novel, just as I’d always hoped. My next novel was a lot longer, much closer to the length of a real, publishable novel – and every novel I wrote from then on got better and better as I developed my craft and also learned more about life and how people really work…which led to much more realistic characters.

 

(For instance, I fell in love with my own husband within less than two weeks of meeting him. Sometimes, love doesn’t work to a schedule.)

I was seven years old when I realized that I was a writer; it was only twenty-four years later, when I was thirty-one years old, that I sold my first trilogy of novels and finally became the professional author I had always wanted to be.

It’s funny how life works. I’m actually living in Wales, now (and yes, there really are a lot of sheep here – but that’s just about the only thing I got right about the country in my first novel). The novels I write are Regency fantasy adventures for kids, with a lot of humor (and highwaymen!) mixed in. I have a child of my own, now, a little boy bursting with creativity of his own.

In some ways, I would have been stunned, at age seven, if someone had told me what my life as an adult was going to be like. But in the most important ways, I knew it all along.

 

 

Stephanie Burgis is an American-born writer who lives in Wales with her husband, Patrick Samphire, their son, “Mr Darcy”, and their crazy-sweet border collie, Maya. Her first Regency fantasy adventure for children was published in the UK as A MOST IMPROPER MAGICK and will be published in America as KAT, INCORRIGIBLE. You can find her online at her website: http://www.stephanieburgis.com or her livejournal: http://stephanieburgis.livejournal.com

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4 Responses to “ORIGINS: Stephanie Burgis”

  1. Thanks or sharing this — it all sounds eerily familiar (from knowing the want to be a writer to writing poems first & getting one published to meeting-and-knowing-he’s-the-one after two weeks)! My first book was “The Eye of the Ancients” and I wrote it when I was 11 and it had 356 pages and about that many characters. It was atrocious but it told me that I could actually write a book! Family’s encouragement always meant a lot to me and it was my husband who made me sit down and join SCBWI that got me taking myself as seriously!

    😀

  2. Family encouragement and a supportive partner really can make ALL the difference!

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