Dorothy Cannell: My first book The Thin Woman was published in 1984. After some serious finger counting (my math level being a first grade C-) I realized that’s thirty years ago. Hard on the heels of that thought came the memory of the wonderfully, magical year I spent writing it. The children would leave for school in the mornings. I’d clear the kitchen table and heft my manual typewriter (purchased second hand by husband for fifty dollars) onto it and give myself three hours in the world of my characters and a house named Merlin’s Court. I knew nothing about publishing, the vagaries of the market, or even that there were such people as literary agents.
I had fallen in love with a story about a young woman who’d been given the opportunity to live a fairy story, tinged with the menace of evil that inhabits those of the suitably named brothers Grimm. I did not know I was writing a mystery. I thought of it as a gothic frolic.
Yes, I dreamed of selling what was then called Cobwebs and Candlelight, I fantasized about seeing my name on the cover and imagined the shower of amazed congratulations received. But that was secondary to reveling in tapping out the story Ellie (narrating character) was telling me sentence by sentence, page by page. No pressure to write something as good as or better than had gone before. No deadline. No glimmer that this was the start of my Ellie Haskell series.
When I meet writers aspiring to be published I understand their yearning to have their book accepted and published; and I say, “Treasure this time when it’s just you and your story. It is a time that will never come again. There will be others in the future, perhaps better written, more matured, richer, but the process may not have that sparkling optimism that comes with writing your first love.”