Becoming a writer: Why I write romantic suspense

Circled list item“In 7th grade I wrote a novel. It was horrible, but I’ve always wanted to try again.” That’s a line from a note I created in my early days on Facebook called “25 Random Things About Me.”

Thank goodness I quit “wanting” and tried again!

I’m not sure when I first realized I liked to write, but it happened somewhere between a disastrous report on the parts of the eye in 6th grade and my pre-teen attempt at a novel (a super-short story, actually).

pic of text from my first novel

Text from my first “novel.”

That first manuscript included an orphaned heroine, a cross-country adventure while eluding the police, and a crush on a bad boy who helped her out of trouble.

How it took me so long to figure out that I should write romantic suspense, I’ll never understand.

Maybe it’s because I never considered writing as a career. Other people made a living at it, not people like me. Success as a writer seemed as likely to happen as that singing career I’d once envisioned. The idea of making a living writing is still daunting—and as yet unrealized—but here I am plugging away at the keyboard most days, ever hopeful, because it’s the best job I’ve ever had.

For years, I dabbled in poetry, wrote a slew of technical documentation, and emailed random flashes of story ideas home for safekeeping. When I finally quit working for someone else back in 2008 (wow, time flies!), I knew I needed something to keep my brain engaged and challenged. Something that could satisfy my insatiable desire to learn, my unending curiosity, my hunger for a behind-the-scenes look at professions and scenarios I’ll never (I hope) experience firsthand.

Like reading, but better. It was time to seriously pursue writing.

pic of books on a shelf

Some of the many authors who’ve inspired me.

Fiction was my dream, but I didn’t have any big ideas. Not the kind I thought I wanted to take on. I’d spent most of my adult life reading mysteries, thrillers, and historical adventures. I couldn’t imagine where authors like Sue Grafton, David Baldacci, Ken Follett, Michael Crichton, Robert Ludlum, Tom Clancy, Joseph Finder, and Khaled Hosseini got their ideas. Talk about intimidating.

It wasn’t until I picked up a couple of old historical romance novels from the “Free” box at the library that I realized there was a genre for the stories in my head. It was an epiphanic (yes, that’s a word), slap-your-head sort of moment. I knew historical wasn’t for me (love to read it, can’t write it), but when I found romantic suspense authors like Suzanne Brockmann, Christina Dodd, JoAnn Ross, Laura Griffin, Roxanne St. Claire, and so many others, I found my home.

I started writing immediately, and haven’t stopped since. Releasing my own romantic suspense (Blind Fury) earlier this year was the culmination of a five-year effort/dream that really goes all the way back to junior high.

What if I hadn’t picked up those free books? Would I have come to romance another way eventually? I hope so. It’s likely. But who knows how much longer it would have taken?

I’m just grateful for the ways of the universe, and happy to have found my niche.

Is there anything you’ve always wanted to try (or try again)? What’s holding you back?

About Gwen Hernandez

Author of SCRIVENER FOR DUMMIES & the Men of Steele romantic suspense series. Manufacturing engineer turned writer. Scrivener instructor, runner, reader, explorer, Kung Fu sifu, AF spouse, mom, vegan. gwenhernandez.com

Posted on August 19, 2014, in Gwen Hernandez and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. Always love to hear about other authors’ journeys, Gwen! : ) We’re glad you found your path when you did!

  2. Terrific post, Gwen! Glad picked up those free books and eventually wrote such a fabulous romantic suspense novel! (And thanks for the epiphanic new word.)
    😉

    My moment came while waiting to board a flight to Italy (first of many visits) in 2004. I didn’t stop to question the oddity of impulsively buying a spiral notebook; it’s not like I had the distinct thought: I will write a novel now.

    But once on the plane I opened that notebook and wrote without thinking: “She’s late.” And the rush of excitement was like nothing I had experienced! The story could go anywhere from those 2 words.

    So all I recall of that flight is
    A) the darkened cabin, the passengers asleep and me in this silent, lovely new world of turning daydreams into real words.
    B) Scribbling those words as fast as I could, all 10 hours– the story just gushed from my brain, pantser sentence by pantser sentence until I had 50 pages when we touched down.
    C) My fingers were almost crippled, but it would take another year and a half before I switched from long hand to typing because I was superstitious.
    D) The story immediately evolved into a romance even though all I read at that time were suspense novels. You can imagine my shock!
    E) My first experience with the giddy writer’s-high. Every chance I got on that vacation I would work on the story some more just to get that high back. And it’s just as exhilarating now as it was when I wrote those first 2 words.

    Oh. And that ‘book’ is under my bed, never to see the light of day (although I can’t bear to throw it out.)
    🙂

    • So cool to hear your story, too, Sarah. Isn’t it funny how words pour out of us as if we’re the conduit instead of the author?

    • What a great story, Sarah! I love that feeling when the words are flowing and you don’t want to stop. It doesn’t happen as much as it did when I first started, but I’m working on getting it back more often. So glad you got the urge. 😉

  3. Love, love this post Gwen. So glad you found your way. What would life be without Gwen Hernandez novels. Hugs!

  4. What a wonderful post, Gwen! I agree about the ways of the universe. 🙂 I spent a lot of my childhood dreaming about becoming an author. Isn’t it wonderful that those dreams can come true? I hope to do some appearances at schools eventually. I still remember meeting an author in middle school, and it was such a treat. Best wishes!

    • Susan: It IS wonderful! I think presenting to a school would be a lot of fun. Sometimes you don’t believe you can do something until you meet someone who is doing it. I’m sure you’d be very inspiring. 🙂

  5. LOL Gwen, I too dreamed of being a singer – specifically I wanted to be Olivia Newton-John.

    • Ha, I loved ONJ. I sang in the school choir and took lessons until I was about 16. Finally realized it wasn’t really my dream even though I still enjoy singing in the car. 😉

  6. Gwen, what a great story! Thanks for sharing. I wanted to be a writer since childhood- as a direct result of being a reader. I read everything I could get my hands on and worried my mother that I would “ruin” my eyes reading so much. I wanted to BE Louisa May Alcott But when I was told that writing wasn’t practical I moved on to a goal that would allow me to support my family (I come from a family where having a roof over our heads and food on the table was sometimes an issue).

    It wasn’t until I had enough security for my family that I allowed myself to write. It feels great to be moving up the ladder from meeting basic needs to meeting “self-actualization” needs

    • Carey: I’m sure reading had a lot to do with my desire to write. I used to plow through the library’s offerings during the long, hot summers. Glad you got the security you needed in place. That makes a huge difference. That was critical for me as well. 🙂

  7. What a great post, Gwen. I really loved this.
    As far as wanting to try things, the things I haven’t done yet have more to do with money and time than fear. My husband and I love to travel and there are so many places we haven’t seen. But everything comes down to time and money. And until I have more of both (maybe once the kids are educated and gone) we’ll be able to do more of the adventurous trips (i.e. those that cost tons of money). But right now we try to get away once a year alone together, usually to a beach vacation because we’re always so tired. 🙂

    And I’m so glad you didn’t stop writing.

    • Thanks, Sharon. Somehow it always comes down to money and time, doesn’t it? But beach vacations are nice, especially for just the two of you. 😉 As much as I’m going to miss my boys when they’re gone–can’t believe my oldest is off to college this week!–I’m looking forward to only paying for two travelers, and being able to travel during the school year when it’s cheaper. 🙂

  8. ice skate have a disability so it is hard to get out an the ice.

    • Oh, yeah, Deborah, that would make it hard to ice skate. Of course, I can’t do it and I have no excuse. 😉 I hope you can find another way to enjoy the cold. Thanks for reading!

  9. Great post, Gwen.I’m late getting here because I’m seriously limiting my time on SM. Have to get writing that next book. Congrats on your release. 🙂 I’ll FB & Tweet.

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