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It is from where and to whom I was born that I draw on for all of my stories-
I was born in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, in the old hospital at the edge of the Pasquotank River. The hospital is still there, converted now into a condominium. The river's still there, too, of course, and not nearly so changed. It's a river that flows from the great Dismal Swamp, slow moving and sultry and black as pitch, lapping up against the cypress trees. When she had me, my mother's hospital room looked out on the river; I fancy it was one of the first things I heard and smelled. The next thing I probably noted was my mother's smiling dark eyes, delighted one minute to look at her baby girl, then turning to the book she no doubt had in the other hand.
These are the people I come from--North Carolinians, fiercely Southern, tied with family and God, a bit eccentric and rebellious, and very, very avid readers. One of my earliest memories is of Mama reading to me and my older brother. It was Mama who taught me to read, therefore I showed up the first day of first grade, able to expound equally on the works of Mark Twain and Humpty Dumpty Magazine.
My father was in the Coast Guard, and we moved often. We lived from Florida to Alaska, with a couple of spots in between. We traveled by car, a lot on Route 66, and I spent the long hours reading, improving my mind but ruining my eyes. When I would get too car sick to read, I would gaze out the window at the passing landscape and make up stories in my head. Sometimes I wrote short ones on paper, other times longer ones that I never finished. It's always an amazement to me today when I finish one of my books. In my head they go on and on.
I wrote my first bonafide story for my high school freshman English class. I wrote of a young woman in the resistence in Italy during World War II. In those days I read all sorts of stories of heroic survival of the war. This was the first story I ever wrote for another human to read. I handed it in with great trepidation. I received an A for my story, but the teacher had written upon it in red ink: "Did you make this up yourself, or did you copy it from somewhere?" She asked me this in person, too, with one highly arched eyebrow looking down on me in my student chair. Now I realize that my story was so good that she could not believe that a child who had just entered her teens could possibly have written it. At the time, though, I saw only her critical suspicion. A sensitive, timid child, I felt I had done a wrong thing, and I didn't write again for many years.
As writing, any art, takes confidence, and I had very little, it took many years to accumulate enough gumption to pursue it. Finally, however, in 1981, I managed to write a tiny essay and even dared to send it in to a national Sunday school magazine. I received $15 for it. My courage thus boosted, I wrote a warm-hearted piece about my love for my wood stove, sent it off, and back in the mail came a check for $85. Hotdog! I then began writing a novel. Thank goodness it never occurred to me that it was a far distance from a 500 word article to an entire book. I sold that book, A Time and a Season, to Silhouette Books, and it was released in 1985. I have continued to write and publish ever since.
I'm thrilled that so many people have bought my books, and many have written to say how much they enjoy them. It is from all of that: my own Southern family of characters, the traveling and meeting of vastly different people, marriage and motherhood, and walking through life, sometimes stumbling through, that I write my stories. These stories are my views of life, the heroism and the heartache and the getting through, and that tomorrow will eventually be a brighter day.
My husband and I now live on 40 acres an hour southwest of Oklahoma City. We've lived in Oklahoma for some twenty-three years now and call it home. When my mother moved here to join us and the family home in Elizabeth City was sold, I dug up a rose bush my grandmother had originally started from a cutting from an old bush on her mother's place. I brought a little of the Pasquotank mud with it and mixed it with the Oklahoma red sand. That rose bush not only grew, it flourished bigger and more majestic than it had ever been. Rather like myself, I think, a little Carolina Okie.
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