When I entered first grade and learned to read for myself, the school library became my favorite place. Reading opened new worlds for the little girl who had not strayed far from the farm. My imagination took me to places I never thought possible.
As I grew older and longed for one of the cute guys to notice me, I fell in love with romantic fiction. Those available in the school library were few, but my sister, Paulette, and I discovered another source. Though considered too worldly by my mother, my Granny’s True Story magazines held a wealth of forbidden knowledge. We would sneak a copy out of her trunk and escape to the shade of the pecan tree.
About the same time, my father purchased a television set which immersed me into romantic drama. I had several crushes on real boys, but my favorite involved a television series called “Sugarfoot.” He was a good-looking law student who went out West to practice his own brand of law and order. (I stopped in the middle of writing to Google the theme song which describes him so well, I had to chuckle.) My conservative roots thought it terrific that my hero walks into the saloon and orders a “sarsaparilla with a dash of cherry.” Fictional boyfriends were easier to deal with—you could make them love you regardless.
Along about my junior high years, Virginia Anderson, a youth leader at church, decided the young people needed wholesome books to read during summer vacation. She signed up for a book club and let Paulette and I know when a new novel arrived. We devoured the thin paperbacks as though they were a glass of cold water in the desert. I didn’t have to sneak around to find something to read nor did I feel guilty for indulging in the story. I transported myself into the lives of the characters and felt disappointed when the book came to an end. Christian romance stories became my passion.
One book that came from that teen church library stands out above the rest. I believe it was written by Grace Livingston Hill and I don’t even remember the title. Regardless, the scenario remains. The protagonist falls in love with a convicted prisoner who is an educated trustee. Like Joseph in the Bible, he gains favor at the prison and is allowed freedom during the day to assist the chief warden. It takes a few chapters, but the young woman discovers his secret. Though concerned, she believes his claim of innocence and helps gain his release. Not a bad plot—good ending.
Why am I drawn to such a story? It’s probably because I tend to root for the underdog. My husband doesn’t understand why I feel bad when the opposing kicker misses the field goal. Of course, I’m happy the Redskins won, but that young man left the field with such defeat and had to face his disappointed teammates. Why shouldn’t I feel sorry for him? I bet his mother does. I want justice and happiness for all. In a book or movie, I’m not satisfied unless good wins over evil and the struggling woman wins the heart of her man.
Perhaps that’s why I enjoy Hallmark movies. Sure, the lines sound familiar, similar to the movie we watched the night before; the same actor is paired with a different girl; and, there’s little suspense as to how it might end. But the bantering holds my interest and the romantic moments near the end make me smile. I don’t have to feel embarrassed with heated love scenes, violence or filthy language. Where else can you find as much Christmas or romance? After watching, I go to bed happy and relaxed, letting the story continue in my head.
Several years passed before I even thought about writing. A few more came and went while I learned how to write. Now, my first novel, By the Sea, will be launched soon. The process didn’t begin when I started typing words into my laptop. It began years ago when I learned to read. Most experts declare that if you want to be a good writer, READ. That, I have no trouble doing.
Do you have a favorite book or movie that inspired you to pursue a different career, a hobby or an activity? What’s your story?