But I'm going to talk to you today about what life was like for me before I was famous, and some of you may be quite surprised to learn a few facts that, until now, I've held rather dear.
On my 15th birthday, a few months after my parents split, I got a call from a guy telling me he was my supposedly dead brother (the one who died of SIDS before I was born). I cried, screamed, called my mum and yelled down the phone that this was the worst prank anyone could play on me--especially given everything I was going through at the time. My mum took the phone and talked with this boy, who turned out to be my dad's son--one he had before he met my mum. Wow! I'd just gained the brother I always wanted. Growing up in a house with three girls, we'd always prayed for this moment (be careful what you wish for). And a few months after this, we were blessed with a little baby brother as well, who is now 14, and one of the people I treasure most in my life.
But, the same year I found out I had a big brother, was also the same messed up year I decided I wanted to write. I wrote a magazine article for English studies at school, and took on the persona of an abused child. The teacher sent me to the school counsellor, thinking my article was me 'reaching out'.
I was not abused, for the record. But I was grateful to my teacher for being so vigilant.
That same year, I met and fell in love with a man who was 22 at the time and had thought I was 16 when we met. He had blue eyes, a cheeky smile, and played the guitar. He also had a motorbike, and loved Bon Jovi--even dedicated Bed of Roses to me (for reasons I may one day cover in another post). He confessed that, if I was older, he would be with me. But promised to wait until I turned 18. He didn't wait. And this, folks, was my first true heartbreak. But, it gave me a lot of material. However, with things going so wrong in my family for so long, I just couldn't focus on school, and my grades dropped until, eventually, I left school in tenth grade.
Baby brother was born in Jan 1998, and we moved to Sydney just after April--my mum getting back with my dad, even though the baby wasn't his (I know, isn't he great to take on another man's child?). I decided to take this fresh start and get on with my life. I was 16 at the time, and went to a school in Engadine called St John Bosco, where I met the boy I would eventually marry. And yes, he had perfect dark-pink lips, a wide grin and lovely dark hair. I decided I was in love with him after two weeks of dating, and never looked back. His name is Mike, but he's nothing like Mike from the books. Funny enough, he's nothing like David either. But all my characters have been based slightly on my husband in some way, and he has contributed (by the things he says to me in conversations) to a lot of David's romantic one-liners. Yep, folks, these words of David's were truly spoken once, and there are guys out there that say them.
Anyway, I left school again (it just really wasn't for me), and we had a baby (that we planned, because we both wanted kids early in life) and by 21, I was having baby number 2 and we were getting married. He played in a band and we owned our own home (a little helping hand his father left when he passed away), and things were okay. But I had sat down to write many times, and just couldn't get the words to flow from my brain to a page. To be honest, I really had no idea how to paint a scene. So, I put things away for a while and focused on raising my 2 boys. But the dream inside me wouldn't die.
My husband focused on getting famous with his music, but the long months on tour and low pay saw us fall into the financial pit-holes everyone at that time did. The Global Financial Crisis had set in deep by then, and we were forced to sell our home. Mike, at this time, decided he needed a better paying job. He chose to become a pilot. But, this cost us everything we had left over from the sale of our home. We moved in with my mum for three years, and in that time, had baby (not planned) number 3.
I had just gone back to work when I fell pregnant, but I was miserable in my job. The thing about creative people is, they struggle to do mundane and ordinary jobs. It eats at our soul. So, I decided I needed to do what I loved. I loved writing. I was a great poet, but not so good at story telling. I had been trying to write children's books, but my heart clearly wasn't in it. So, I decided to write adult fiction. I got on the internet and Googled "How to write". I read blog after blog after blog on writing styles, do's and don'ts, grammar, spelling, punctuation, and publishing. And while doing this, started writing on a notepad. My story began with a blue pen, a stiff neck, and a dining table. I had no desk, borrowed a computer to research, and had no time between lack of sleep, caring for a newborn baby, washing bottles, and two other young children. But I wasn't going to give up. I decided that I wanted to do this, no matter what got in my way.
And I did.
Mike finished pilot training, studying in a house full of children and people coming in and out all the time (being that it wasn't our house, we couldn't moderate visits, and had family and their kids over nearly every afternoon), and we eventually moved out into a nice rental when my baby was a week shy of two years old. By this time, a story about a boy who lived in the 1800s (David), who ruined a girl's reputation by sleeping with her outside marriage (Ara), that then goes into the Navy at his father's (Arthur) request and dies (but actually becomes a vampire) had turned into a story about a young girl who went to a new school when her life was falling apart, and there she meets a boy.
I worked hard on this story for about a year, never telling anyone I was even trying to write. I kept it as a little secret. Then, one day, decided to show it to my sister Kate. And she LOVED it. After that, I decided I would publish it.
While looking into publishers and agents, and writing queries, my husband came home and, three weeks before Christmas that year, told me the company he was working for had gone into administration and everyone lost their jobs, without their last fortnight's pay.
But the worst part was that he couldn't land another job. Aero companies at the time were basically abusing the rights of flight instructors, and wanted him to work unreasonable hours and only pay him for the time he was in the air. Basically, he'd work a 45 hour week, but only get paid for roughly 3 or, if he was lucky, 4 hours a day. He chose to find another occupation. But, after applying for even the worst kinds of jobs, a year went by and we were on the brink of being homeless.
Then, a shining light glimmered up ahead.
He landed a job around the same time that I published The Knight of the Rose, and we suddenly had a stable income for the first time in our lives, and I was getting monthly cheques as well. My very first ever cheque from Amazon was for $22.00. I still have the cheque. And from there, they grew and grew, until, finally, I was making a decent living. We went from nothing, almost being on the street and having debts so deep we couldn't pay even one cent, to being okay again. And it was largely due to the money my books brought in.
But I am blessed, and I thank God every day for the struggles we went through, because I know there cannot be a poet without the pain, and one cannot write a storm if they've never been through the rain. Dark Secrets is filled with the heartache and torment I've been through in my life--things I wouldn't elaborate on in a blog post--and I want you all to know that, not only can you rise out of the ashes of your own misery, but also that I rose above it all because of the love and support of my readers. So, thank you all for believing in me. I owe this post about before I was famous to you, because without you all, there'd be no fame for me.