There's a story my mom tells of me at age four that pretty much establishes part of my personality: Me and a neighbor girl of the same age came across a mud puddle in the sidewalk. She got right in it, stomping and splashing and making a mess of herself. I went to my mom and asked for permission to do the same. She said no, so I just stood on the sidelines and watched.
Yep, that's me. Even at four years old, I was comfortable on the sidelines. That's me there now, holding up the wall and observing everything.
Another story about me was that around age eight -- the year after my grandfather died -- I used to worry about death to the point of making myself sick. I'm not sure who's idea it was, but my mom would make me sit in a corner alone for one hour each day and get all the worry out. It didn't make one lick of sense to me, so I sat there instead and made up stories. Eventually, I made friends with the tiny spider playing in the cobwebs and told them to him. (Mom cleaning the corner is a tale for another day.)
Seems rather normal to me that I would later apply both aspects of my personality -- the observer and the story-teller -- and become a writer. How I got to writing about gay men falling in love is for my therapist to figure out someday. How to tell family and friends and the occasional stranger that's what I write is an ongoing struggle for this shy writer.
I discovered gay romance or M/M romance about a year ago while poking around the small online publishers. I'd fallen in love with my first gay couple thanks to Suzanne Brockmann's Jules Cassidy and Robin Chadwick characters. I read about them and I wanted more. And yes, more details. (That observer in me is a curious gal.)
I soon found myself enchanted by the storylines that seemed fresh and new for having gay men involved: Cowboys, Marines, hustlers, secret agents, single dads, cops and corporate bad boys. Being gay added another layer of complication to their already complicated lives and I, like millions of other women -- yes, women -- were gobbling these stories up so fast the publishers are having trouble keeping up with the demand for more and better.
So now I was a total fan, but I've always been a writer and I couldn't help giving writing about gay men a try myself. I told absolutely no one. I downplayed my progress and said vague things about plot or character whenever someone asked how the writing was going. I even lied about my "heroine" a few times. I came to realize I was in a closet of sorts about it and didn't like it one bit. "Coming out," though, was unthinkable. Until something happened that basically forced my hand.
A month after my thirty-fourth birthday, I submitted a story to Loose Id...and they wanted to see the full manuscript. I managed to keep a lid on my joy and sent it off, telling myself it might mean nothing. The next month had me going before an editor. My very own editor! And she wanted to get to work ASAP to beef up the external conflict before pitching it to management and maybe making me an offer.
As far as I was concerned, that meant I was in and I couldn’t keep this a secret anymore despite my extreme nervousness over telling someone. There’s only so much Pepto a girl can swallow before enough is enough.
First on the list of people to tell was my mom. She's a terrier with a chew toy when it comes to my writing. Breathe one word about an idea and she wants to know what happened to the other one. The woman has high hopes I'll be on Oprah's booklist someday. When I got the email from Loose Id saying they were passing my story to an editor, I started crying and knew my first phone call would have to be to Mom.
She didn't frickin' answer.
My sister, on the other hand, did pick up when I called her next. I babbled about sending the partial, etc. in and then sending in the full manuscript and then she asked the crucial question: "What's the story about?"
Pretty sure I gave my tongue whiplash as I abruptly stopped talking.
But this is my little sister and she already thinks I'm a little nuts, so... I told her it was an erotic romance -- explained what that meant -- and then confessed that it was about two gay young men, one eighteen and the other twenty-four. After her moment of silence as she absorbed that, my dear sister said, "What do you know about boys that age, let alone gay ones?"
I really do love my little cockroach.
I asked her advice for telling our mother, she laughed at me, and I tried calling Mom again. Probably would've been a good idea to wait until she got home from work, but I wasn't thinking about things like that right then. I was on a roll.
"Oh, really? Well..." she said and then she repeated what I'd said to someone standing in her office with her! I had a mild seizure thinking she was telling her male boss, but it turned out she was telling two of her coworkers and friends. And they were intrigued, laughed, and generally thought I was awfully creative.
It was actually much easier to tell the group of strangers that made up my first visit to a local Romance Writers of America chapter. Someone asked, I said, she blinked, and we moved on. The lady who sat on my other side and dressed like she'd ridden a Harley to the library -- she had -- also wrote erotic romance and thought I was a kick and a half.
Palpitations came when I realized two of my college English professors were in the room too...and cue the "would the new people introduce themselves please?" moment where the spotlight clicks on and my head goes empty. I managed to say it all again -- probably looking like a tomato -- and was greeted by a few startled titters and much eye blinking. And we moved on again.
I'd sweat so much I'd had to shower when I got home, but oh, my giddy aunt, I'd confessed my genre to about thirty people at once and lived to tell the tale!
It's getting a little easier every time I say it and I'm fairly well-prepared with statistics and whatnot when people have questions. I've signed two contracts and am working steadily to promote myself and my books, so the process helps remind me of the goal I'm working toward and that it's all worth it to see my words out there for the world to read. There will be moments, I am certain, when the reception won't be so giddy or mild, but I'll plead Scarlet on that one and think about it tomorrow.
Right now, I'm going to go jump in a few mud puddles without permission because, by the time you’re reading this, I'll be able to say I'm published and that's really what matters. And then, ahem, I'll get back to writing.
Missy has been writing since she was twelve and now has a Master of Arts in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University that was a gift she gave herself for making it through a Bachelor of Arts in English at her local university. The stories she writes vary from historical to futuristic, but romance has always been the main theme for her. She grew up watching John Wayne and Clint Eastwood movies with her dad and reading her mom's romance novels as soon as she turned her back long enough for Missy to grab one. And let's not forget Captain James T. Kirk, her first bad-boy and the man who taught her how to face danger and walk away grinning. So long as there are men being brave and falling love, Missy will be writing about them. Visit Missy online at http://missywelsh.com/.