By Stacey Reynolds
If you’d asked me at twenty years old, what I thought I’d be doing at forty-eight, I think you’d be surprised at the answer. Part way through a criminal justice degree, I had visions of a glorious crimefighting career. For a time, I stayed the course. I became a police officer at twenty-three and was content with that life for seven years. But then I married, and my priorities shifted. I had my own romantic tale, falling in love with that alpha hero you read about in books. When he got orders to Japan, I decided that my rather uneventful life in Ohio was shortly ending, and my Marine swept me across the globe. Newly married and settling into taking care of two stepchildren, my rebirth began.
Three more children later, I was happily consumed by the life of a military wife. Globetrotting, multiple combat deployments, two overseas tours, and memories and experiences that shaped me in ways that wouldn’t reveal themselves until the dust was truly and permanently settled.
Our fifth child was the beautiful and unexpected detour that forever altered my path back into the workforce. In 2012, the light of my life was diagnosed with moderate to severe autism, and a new journey began for our large family. My two eldest were in the military, my husband was still deploying, so my role as a mother became all consuming. Therapies, support groups, a strong tribe of women that grew as my life became more complex. Military wives are a force as strong as the tide, and the bonds of friendship are fast and furious. We were a lifeline to each other. My thirties and forties were spent being molded by my experiences, my hardships, and my great loves.
Retirement was bittersweet for the family. When your husband is in the military, the family is defined by that lifestyle. We live within this large and diverse tribe of people that make up the moon and stars and earth under our feet. Department of Defense Schools, military hospitals and military chaplains for spiritual guidance. When retirement happens, you find yourself living on the outside and scratching your head. How are you going to relate and maneuver through this outside world of civilian families? We settled in Colorado for a time, and that is when this journey started for me. An awakening in the midst of loneliness, isolation, and a sort of mid-life crisis for a woman who’d lived her life in service—first to the public, and then to her family.
In hindsight, I blame the Arab spring of 2011. We were living in Bahrain when everything hit the fan in the Middle East. To get respite from the sandstorms and tear gas, we took a trip to Ireland. So, maybe I should be blaming the Irish. It was a moment in County Clare that sealed my fate. Driving up the long and winding road to the Cliffs of Moher, I looked over the seaside town of Doolin and felt a spark ignite in my mind. A voice in my head that said, This would be the perfect setting for a book.
It nagged at me for four years. I drifted off every night, molding the story that would become Raven of the Sea: An O’Brien Tale. In the autumn of 2014, amid health issues and an identity crisis, I said to myself, Just write the damn book. Anyone who writes novels knows the persistence of a good story and nagging characters. The constant companions that follow you everywhere. So I bought the laptop and let it rip. It wasn’t easy. I made a lot of mistakes maneuvering myself through that first book. I didn’t have an editor. I didn’t have fellow writers to urge me on.
I attempted to go the traditionally published route for about two weeks. After insta-responses that came in form letters fifteen minutes after I sent them, I realized that the indie route was my best bet. I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to suffer five years of rejection before someone took a chance on me. I loved the story. I poured blood, sweat, and tears into it, and I wasn’t going to shelve it. I started it with an initial pro-bono digital cover design by my talented college roommate. She found the font I wanted, I bought a $21 stock photo, and released that first book. Four years later, I have built a series that I am immensely proud of, and will release my eighth book in June.
My first novel was written in a corner of a public library during my son’s therapies. While others studied for their finals, I wrote. It’s been a beautiful journey. Although creation happens in solitude, the rest needs a team. I slowly built a beta reader/proofreader team through trial and error and am now paying my designer. The freedom and financial reward of being an indie author has paid off for me more than I ever dreamed it would. What started as an in-the-closet effort to gain a sense of myself again, eventually developed into a career.
I treat it like a job, because it is a job. I retain control of content, cover, blurb, and marketing. I am happier for it. I bring a healthy income into our household after years outside of the workforce. I actually found a career where walking the towns of Ireland and seeing the interior of a pub is in my job description.
My advice for budding authors is this. Keep at it. Don’t write for a trend. If your characters aren’t family, if you aren’t taking the experiences of your life, including the loves and losses and all of the joy and pain in between, and pouring it onto that page, then you aren’t trying hard enough. I’ve written with tears dripping off of my nose. The reward? My readers send me notes. “I hate you. I’m sobbing over my eReader.” “I love you.” “When is the next book coming out?” “I felt like you wrote this just for me.” Talk about an ego boost. My readers mean the world to me. So keep at it. Tap whatever you need to tap for authenticity in your storytelling. Trends come and go, and they won’t make you a better writer.
My latest professional decision came after sitting in a workshop during a national writing conference. Christine Munroe spoke to us about diversifying our platforms to include publishing with Kobo. Although my journey started with a single platform, I found the process of publishing a digital book through Kobo to be the easiest process out of the lot, and am anticipating a long and fruitful relationship with the writer and reader community that was once unknown to me.
Stacey Reynolds has published five novels and one novella in the romance series, The O’Brien Tales. She’s also released a stand-alone contemporary romance novel, His Wild Irish Rose: De Clare Legacy. Her eighth book, The Irish Midwife: An O’Brien Tale, will be released in summer 2019. She began writing after a trip to Europe, where she was bewitched by the coastal counties of Western Ireland. She’s a member of the Romance Writers of America where she was accepted into the Published Author Network (PAN). She lives on the gorgeous coast of North Carolina with her three youngest children, her golden retriever Molly, her cat Fergus, and her husband, a retired Marine Officer. She also has a son in the US Navy and a daughter who served in the US Coast Guard.