Jody Wallace is published in romance fiction under the names Jody Wallace and Ellie Marvel. She has always lived with cats, and they have always been mean. Her most recent release, written as Ellie Marvel, is the e-novella Meganâ€™s Choice (Red Sage). Survival of the Fairest (Samhain), written as Jody Wallace, will be released in paperback in July 2009.
Jody, if you could travel back in time to before you were first published, what advice would you give yourself?
I used to be single and have lots of free time. I wore cool clothes, socialized on a regular basis, drove a two-seat convertible (it got 42 MPGâ€”don’t sneer!), read new releases by my favorite authors before their next book came out, sampled all the trendy restaurants, enjoyed museums and festivals, slept in on weekends, and made a major dent in my student loans because I only had my expenses to worry about. I wanted to be a published poet and had some minor success with literary journals, which is where most poets get their start. Poetry was intense, challenging, fascinating, and, best of all, succinct.
I definitely produced more than one poem per annum.
Fast forward a number of years we will not dwell on, and so much has changed. I’ve switched from single to married with kids, cool clothes to yoga pants and monkey slippers, convertible to minivan, adult fiction to Dr. Seuss, sleeping in to rising with babies. I’ve also switched from poetry to fiction. What was I thinking, right? Now that I have negative free time, why did I convert to a type of writing that takes me two hundred times as long as most of my poems?
Because I have an inherent narrative impulse (a.k.a. can’t-shut-up-itis) that wasn’t translating well to verse. And because I’m nuts. But I’m in great company!
Either way, if I could go back in time to when I was contemplating a fiction-writing career, here are some of the things I’d warn me about (besides getting hooked on cheese and pasta). You will notice a theme that may or may not apply to your situation, but hopefully some of it will translate.
1. Don’t beat yourself up if your productivity declines while you have wee ones. And whatever you do, don’t compare yourself with other writers who seem to be achieving so much more, both in their lives and their careers. They’re just better at faking it. I promise!
2. Resist overdoing the social networking. Once you start, you can . . . not . . . stop. Unless, of course, you’re guest blogging somewhere like the OCC-RWA blog.
3. That agent or publisher you have mixed feelings about? Yeah. Back away slowly and professionally. You won’t be burning a bridge if you’re wrong, but it will be worth it if you’re right and you get to tell yourself, “I told me so!”
4. The TV program you’re dying to watch will be just as good on TiVo, maybe better, the way lasagna and beef stew are better the second day. Right now, use your TV time to write. Or do other stuff, such as parenting, which will open up a separate block of writing time. Save TV for when you absolutely cannot write due to death of brain cells or presence of husband. Or both.
5. That thing you did (or will do) in 2006? You knew in your gut it was a bad move. Trust your gut. Post-babies, there’s so much more of it to trust, after all.
6. If you hate conferences, don’t go to them. Your stress levels and budget will thank you, and your husband won’t take the kids to McDonald’s to eat every . . . single . . . freakinâ€™ . . . day, the big dummy. Of course they’re going to start puking right about the time you get home.
7. Do not hang your dry erase to-do list where cats or small children can reach it. They will smudge the very important item on the bottom and you will miss a deadline that results in a chain of events involving ice cream but also tears and self-recrimination.
8. With that in mind (and because you will lose your mind), always post multiple reminders. (Of everything.)
9. You don’t have to go to every kiddie school party, and you sure as heck don’t have to be room mommy. Just say no to volunteering! For now, at least. You have so much guilt in your life, you won’t notice the extra helping.
10. Last but not least, it all comes out in the wash. It really does. And then you’ll need a new washing machine, because DUDE, who put that in the laundry??