Unlike a lot of authors I’ve read, I did not always want to be a writer. My journey to writing didn’t involve an “ah-ha” moment where I immediately realized my love of writing and knew I wanted to do it my whole life. Instead, my love for writing was more of a gradual discovery during high school.
I had always been good at writing reports and stories in school, receiving good grades and supportive feedback from my teachers. Besides the occasional embarrassing diary entry, however, writing was just something I did for school assignments. Instead, my passion was horses: horseback riding, horse training, and even horse photography. From the time I was a little girl until I was 14, I had planned to become a professional horse trainer.
Then my life turned upside down. A few years prior, my mom had married my stepfather, David, and moved out, leaving me with my grandparents. In 2014, she had my half-brother, Ryan, and we became deeply estranged. To cope, I turned to reading. I had always been a book worm, but this marked my transition into becoming a complete bibliophile. Whenever I wasn’t doing schoolwork, I was reading books. Mostly dystopian, sci-fi, or fantasy YA novels where I could escape my own problems and embrace those of the characters.
This was when I discovered the joy of writing. The imaginative worlds I read about inspired me to write my own. I wanted to create elaborate stories in which the characters experienced different, more socially significant issues than those I had experienced myself. My first few writing attempts were truly awful, to the point that I can’t even bear to read them now. But those early stories taught me what a cathartic experience writing is. As much as I enjoyed creating characters and plots that didn’t relate to my own life, thereby enabling me to distract myself from my issues, I realized that incorporating some elements of my life into my writing actually helped me process them. I discovered that creating characters who resemble me, either in body, mind, or personality, and being able to control what happens to them, gave me the illusion of having that same control over my own life. I felt in charge of their lives in a way I didn’t feel about mine, and it gave me a safe medium to express how I felt about the things I’d experienced.
Even then, writing felt more like a hobby to me than a potential career. My stories were things I wrote in my free time for my own personal enjoyment, not to share with others. It wasn’t until I did a creative writing 4-h project, in which I shared one of the short stories I’d written, that I realized other people might want to read my writing. The judge for the project profusely praised my story’s plot, characters, and writing, and strongly encouraged me to continue building onto the story. I took her advice; when I was 16, I spent the summer adding onto that short story, turning it into the manuscript that would become The League.
With the support of my family, friends, coworkers, teachers, and professors, I decided to pursue my creative writing degree and work toward becoming a YA novelist. I realized that I wanted to write books that offered similar escapes to young adults like the ones I had needed. However, I wanted my novels to educate as well as entertain, inspiring my readers to enact change in their lives and society. That’s when I decided to write books about widespread social issues that affect teens, like illegal drug use and human trafficking, having my characters battle these problems in addition to the more universal emotional ones that my readers may be experiencing.
Writing has become my passion because it is a way to help myself and (hopefully) others work through problems in our personal lives and society. It provides me with the opportunity to express myself and create characters that my readers can relate to. Books changed my life, so I want to repay that debt by writing novels to help others in the same way they helped me.