When I learned the date I was scheduled to write a post for this blog a chill ran down my spine. April 24th was the day a very close friend died suddenly while running in Rock Creek Park in Washington, DC. Jim was a divorce attorney—a mediator, really, because he was a big believer in there being two sides to every broken relationship. I never watched him mediate between two angry, hurting people, but I spent enough time around him to know he was perfect for the job. Jim was one of the clearest thinkers and best listeners I've ever known.
Like most of my friends in Washington, Jim was way into politics and international affairs, and loved to debate and argue the issues from all sides. But what really fascinated him was listening to people's personal stories, the more complex the better, and analyze how their childhood scars and adolescent traumas shaped them. So when I started writing romantic suspense featuring deeply flawed, damaged characters, Jim eagerly offered himself as a sounding board. I didn't have much confidence as a writer back then, and he was a very busy man, so at first I declined his help. But he was the kind of guy who inspired trust in people, and he ultimately persuaded me to go out on a limb and let him read my very first manuscript. I still cringe at the memory of how afraid I was that he'd think less of me for having written such schlock.
Looking back at that first book, which I called Headmistress, it's clear that Jim was not only generous with his time (the thing was a 500-page monster), his critique was incisive (and kind!) and challenged me to stretch myself as a writer. He insisted I send it out to editors, which I did, without success. Years later I borrowed from that early manuscript, and Jim's critique, to launch a dark, sensuous book about a school mistress called Son of the Enemy, which will be released in June. I like to think he would be proud of me if he read it.
Was there someone in your life who inspired you to break through your fears and go for it? Please share your stories!