Renaissance Girl (Mary Strand)
This month at YA Outside the Lines we’re talking about branching into other genres and/or arts. Good idea? Bad idea? Possible? How? And would it mean taking a leap or merely another step on my path?
I come from a somewhat artsy-fartsy family. My mom, who was in college at the same time that I was (long story), minored in art history and LOVED art, although she didn’t put pen or brush to paper. One of my brothers is a painter and dabbles in music; another designs the most amazing Christmas ornaments.
I spent years practicing law. Although I would personally describe my merger agreements as artistic, not everyone appreciates the beauty of a tightly crafted indemnification clause. (Heathens.) But at one point, years ago, while pondering second careers, I thought about writing novels some day.
An eight-week maternity leave turned into “some day,” and I started writing a light, sweet, adult romantic comedy. (It eventually became my first published novel, Cooper’s Folly.) Then I wrote a murder-mystery romance, then three and a half women’s fiction novels, the “half” due to getting seriously stuck on a book, and to this day I’ve never been able to finish it. Very weird for me!
My switch to YA novels came from a writers’ “voice” workshop, when the entire group agreed emphatically that I talked and acted like a teenager (as if!) and couldn’t believe I wasn’t writing YA novels. I’m not entirely sure they were complimenting me, but here we are. It was AMAZINGLY easy for me to write YA novels, in large part because I actually DO think (and often talk) like a teenager. I merely hid that from the world when I was writing scintillating, edge-of-the-seat, wildly sexy merger agreements.
|Books don't get any cooler than this. No, really.|
When it comes to YA novels, though, I can’t call it “taking a leap.” It was like coming home.
The genre I now read most often (as opposed to write) is historical romance set in the Regency period. I love it to death. I’ll admit that I’ve flirted several times with the thought of writing them, but the learning curve would be steep (I think), so I doubt I ever will ... BUT I will note that it remains a flirtation, and I would not bet against the possibility that I’ll try writing a Regency romance some day. Utterly on a whim.
Other arts? I started playing guitar and playing in bands somewhat seriously five years ago, after dabbling briefly in guitar for a couple of years before that and going nowhere. (The initial dabble was triggered by writing a YA novel, Livin’ La Vida Bennet, in which the lead character, Lydia, was learning to play guitar.) A friend pestered me TO DEATH before I agreed to join a band she was in, and I loved it, but at that point it was mostly about doing something fun with friends.
Then, three years ago, I started writing songs. Again, not really a leap. I’d suffered a couple of severe knee injuries and unsuccessful surgeries and suddenly couldn’t play sports, which I love more than any other endeavor (including writing or music). I was going crazy, and writing songs gave me something to do. Then, during the pandemic, I joined a Facebook songwriting group and started REALLY writing songs, because I simply couldn’t write funny YA novels while quarantined. I’m now in the process of recording my first album. (Okay, THAT is a major leap for me!)
Now, I’m back writing YA novels, revising my earlier women’s fiction novels and planning to publish them as a trilogy, still writing songs, still unable to play sports (and still going crazy), and still flirting with the idea of writing a Regency romance.
If I ever do write a Regency romance, THAT will be the definition of taking a leap. Hmm. You never know!
Mary Strand is the author of Pride, Prejudice, and Push-Up Bras and three other novels in the Bennet Sisters YA series. You can find out more about her at marystrand.com.