I was born and raised in Nice, France. Though I now realize that the French Riviera is one of the most beautiful places on earth, at the time I hated it.
My best friend and I used to dream of someday moving to Paris, or London, or even Rome. We weren’t sure how we’d survive once we got there, but that didn’t stop us from dreaming. Then I met my first boyfriend and the wanderlust vanished, at least for a while.
Years later, as I was finishing my second year at the University of Nice, I met an American serviceman, married him and moved to the U.S., all in the space of seven months. Lake Charles, Louisiana, was a little farther than I wanted to go, but I was young, in love, and adventurous.
But far from being the fairy tale I had imagined, those first few weeks on American soil were a nightmare. I didn’t speak a word of English, I couldn’t cook, and I had never held a broom in my life. Clearly, something had to be done, and I had to be the one doing it.
A year later, the situation had changed dramatically. I spoke English fluently, I had learned how to cook, and I had the cleanest house on the block. I even signed up for a course in creative writing. I wasn’t sure why. I needed something to do other than polish the molding, and a writing course sounded like fun.
My years as a U.S. Air Force wife kept me busy. Besides residing in Louisiana, California, Delaware, and New Jersey, I also lived in Germany, Morocco, and Spain. It was during a tour of duty in Spain that a friend told me the base paper was looking for a reporter and I would be perfect for the job.
At first I thought she was crazy. Sure I had taken a course in creative writing, but I knew absolutely nothing about journalism. However, by the time Gretchen was finished telling me about the job, I wanted it so badly that I was willing to bluff my way through an interview.
In the editor’s office the following day, I lied shamelessly, inventing credentials I didn’t have, naming publications that didn’t exist and convincing myself I’d end up in purgatory for all my lies.
Much to my surprise, the editor gave me a try-out assignment and a three-o’clock deadline the following afternoon. I had less than 24 hours to conduct an interview I had no idea how to conduct, write an article in a manner that was totally foreign to me and get it back to the editor by the time specified.
Fortunately for me, luck was on my side, or maybe it was just meant to be because the following day I arrived at the editorial office on time, with my manuscript neatly typed and my fingers crossed.
A half hour later I was hired as the new feature writer for the Torrejon Raider. It wasn’t until my editor was reassigned to the U.S. that I learned I hadn’t fooled him one bit with my phony background.
He knew I was lying, but he looked at me as being gutsy rather than deceitful and that’s the reason he decided to give me a try-out assignment. If I did a good job, he’d trust his instincts and hire me. If I botched it up, it would be sayonara, baby. His parting words to me at his going-away party were: "Hang in there, kiddo. I have a feeling you’ll go far."
My second husband, Bob, is responsible for my career as a novelist. He knew I wanted to do something different with my life and he suggested I write a book. At first the idea sounded as ludicrous as Gretchen’s suggestion years earlier that I become a reporter. Then I remembered how that turned out and thought, Why not? What have I got to lose?
Many novels later, I’m finally convinced that writing women’s fiction is my true calling. I often think of that editor, though, and how instrumental he was in my becoming a writer. If it hadn’t been for his faith in me and those last few words, I might never have had the nerve to take my husband’s suggestion seriously.