Article by Hannah Fielding
I have wanted to be an author for as long as I can remember. There is a strong writing tradition in my family – both my father and my grandmother were published authors – and I grew up surrounded by books: books in my bedroom, in the living room, in the kitchen, in the garden, even, on a balmy hot afternoon. It seemed the natural progression that I would grow up to write.
Certainly in my teens, when I stumbled into the world of romantic fiction, I was set upon the course of romance novelist. What better job in the world could there be, I thought, than dreaming up love stories to inspire and entertain? What better way to spend the day than lost in an exotic fantasy world with drama and intrigue and handsome, brooding heroes?
My ambition was cemented when, aged fourteen, while on holiday in Montazah, Alexandria, I crept into a reception being held as part of an international film and television festival, and met the heartthrobs of the day: Roger Moore, Robert Conrad, Gardner Mackay, Richard Burton. Someday, I thought, I would write romance like Hollywood made – romance worthy of stars like these.
In the following years, however, that feisty, impassioned, determined girl grew into a woman, and took on the responsibilities that entails. I read French literature at university, and then I travelled to Geneva, Switzerland, to study at the School of Mademoiselle Marguiledjial. I was not writing romance; I was learning to be a high-level PA: a sensible and secure career path.
After my education, I did work in this role – for the American consulate in Alexandria during the Camp David talks. It was a very good position: excellent prospects and a handsome salary. But I did not continue on the path laid out ahead of me. I met a man, you see, at a drinks party, and I fell in love. I packed my bags again, but this time bound for England.
The next twenty years I dedicated myself to my husband and our two beautiful children, and to renovating our homes in Kent and the south of France. When the children grew so that they needed me less, I busied myself with a business renovating cottages. I read romance books, many of them, but I did not write. For surely that dream of writing was a childish dream, to be put away now.
Writing once the children had flown the nest
It was only once my children had flown the nest that I began to write. Not seriously. Just for myself, to quieten what had become a clamour inside to create. Several months later, I tremulously handed the manuscript to my husband. Several months after that, I bowed to the urgings of my husband and children to submit my novel, Burning Embers
, to publishers. To my delight, a publishing contract was offered, and signed.
I recall vividly the day a box of Burning Embers paperbacks arrived at my house, a few weeks before the book’s publication. I collapsed into a chair, book in hand, and stared at it. This was my book, in my hand. This was my abandoned dream, in my hand. I was a romance novelist.
That day I realised that I did not regret the years I had not written, not for a moment. Those years had made me a writer; they had taken me to a point where I was ready to write. ‘How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live,’ said Henry David Thoreau. I had lived: I had read a great many books, seen a great many works of art, travelled all over the world, navigated heartbreak, navigated passion. I had amassed plenty of ideas; I had fostered an entrepreneurial and hardworking spirit; I had learned to be patient when patience is required and to drive forwards when momentum is imperative.
This April will mark four years since the publication of my debut novel. Since then, I have wholeheartedly followed my dream. I’ve written and published a further three novels, with another to come this spring; I’ve won awards for my fiction; I’ve been featured in national press. Most importantly for me, I’ve built a growing readership. Nothing makes the journey more worthwhile than an email from a reader telling me how much they have enjoyed my books, and asking, ‘When can I read your next book?’ That there will be a next book is the true realisation of my dream. I am a writer. I write every day. This is how I define myself now.
Becoming a writer has taught me that it is never too late to follow your heart. A dream need not be abandoned on the shelf, a haunting reminder of who you once longed to be. When you are ready, you can take down that dream, dust it off and reclaim it with hope and with passion.
Masquerade by Hannah Fielding is available to buy now.
You can follow Hannah @fieldinghannah