"Anyone who ever gave you confidence, you owe them a lot." — Holly Golightly in Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's
I can't pinpoint the moment I knew I wanted to be a writer; it feels as if the desire to write has always been in my mind. And I don't really know how I learned to be a writer, either; somewhere, somehow, after reading countless books, the lessons must have sunk in, when I wasn't looking.
What I am aware of, every day, is the fact that there have been some amazing people who've given me confidence. I know I wouldn't have become a writer without them.
My Mom: I dedicated my first novel, The Damage Done, to my mother, because she's the person who has encouraged me more than anyone else in the world. When I was a (greedy) child, I used to come home from school with lists of books I wanted to order through the Scholastic Book Club; my mother never said no. She taught me to read, took me to libraries, and told me I could do anything I wanted. She's usually my first reader for books and short stories, too. When I say that she encourages me, that doesn't mean she gives me unalloyed approval; she tells me when things don't make sense and points out awkward phrasings that act like "speed bumps" in my writing. Mom, you are awesome.
My Dad: I remember a conversation my father had with me when I was 12: he told me that the only difference between me and a professional writer is that the pro would outline. Sadly, I still haven't learned to successfully outline, but that hasn't stopped my dad from being one of my biggest cheerleaders. He occasionally gets jealous that my mom gets to read my books before he does, but he understands that his tendency to charge up to total strangers, tell them about his daughter the writer and occasionally blurt out major plot points is at the root of this issue. Dad, you are awesome.
My Grandmother: You may have read about my amazing grandmother before. She's the person responsible for my love of mystery and noir. She bought me boatloads of books and introduced me to the films of Barbara Stanwyck (Double Indemnity, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, Baby Face, et al). She also gave me a wealth of wonderful sayings, including the one I live by: "If you're going to sin, sin big." I miss her every day.
My Grade Four & Five Teacher, Mrs. McIsaac: She once gave me a book — Mary Stewart's The Little Broomstick — inscribed with the words, "To Hilary — I expect to read a book by you one day." She let me start my own newspaper (using the school's photocopier, of course), helped me produce a play I wrote, and encouraged me to enter short-story and poetry contests, a few of which I actually won. (If I ever get famous, Scholastic will undoubtedly release my classic prize-winning story "Ametafear's Tomb." Wait for it!)
My Grade Six Teacher, Mrs. Lampert: All I can say is that Bonnie Tyler-lookalike Mrs. Lampert believed that I could do absolutely anything. She was an incredible inspiration, and she had impeccable taste — she's the person who introduced me to Lois Duncan's books, which were a huge inspiration.
My High School English Teacher, Mr. Baker: It would be hard to underestimate Mr. Baker's influence on me. It's only because of him that I get the beauty of Elizabethan English, and I'm positive that his crazy, in-class "Don't Stop Writing" exercises — in which we had to keep writing, no matter what, even though Mr. Baker was literally standing on his head to distract us — help me keep my focus when I'm writing today. I got to see him at a reunion just before The Damage Done came out, and his reaction to my book deal was classic Mr. Baker: "You're being published by Macmillan? Holy shit!"
My Husband: Can't leave him out. Other people get to read the books; he gets to live with the crazy. And that's why my second book, The Next One to Fall (coming in February 2012), is dedicated this way: "For my husband, Dan — my first, my last, my everything."
* * *
Congrats to the winners of the GoodReads Giveaway for The Next One to Fall — your advance reading copies are in the mail. This week, I'll be launching the pre-order contest (here's a preview of one of the prizes). My book tour is taking shape, with dates in New York, Houston, Austin, Scottsdale, Denver, San Diego, San Francisco, and other cities already planned. And if you're interested in reading the first chapter of the new book, you're in luck — Chapter One is on the Macmillan site!