Where I grew up, the summers are hot and muggy. Just going outside feels like you’re trying to breathe through mud. Even as a kid, I couldn’t wait to escape, with the West Coast and the Pacific Ocean being my ultimate destination. (Odd, because I eventually ended up in Palm Springs). However, I needed to get through childhood first.
When I was nine, my BFF was gone for the summer, visiting relatives in Indiana. Bored and cranky, I didn’t know what to do with myself during those times when the pageants, modeling and dancing slowed down. I haunted the library, loving how cool and quiet it was, but there were still a lot of hours to get through. When you’re a kid, time is freaking endless.
After I’d read just about every book in my age group and those beyond (Dickens’ Great Expectations for example), I started writing my own story. It wasn’t something I thought about consciously. It was simply something I did. As I was also interested in art, I illustrated my ‘book’, which I titled Dimples the Adventurous Flea. Simply put, the plot was about a flea who hops from dog to dog looking for adventure. His travels take him all over the ‘world’ from a French poodle to an Irish setter to an English bulldog and beyond.
Admittedly, I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. I couldn’t believe what I’d done. I showed it to my mom who did what moms do – she oohed and ahhed, then asked me if I’d practiced my dance routine. While I did, I kept thinking about my story, the heartache when Dimples comes across a French flea on the poodle and she doesn’t like him. And then, his rebound when he meets an English flea on the bulldog.
During the following weeks of summer, I finished my dancing practice early so I’d be free to make copies of my book. No, we didn’t own a copier. I had to create those pages again and again manually. Eventually, my hand was clawed and my middle finger callused from all the work, but I had a plan.
I told my mom I was going outside to play. Instead, I went to the neighbors’ houses and told the mothers that I had a book to sell. At the time, I was a Girl Scout so I knew all about bugging the neighborhood families with sales pitches. To this day, I cannot believe my moxie. For a timid little thing, I didn’t seem to have any fear when it came to what I’d written.
Thankfully, none of the mothers said no or threatened to call my mom. Some paid me with the spare change they had. Others offered me cookies. My first book tour was a sellout. I waited until my BFF got back from Indiana before I spent the money, buying us both a Coke at the mall.
I believe that in the back of my mind, I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I’d found my calling. Not that it was something I could discuss with my mom, who was still convinced I’d be the next kid star. Nor was it something that came easily. You see, there’s always someone to put a damper on your dream. Sometimes it’s a cruel reviewer or an editor who asks you not to submit again or an agent who doesn’t respond to your query for representation.
For me, it came far earlier than that. A teacher I had in high school.
Tina Donahue is an award-winning, bestselling novelist in erotic romance, and an admitted chocoholic known to down semi-sweet candy bars in grocery checkout lines. She lives with her family in Palm Springs, California where tires melt in the 120-degree summer heat and an occasional earthquake puts everyone on notice to bolt things down. When she’s not writing her steamy stories, trying to stay cool, or crawling beneath her desk during a trembler, she loves shopping, eating at her favorite Mexican restaurant and meeting other authors. Before she wrote romance, Tina was the editor of an award-winning Midwestern newspaper and worked in Story Direction for a Hollywood production company.