Sunday, October 17, 2010
My first book written for Ellora's Cave's Taboo line is now available at the Cave! Buy Twice the Novice from EC - click HERE
Twice the Novice is the story of an English woman who is contracted to marry a mysterious Bavarian count. After her sister scandalizes the family by running off with a rake, Anne has little other choice but to accept the count's offer.
Becoming a governess is impossible for her since she is dyslexic. And while she doesn't wish to be a burden on her family, she agrees to do whatever she must to secure the count's hand in marriage. She isn't prepared, however, for the attentions of the count's devastatingly handsome nephew, Axel von Sommerhalder.
In researching the book, I talked to several friends who suffer from dyslexia. One is a fellow Ellora's Cave author, Mari Freeman, who graciously consented to allow me to interview her so readers might know what it's like to be dyslexic.Thanks, Mari!
When did you first discover you were dyslexic?
That's really two questions. The first is when did you notice you didn't quite get things like other people? It was probably by 6th grade that things really got hard. Teachers were more particular about spelling, sentence structure and basic grammar, all of which I could verbalize an understanding of, but often couldn't demonstrate on the written page.
Mind you, this was far before the days of MS Word and the red squiggly line. I fumbled through high school covering up and finding ways around my learning difference. I didn't realize I was creating my own system of reading and writing at the time.
I chose to participate in theater in school because it was an activity where I could excel. Verbalization was my strong suit. I didn’t need to spell or get the comma in the right spot to recite lines of a play. High school theater is where I fell in love with the story. I could master the beauty of language as long as I could do it out loud.
The second question was when exactly did someone tell me exactly what was different about me? I was TESTED and given the diagnosis of moderate dyslexia around the age of 27, after I'd returned to college for a second attempt at a degree. On the first go ‘round, the lack of ability to spell had been too large an obstacle to deal with for me at 18 years old.
In Twice the Novice, Anne is ashamed of the fact she cannot read. Since my story takes place in the 1700s, nothing was known of dyslexia. Anne goes to great lengths to hide her dyslexia. Have you ever tried to hide your dyslexia or were you ever ashamed because reading didn't come as easily to you as it did to non-dyslexics?
I am fortunate that my dyslexia is not so bad as to prevent me from reading at all. I love to read now. I may see the text in an incoherent jumble on the page, but my coping mechanisms have enabled me to anticipate danger spots and correct what I see. I get close enough. Writing or typing is not so easy. My brain can’t simply fill in the blanks and correct the spatial issues as I go, as it can when reading.
I must type and then re-type. But I am still, even today, after several published books and a successful corporate career, making efforts to hide my difference in public situations.
I have almost all public posts proofread by someone. All my ms submissions, pitches, basically anything public facing, are proofread. I pay for some of those services. Twitter and Facebook, I have to let go if I want participate.
Like your character, I'm very often ashamed, even though I know I shouldn't be. I fear those who read my transposed twitters or mangled Facebook messages will think I have no business writing books because I can't spell or keep a comma out of a period's place. Why wouldn’t they?
The late Stephen J Cannell, who was dyslexic, said something like, "I didn't need to spell to tell a good story. I just had to prove it to someone."
I have to remind myself of that all the time or I would quit. I can tell a good story. I just can’t spell a good story. I'm lucky my editors work with me pretty well. It takes more effort and patience, but I hope I make it worth it. My readers seem to think so.
In Twice the Novice, the hero patiently works with the heroine to look at the whole word rather than at the individual letters. How did you overcome dyslexia in order to be a multi-published writer? And how does it affect your writing?
I think this is exactly how I work. I’m a very big picture thinker. In one of my past incarnations I was a project manager. I used intricate software to help me manage details, but the big picture of a large software development project was easy for me to juggle.
It’s the same for my writing. I type every sentence I write about four times to get it as close as I can to correct for grammar and spelling. My EC book, Birthright, has 21 characters and two subplots. It’s a big, long book. That added up to about 400,000 words typed (and deleted and typed again) to get that first draft finished. Buddy, were my fingers tired. Don’t worry. It’s nowhere near that long finished.
Characters, the story, those process seems to be similar to most non-dyslexic authors. Getting all of it down on paper is the Hell of it all. You don’t have to go back to the regency period to find people who suffered terribly over their learning difference. I feel for people even in recent history.
What great storytellers did we miss out on because there was no real understanding, no assistance? I was stubborn. My parents believed I could do anything I wanted, even if it was hard. I was expected to succeed in everything. I believed I could succeed because they did. My mom helped me master reading and struggled through a ton of math with me.
Later in life, when I decided I was going to write ‘with the intent to earn a living,” I believed that was possible too. I have help now as I did then. (Although my Mom does not read my erotic books. Lol) I have proofreaders, an editor who also believes in me, and a fabulous critique partner.
You will never see five books a year from me. I can't. It just takes me longer. I've tried methods like voice to text, but the tedious business of getting the words on the page correctly is part of the creative process for me. It is what it is.
If you have dyslexia or another learning difference, do not sell yourself short. Use your full vocabulary. No matter what your occupation happens to be, use the rich language that is in your head. Don’t choose simpler words because you can get them on the page easier. You can fix your spelling in the second draft, with help if needed.
Mari Freeman’s Plan for Pleasure is now available! It’s an anthology that includes her books Beware of the Cowboy and Love Doctor. Buy it from Ellora’s Cave - http://www.jasminejade.com/pm-8734-334-plan-for-pleasure.aspx
About Mari ~
Mari Freeman lives, disguised as a normal suburbanite, in central North Carolina. When not penning romantic erotica, she enjoys horses, hiking, traveling, good food and friends. An outdoors girl at heart, you can often find her at the lake with laptop fired up, fishing line in the water and her imagination running wild.
In her previous lives, she’s held an interesting array of occupations. She’s been a project manager, a software-testing manager, sold used cars, pumped gas at a truck stop and worked in a morgue.
Mari’s favorite stories include Alpha females in love with even more Alpha males. She finds the clash of passionate, strong-willed personalities fascinating. She writes contemporary, paranormal and a little science fiction/fantasy.