Why not crime or true-life dramas? Why romance?
Once upon a time, at the tender age of eight, I was dropped off at the movies every Saturday morning. We’d buy our tickets and wrestle for seats - if you didn't win, you sat in the aisles or lay on the floor up front. We were packed in like snot-encrusted sardines, snarfing down buckets of popcorn, chocolate peanuts and slushyed-up water with a hint of Coke flavouring. You name it, we watched it, age restrictions be damned.
One Saturday morning, I stared and stared at the promotional poster: Romancing the Stone. A woman swung from a vine, sort of Tarzan like, but without the scariness of Greystoke. It looked like it might be good (hey Ishtar was one of the horrors we watched at said theatre), sort of Indiana Jones-y without anybody’s face melting. I ran my hand over the glass. That’s when it happened. A voice, clear, my own, but not: I wish I could be like her when I grow up. Odd. Where had that come from? I’d never given much thought to growing up, certainly not to swinging on vines. Besides, I looked nothing like her. I got my ticket, and the battle for the seats commenced.
Then the movie started. A wild west scene. Voice over. The heroine trumps the villain with the help of her sweaty hot cowboy. Close up on Kathleen Turner hunched over a typewriter as she finishes her latest romance novel. Ah. A writer. A romance writer. At which point that same insane voice I’d heard while gazing at the poster, started chanting, yes, yes, that’s me. Really? Me? A romance writer? All of eight years old and I’ve decided that… this… is… IT. (Let’s not get started with the simultaneous entrenching of the lone adventurer as love interest - there are reasons men in my life tend to wear khaki and leather jackets rather than business suits).
Was it an epiphany? Sort of. Did I ignore it? Absolutely. Eight years old remember? Far greater things to worry about like how to stop my brother from recording over the A-Team on Betamax before I’d seen it, or how to stop loud-mouthed Leonard from talking on a Friday so that we could get let out of Mrs Carr’s class early (never happened).
Yet, by the time ‘just’ Joan Wilder had rescued her sister, fallen in love with her would-be guide Jack (always such a hero name), discovered her own inner resources and written yet another novel, my heart was beating with a certainty that I’ve felt on only a few occasions since. And to that voices credit, it’s never been wrong. Part of me knew I’d be just like that woman. I’d be writing romance. I’d be looking for adventures wherever I found them and I’d probably be looking for him too. Maybe even find him.
Looking back, I realised I’d been given my own treasure map. I knew how X marked the spot. The only challenge was how to get there - a long, winding path filled with false turns, villains, sages, false highs and false lows.
Now if I could just figure out how Cloud Atlas fits in…