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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

How Scarlett O'Hara Determined My Future

I was twelve-and-a-half years old the first time I read "Gone With the Wind" ~ and thirteen-and-a-half when I read it for the second time. I found the 800+ pages of that complex novel far more interesting than math class.

Forty-*scrubs hand over mouth* years ago, I certainly had absolutely no idea what career turn my life would take in my mid-fifties. I had no aspirations of becoming an author. And I didn't realized how Scarlett's saga imprinted the historical romance genre on my impressionable, young psyche. But it did.

Scarlett began the story as a spoiled brat, concerned only with the size of her corseted waist and the attention of the ill-suited Ashley Wilkes. But by the time the Civil War ended, her natural intelligence and steely will have carried her through into adulthood.

Scarlett single-handedly directs the salvation of her beloved home, Tara, doing whatever ~ and marrying whomever ~ she must in order to achieve her goal. The selfish child becomes a selfless woman. At least, for the duration of the crisis.

I was hooked. Historical romance was my genre of choice. But not short little stories with no depth, subplots, or fleshed-out secondary characters. I wanted hefty stories which would carry me outside of myself for several days at a time.

My second favorite author in my life was Kathleen Woodiwiss, the mother of the meaty historical romance. I read and reread her first five novels throughout the 1970's and into the 1980's ~ until raising four children cut severely into my late-night reading abilities.

I didn’t read fiction again until 2006, when I discovered/devoured Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. Her influence prompted me to attempt writing my first novel. Ten published book later, I have never looked back.

And all of this goes straight back to Margaret Mitchell's Scarlett. The ultimate flawed heroine, whose character arc is hard to match in any other fictional work of any genre. As much as I wanted to be the rich and beautiful flirt in the green party dress that matched her eyes, I would like to think that I could deliver a baby, drive a wagon out of a burning Atlanta, and keep a plantation going, and a household fed, by my wits and sheer determination alone.

Thank you, Scarlett.


I hope my heroines might make you proud.

*****

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7 comments:

Robin Kramme said...

Great post, Kris! So fun to peer into the past and recall the "influencers" and follow the crumbs backwards on our writing path. Robin K.

Judith Ashley said...

Kris, I have no doubts that you could deliver a baby, drive a wagon out of a burning Atlanta, and keep a household fed by your wits and sheer determination alone while still being the beautiful flirt in the party dress that matches your eyes.

Just look at the grit and determination it's taken to write ten novels and promote them!

Sarah Raplee said...

Fun post! Wonderful inspirations!

Denise Covey said...

If you were influenced by Scarlett O'Hara and GWTW, you should get your heroes and heroines just right. One of my all-time favourite books/movies. Margaret Mitchell worked so hard on that book, apparently editing her first chapter 60 times - sounds like me, lol!!

Kris Tualla said...

Thanks everyone! :)

Shobhan Bantwal said...

Wonderful post, Kris! Scarlett has been an inspiration to many authors over the years, so her creator certainly deserves a huge "thank you" from not just readers but writers as well.

Diana Mcc. said...

Enjoyed your post, Kris! So nice that someone besides me didn't always have visions of being a writer. For me it came later in life, after marrying, graduating college, having three kids and somewhere in that time the seed took root.