Why I Write: A Sci-Fi Writer Explains her Motivation
Shh? Have you heard them? Are they talking to you too? No? Why not?
Hi, my name is Jeanne G’Fellers. I’m a Science Fiction writer, and, yes, the voices in my head won’t leave me alone.
Sounds like the opening of some demented Twelve-Step program, doesn’t it? Muwhahaha!
Right, the reason we’re here.
Like most authors, I began writing at a young age. I wrote a lot of bad poetry in the early 1980s, but I distinctly remember writing a short story in the ninth grade that my teacher had me read aloud in front of the class. It was embarrassing to say the least, but the fact that the teacher—who I otherwise detested—liked it, left an impression. My peers, eh, who needed them; it was junior high, a veritable hunting ground where geeky types lingered quiet and still in the shadows so they wouldn’t be easy prey—not an easy feat when for a 5’ 10”, broad-shouldered, Appalachian mountain girl like myself.
Unfortunately, I quit writing during my senior year of high school. Why? Because I let one teacher, a student teacher at that, crush my spirit. One of my poems had found its way into the school’s literary magazine. Sadly, one of my friends asked said student teacher if he liked the poem—in front of me! His response: “Not bad for a high-school girl.” It was a backhanded compliment, and, for my budding writer self, it proved crushing on two levels. It was good for a high schooler – meaning it wasn’t amateur and mediocre. And, it was good for a girl—a sexist comment I was too young to recognize as such. I put away my poetry notebooks and let them go to the wayside, losing them, perhaps purposely so, until my mid-twenties when writing became important to me again—this time as a means of escape and survival.
This next part isn’t exactly easy for me to recount, but here it is. I began writing again in my mid-twenties to escape an emotionally, verbally, and, occasionally, physically abusive marriage. I wrote, by hand and when my husband wasn’t looking, about strong women who could live free and on their own, above patriarchy and, indeed, within a matriarchy of their own creation. Creating so I could escape the pain of my reality helped me cope, and, eventually, gave me the strength to escape my situation with my children in tow. And, before inquire, a bad marriage did not turn me into a lesbian. I’d had an inkling since I’d been a teen, but, in Appalachia during the 1980s, you didn’t speak about such people, and you certainly weren’t one “of them,” so I deeply, and I do mean deeply, suppressed it. Perhaps, it wasn’t fair to my husband, but what he did to myself and our children was far more scarring. If I hadn’t feared for our lives I would have left sooner than I did. It takes incredible bravery to escape such a situation so never, ever judge someone for staying in an abusive situation when you haven’t been there yourself. Saying “why doesn’t she just leave” is both ignorant and insensitive.
*steps off her soapbox*
Now, back to why I write—the topic of this blog post, right? The writing I began during those dark years stuck with me. It developed from a short story into a novel and, finally, into series that I escaped to whenever I could. It led to my returning to college (against someone’s wishes, mind you) and to my BA in English in 2003. I came, screaming, out of the closet in late 2002, got divorced in early 2003, and almost immediately met a wonderful woman who I’m now married to in an equal, healthy partnership. She encourages my writing–unlike the ex who threatened to destroy it–and, with her encouragement, I sought out publication of my first novel, No Sister of Mine. It took sixteen publisher rejections, but, in 2004, I received that all-important telephone call first-time novelists dream of: “We want you.” I squealed like a small, delighted child and rightly so.
No Sister of Mine was released by Bella Books in 2005, and I received my MA in English in 2006.
I’ve released three other novels since then and, the first novel in my second series will be released in March, 2017. These days I write, because it’s what I do. My health isn’t good, so I’ve been forced to abandon teaching and almost every other physical activity for a sedentary lifestyle. My body requires copious amounts of rest these days to function on a basic level, and I have immune system, neurological, and auto-immune issues. I fill my downtime by re-entering my writing world(s)—yes, plural. I have multiple worlds residing in my head these days. Characters speak to me, tell me about their adventures, and I listen. They’re in my head so I’m a captive audience. I sometimes argue with them, but they won’t leave me alone regardless of what I say. They have stories they want heard, and I have the time to write them down.
The fact that some people like these stories, that they sell and win an occasional award—that’s all gravy—delicious, self-affirming gravy.