By day, Queenslander Bernadette Rowley is a vet. By night she throws off her white coat and stethoscope and becomes a romance writer.
I had to laugh when my editor sent me this press release but it’s quite true. I have an alter ego and the two seem quite diametrically opposed. They’re not really, though the right side of my brain doesn’t get much of a workout in my job as a vet. Writing, however, requires both sides of the brain to be working in concert albeit not at the same time. The creative right brain is very much in control when I’m crafting a story draft whereas the left side comes to the fore when it’s time to edit.
When I was first introduced to my romance writing community, I was staggered to find that many romance writers were highly-functioning career women. I met bankers, teachers, lawyers and doctors, to name just a few occupations. Then I realized that romance writing (and reading) was therapy- an escape from the high stress of their daily grind. What could be more therapeutic than immersing oneself in a fantasy romance after a hard day dealing with illnesses and emergencies?
I’ve read almost exclusively fantasy since my teenage years so it was natural for me to choose the fantasy/paranormal genre when I ventured into romance writing. Because I’ve lived in the worlds of Tolkien, Eddings, Feist and Jordan for decades, it’s easy to ‘see’ my fantasy in line with these fabulous authors. I love creating my own fabulous world where I make the magic and anything is possible. But I’m not a slave to world-building. My creation is not so developed that it has character status. I give enough information to allow the reader to imagine the rest. No one wants to read through reams of elaborate descriptions. It just needs to make sense.
Writing is one job where you very definitely learn a lot about yourself and even more so when you succeed in gaining publication. You get asked questions by editors and readers which really cause you to stop and think. I often get asked why I don’t write veterinary stories. My immediate reaction is always violent opposition. I have no interest in writing contemporary stories with a vet as main character. However, animals form an important part of my stories and worlds; only they’re not just boring cats and dogs (though who could say cats are boring!). My debut novel Princess Avenger is a fantasy romance about a forbidden love affair between a kick-ass princess and a shape-shifting army captain who is appointed her protector. The two are irresistibly drawn to each other amidst danger, deceit, palace intrigue and a plot to kill the princess’s father. What could be more natural than a vet who writes fantasy about a hero who can shift into three wild animal forms?
In addition, because my fantasy has a high fantasy setting, horses are integral to the everyday lives of the characters. So the animals I use in my fiction may not be the ones I see at work but are very much at the heart of it. In the next and related story, The Lady’s Choice, my heroine has a rather special connection to her horse and must use her special healing talents on him when his leg is broken. So I guess the reality of our ‘day jobs’ often resonates in our writing, in some way.
If you’re a writer, how does your ‘day job’ show up in your writing?