Okay, so now I have to admit something. I have often said I've been writing me entire life. I've said that my first foray into writing was a six page self illustrated story entitled "The Civil War." All of this is true.
But it's not the whole story of how I realized I wanted to write.
When I was four, a TV show premiered that changed my life, and the course of many others as well. "Emergency!" brought to the public consciousness the stories of paramedics in Los Angeles County. Before "E" showed up on TV, paramedic medicine wasn't even a thought. Now, some 40 ish years later, we have some amazing men and women who save lives every single day in the middle of streets, burning buildings, whatever.
I didn't fully understand the shows impact on other people until 2000 when the Smithsonian inducted the show into its museum. This was a rare opportunity for fans as the memorabilia of "E" made it's way across the county. (You can't exactly FedEx a squad truck, now can you?) I don't know who came up with the idea, but several of the cast members made appearances at fire stations all over the place and fans got to see pieces of their favorite show.
By the time all this got to the Midwest, however, the cast members (And honestly, these aren't young folks, so it's completely understandable.) coming to the events were, well, down to one. Randy Mantooth, known as Johnny Gage. Kevin Tighe, (Roy DeSoto) had committed to joining his partner on TV and friend in real life on this cross country junket, but a movie part came up (I believe it was "Rose Red" which is now my daughter's favorite horror movie.) and, as a working actor, he had to take the job.
So when I went to the event in Chicago, I met only Randy from the cast. That was okay, it's no secret that I have adored the man since I was tiny. But I also got to meet and talk to a lot of really interesting people, many of whom were inspired by the show to get into the field of paramedic medicine.
For me, talking to other fans of the show, something I had never been able to do prior to the Internet (And hence, the theme of "dream in Color.") I realized that while TV history may only see Emergency as a footnote, many of us who loved the show made career choices because of it.
Did I want to be a paramedic when I was a kid? You betcha! I used to dig in snowdrifts in my yard and pretend I was rescuing someone from a mudslide. (Of course growing up in Michigan, mudslides weren't all that common...but still...)
I didn't become a paramedic for reasons I will have to share with a therapist some day. However, I did become a writer, and that's why I'm telling you all this now.
The folks that wrote for "Emergency" had to have been brilliant. Sure, the show is cheesy NOW, because the medical field has evolved so much in the last four decades. And the clothes are pretty terrible. And what was allowed on TV back in the day wasn't much. Still, "Emergency" even now, is a drama that will grip you if you let it.
I've gone around the block to get next door here, but here's the whole point of my blog today: In my opinion, though, the biggest bit of brilliance the writers of the show gave us were Johnny and Roy. The friendship that was written became a very real friendship and anyone who watched that show knew one thing: John Gage and Roy DeSoto were two men who would, honestly, die to save the other person. There was humor, sure. There was mocking. Roy was the older, wiser (although in reality the two men are virtually the same age) married guy who tolerated the antics of the younger, silly single guy. In spite of that, there was never any question that those two were the best of friends.
It was that friendship that inspired my very first attempt at a novel. When I was thirteen, I sat down and started creating what would, ultimately, be a story that reflected where I was in my life. What started out as a cry against teen angst and loneliness turned into a full blown romantic suspense with plenty of heat and humor. Working on the story, creating the world that is Rock Harbor, got me through some miserable times during my high school years. It gave me a positive focus on something as I was losing my faith everything during my college years. And, as a mother raising her children, it gave me a reason to feel romantic, even though I was breastfeeding and smelled like sour milk.
As I grew up, so did that story. At the core of the story, however, is a friendship between two men, Drew and Bryan. That the the one thing that has never, ever changed. I knew, the first moment that I rolled a sheet of paper into my manual typewriter, that I needed to honor the friendship of Johnny and Roy somehow.
You know this story now as "Shara's Chance/A Chance to Walk/or Lies in Chance" depending on where I'm submitting it. Yes, I've had this story in my head for the better part of 30 years. a lot of things have changed over the years, to be sure. And now, after years of false starts and stops, and the years of learning the craft of writing a cohesive story, I have the final version. And the friendship between Bryan and Drew has not wavered.
If "Lies" ever gets published, fans of the show will recognize immediately the echoes of John Gage and Roy DeSoto. For me, "Lies" isn't just a romantic suspense novel about an heiress and a school teacher. For me, it's an homage to the writers who created my two best friends, Johnny and Roy.
So today, August 13, I wish Kevin Tighe (Roy DeSoto) a happy birthday. Kevin, if I could give you a gift, it would be this: The knowledge that the work you did so long ago touched the heart of a little girl and helped her through many dark, cold times in her life.
As writers, we all have a reason we got started. Think about what yours was. Then go forth and WRITE!