Back in June 2008, I was at loose ends. The kids were in university. The garden was mature, and the hall was hand-stenciled. I’d learned every knitting stitch known to womankind. I’d produced a 1,000 page website for which I learned to code in HTML. I’d taken a series of professional baking courses and could reliably produce an exquisite Black Forest cake. I’d researched the family history and—as long as one didn’t dwell overlong on the fact that everybody lies—could theoretically trace back thirteen generations.
Good grief, I was bored beyond belief.
I knew I needed to figure out a new life plan, but what? As always when life posed a question I couldn’t readily answer, I avoided self-thought like the plague and plunged into a bout of heavy reading. In the space of a couple months, I’d chewed my way through the latest mysteries, historical fiction and romances, and was casting around for something new, when a librarian suggested a Sookie Stackhouse novel. Vampires? Really?
Well, slap me on the ass and call me stupid. One book in, and I knew I loved the fantasy world—so intensely satisfying with all its flavours and textures. In another epic, three-month, book spree, I consumed the diverse works of Charlaine Harris, Jim Butcher, Carol Berg, Patricia Briggs, Anne Bishop and Kim Harrison.
Let’s cut to “the moment.” I was browsing the offerings on the staff-picks table at Chapters. Stacked waist high were several copies of The Name of the Wind. I picked one up—the book was weighty (good value for the dollar); it didn’t have a picture of a half-naked guy on the front of it (won’t be embarrassed at the cash register); and the back blurb was beyond awesome (a definite possibility).
Patrick Rothfuss, huh? Never heard of him.
I bought the book, then made the mistake of cracking it open at lunch hour. Oh, dear. Once inside Kvothe’s world, I could not leave it. In a reading marathon that left my husband without any dinner, I tore through the novel, never stopping until I finished the last page. My eyes were burning, my pillows were soft, but I could not fall asleep. That’s when I did something I’d never done before: I got up out of bed and wrote my first fan letter. I’ll be honest with you—I really went to town on that email. It was both long-assed and long-winded.
A week later, Patrick Rothfuss replied. It was a lovely response, written by a kind man. He suggested a couple of books I might be interested in reading, and then he said something that made my eyes widen. “You’re not a bad writer yourself, you know.”
Patrick Rothfuss thought I could write?
That’s the precise instant the ship’s rudder turned slightly to the left. No, I did not start writing my debut novel The Trouble with Fate that very day (that happened after a hell-no moment on the family room couch a few weeks later). But that’s the moment when I started entertaining the hazy thought of being something other than the feast preparer, the fixer of small problems, the organizer of birthdays and parties.
I kept turning it over in my mind: I could write. Patrick Rothfuss said so.
By September, I was taking creative writing night classes at the University of Toronto.
Writing didn’t come easily. I took just about every course I could in that program and I threw out four out of every five words. But within two years, I’d completed the first draft of my debut novel. Following two horrible revisions, I was lucky enough to find a terrific agent, who sold that book plus three others to the publishers. Which leads me here, to this moment—being published by Tor UK.
Yeah. A definite WTF.
Five years and my life is pretty much unrecognizable.
Hang on. The story’s not finished. In November, I went to the World Fantasy Convention in Toronto, because I knew Patrick Rothfuss would be there. Well, of course, I waylaid him—that was part of the agenda. That day, he had a beer with us. At the end of the hour, he signed a copy of The Name of the Wind for me.
And then—oh sweet joy—I handed him a copy of mine.
He asked me to inscribe The Trouble with Fate. My hand shook as I did.
That’s life. Never forget—your fate can change on a dime, or in my case, on the heady promise of eight little words.
This article originally appeared on Tor UK.