I started writing in 2000. The very first novel I completed was a women’s fiction mystery—a huge manuscript—set on a farm in rural Missouri. I had no luck with that novel. I was a horribly inexperienced writer, and it showed. But just the act of finishing a novel planted a deep desire, and I was determined to one day become a published women’s fiction author.
Over the next six or so years, I wrote another three women’s fiction novels. I was writing a weekly humor column for The Kansas City Star at the time, so I decided to try humorous fiction. Each novel showed improvement over the one before, but none had quite the right magic to really work. All fell flat. It seemed at times that I would never get published, but I was still determined to keep learning, and keep trying.
Eventually, I strayed away from women’s fiction. My fifth novel was a young adult novel, about the aftermath of a school shooting. To my surprise, it sold. And so did the next three after that. In 2009, after nine long years of rejection, I became a published young adult novelist, writing under the name Jennifer Brown.
But even though I was published, and I loved being a young adult author, I wasn’t published in women’s fiction, and that dream still burned in my heart. I wrote another women’s fiction novel. While it was better, it still wasn’t quite good enough.
Five women’s fiction novels written; five failed. I began to suspect maybe it was time to finally give up. To admit that I would never achieve women’s fiction publication, and that maybe I should just be happy writing it…for me.
So I regrouped. I went back to the farm that featured in the very first novel I’d written back in 2000.
It was the farm of my childhood—a bit of acreage in Pleasant Hill, Missouri that my family owned, across the road from another piece of farmland owned by a close family friend. As a child, my every Sunday was spent on that farm, working, relaxing, eating. It was a place of comfort for me. A place of adventure. A place where my imagination could run wild. A place that meant family and friendship and the beauty of the Midwest, in all of its glorious seasons.
The land is still there, and still ours, but my family stopped regularly visiting the farm in the 1980s. But it’s still as fresh to me in my mind as it was when I was ten years old. When I revisited it in my fiction, I brought some characters—sisters—who had been as long removed from it as I had been. I wondered if they could experience the magic that I had felt there so many years ago. To me, the farm itself became a character in the story. A wise, comforting, healing force in the sisters’ lives, just as it was a shaping force in mine.
That second farm story was The Sister Season. Finally, after 13 years of trying, my first women’s fiction was finally born. I believe it was the power of passion, persistence, and personal past that all came together in just the right way for me to finally achieve my dream.
I hope readers feel the same enchantment as they follow Claire, Maya, and Julia through the Missouri fields as I felt in those same beloved fields so many years ago.