Last night I dreamed I went to Manderley again.
Except I really did, at least on the classic movie cable channel telecast of “Rebecca”
starring Sir Lawrence Olivier and Joan Fontaine based on Daphne du Maurier’s classic novel. It was the first movie Alfred Hitchcock directed for U.S. audiences, released in 1940.
Little did I know how those words would change my life.
Back in 11th grade, I had written a book report on a lightweight young adult romance that I don’t even remember the name of, and my English teacher, Patricia Thomas, rejected it, telling me I needed to read something more challenging, and asked if I had ever read ‘Rebecca.”
I hadn’t. So I did, wrote the report, got an A, and a lifelong love for romance novels.
I had devoured Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone With the Wind,” that past summer, and dragged my brother and sister to the theater with me to see the movie, because my mother wouldn’t let me go the movies by myself.
Mrs. Thomas also showed the 1940 movie “Pride and Prejudice” to our class. (Betting she had a thing for Olivier and romances).
While my children were little, I devoured what they called my “mush books” in between working part-time, earning a journalism degree, and being a wife and mommy.
Even though my first news writing college instructor said it was his job to boil all the creativity out of our writing, I still harbored hopes that I would write something as captivating and wonderful as “Rebecca” and my favorite romance writers.
Stealing a line from the fabulous romance author Beverly Jenkins, my rejections (her first tries, anyway) beat me home from the post ofiice.
I got a day job after I finished my degree with a weekly newspaper and won a few awards. So I knew I could string words together.
I tried writing some women’s fiction and some young adult stuff. But no bites. I had a couple short stories published in anthologies, but that was the extent of my success with fiction.
Still I dreamed of Manderley.
So I started to write what I love to read.
They were not gothic romances, but I built worlds underwater and on land.
My third-grade teacher in Catholic school read us the Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid,” where a mermaid exchanges her tail for human legs, gives up her tongue and voice, and will only attain a human soul and a chance for heaven if the prince she loves falls in love with her.
He loves her, she dances for him through excruciating pain, and he marries someone else.
The Little Mermaid is given a chance to attain her soul by ascending into the ether to do good deeds to mankind – but she doesn’t get her prince.
She deserved a happily ever after ending – and her prince.
So I created worlds where my mermaids and heroines did.
I also joined my local chapter of Romance Writers of America, and got some serious direction, advice, and encouragement.
I submitted to the publishing house another writer in our group suggested I try, Black Opal Books, and I have eight romance novellas under contract with them.
I have to get better at marketing and selling, and hope my writing only improves, and have confidence I will.
The nameless heroine in “Rebecca,” who only says her name is Mrs. de Winter – loses Manderley, but gets the guy and figures it out by the end of the story.
And I will, too.