My Road to Writing: The Sleeping Girls by Rita Herron

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The Sleeping Girls

By Rita Herron

Rita Herron, author of The Sleeping Girls, has penned romantic suspense, romantic comedy, and YA novels, but she especially likes writing dark romantic suspense and crime fiction set in small southern towns.

You could call my story a Rags to Riches story, although I certainly am not rich monetarily. But I am in a lot of other ways.

The long winding road for me to writing began in my childhood when I discovered books.

To say my life was a fairytale is a stretch of the imagination. I grew up in a four room shack in rural Georgia with no central heat or indoor plumbing. We didn’t have hot water so had to heat water on the stove and pour it into a big tin tub for our Saturday night baths. Our only heat was a fuel oil heater in the tiny living room, so at night we heated guilts to cover up with in our freezing room. I remember they were piled so thick and heavy, I could barely turn over in bed.

My mother never finished high school and worked in a sweat shop. My father was a mechanic who rarely worked because of mental and physical health issues. Worse, the tension between the two of them was almost unbearable, my household depressive.

In first grade, books became my escape into a happier world with endless possibilities. As I watched the librarian read to us, I was mesmerized. A bookmobile visited our country road biweekly, so my sister and I checked out as many books as allowed and devoured them. Two weeks later when it returned, we’d be standing on the side of the road, arms overloaded with books to return, and squealing at the thought of fresh stories to read. As soon as the bus stopped, we’d jump on board and pick out a new selection.  It was like Christmas!

My favorite stories were The Bobbsey Twins, The Boxcar Children, Pippi Longstocking and the Trixie Belden mysteries. My parents complained that I always had my head buried in a book. At twelve, I decided I wanted to write and hand wrote a 112 page mystery.

But my dreams were deflated when everyone laughed and made fun of me. My parents thought something was wrong with me and even as poor as they were, took me to a shrink!

Crushed by their comments and feeling like a misfit, I gave into their ridicule, and in high school worked at the same sewing factory as my mother. As I sewed side seams on long wool pants in the unairconditioned building, the bundles were piled so high I couldn’t see past them. The hot air barely stirred and wreaked of sweat and machine oil and was suffocating. But while the machines buzzed and boredom overcame me, my imagination took root again. Still, my parents couldn’t afford college and at the time, didn’t believe girls needed an education. My mother had lined up a job for me at that factory after high school graduation.

If I was lucky, I’d find a decent man, marry and have kids. Success would be living in a double wide trailer.

Although I was co-valedictorian with my twin sister, we were overlooked for scholarships. So while my classmates celebrated the night of graduation, I sobbed myself to sleep.  My Taurus stubbornness surfaced, and I decided to break the cycle of poverty and despair and earn an education. The next day I was in the school counselor’s office asking me help.

With her guidance, I obtained loans and attended college. Still, I didn’t think real people became writers, so I earned a teaching degree to support myself.

While teaching kindergarten, my love of storytelling returned. I invented stories for the kids and encouraged them to do the same. I carried a bag of props and puppets and performed storytelling sessions at schools and libraries. Meanwhile, I’d married and for the first time in my life, someone supported my dreams and me, both financially and emotionally.

Although I say my mother didn’t encourage me to write, she did help me in many ways. When I mumbled I couldn’t do something, she commented in her heavy, southern accent, “Can’t never did anything.”

That phrase stuck with me. When I was told I couldn’t attend college, I found a way. Instead of quitting my dream, I decided to show everyone I could publish a book so I turned in my puppets for a computer.

When the rejections started piling up, I realized I needed to learn more about the craft and the business so joined a writer’s group. During the first meeting, writers announced if they’d submitted material, received a rejection or had a sale. Writers actually clapped if you got a rejection because that meant you were trying. Instead of the sticky, suffocating heat and smell of sweat and machine oil in that factory, in that room I felt the buzz of creative energy in the air.

A light bulb went on inside me. I finally fit in.

In the beginning, I wrote children’s books and penned several books for the Sweet Valley Kids series.  Through another writer, I discovered Georgia Romance Writers and started reading romances and suspense books, devouring them as I had books in childhood. When I read Tami Hoag, I knew I wanted to write romantic suspense.

Another revelation came. I wasn’t weird — those voices and dark thoughts I’d been having in my head were story ideas!

A hundred books later and I’m still in love with books. Although I said I wasn’t rich, actually I am because I’m doing what I love. I may not have achieved all my goals (making the NT Times bestseller list for one), but I’m living my dream.

Although I said my mother wasn’t encouraging, she taught about working hard and being tenacious. When I did publish, she admitted she’d never read a book but was going to read mine. Once she read one, she fell in love with books just as I had as a child. She finally got me.

So I guess you could say – she inspired me, and before she passed, I inspired her to find escape between the pages.

(c) Rita Herron

About The Sleeping Girls:

The Sleeping Girls

When the call comes in that fifteen-year-old Kelsey Tiller has gone missing from her bedroom in the middle of the night, Detective Ellie Reeves rushes to talk to her distraught parents. They tell her that Kelsey, a slender blond with green eyes and a timid smile, had plans to go shopping for her homecoming dress the next day, insisting she would have no reason to run away. But when neighbors report seeing Kelsey with a secret boyfriend, Ellie wonders how much Kelsey really told her parents.

Ellie is determined to find Kelsey’s boyfriend and interviews her friends and teachers at school. But just as she is making headway with the case, she receives some devastating news. Kelsey’s parents have received a photo of their daughter lying on a bed with white sheets over her body, skin ghostly pale under the freckles dotting her nose, her precious life snuffed out.

Desperate to find answers for those who loved Kelsey, Ellie studies the picture and realizes that her body has been posed in the same way as a teenage girl murdered ten years earlier. And when she learns Darnell, the killer in that case, has just been released from prison, fear crawls through her. Could Darnell have stolen another innocent life?

But just as Ellie thinks she has cracked the case, Kelsey’s best friend Ruby is snatched from her home, and Darnell has an unbreakable alibi. Haunted by Kelsey’s ashen face, Ellie knows she must race against time to find Ruby alive. And when she discovers one of her team is hiding critical information, she realizes she needs to act alone. But is she dealing with a twisted copycat killer or is the danger far closer to home?

A totally gripping and pulse-pounding crime thriller that will have you holding your breath as you race through the pages! Perfect for fans of Lisa Regan, Kendra Elliot and Melinda Leigh.

Order your copy online here.

About the author

USA Today Bestselling and award-winning author Rita Herron fell in love with books at the ripe age of eight when she read her first Trixie Belden mystery. But she didn’t think real people grew up to be writers, so she became a teacher instead. Now she writes so she doesn’t have to get a real job.
With over ninety books to her credit, she’s penned romantic suspense, romantic comedy, and YA novels, but she especially likes writing dark romantic suspense and crime fiction set in small southern towns.
For more on. Rita and her titles, visit her at www.ritaherron.com. You can also find her on Facebook/ritaherron.com and Twitter @ritaherron.

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