A pursuit of my own

Sherry Thomas taught herself the English language by reading romance novels. And like so many other avid readers turned writers, she eventually convinced herself that romance writing could be her profession. So what happened when she found a creative outlet that her college majors hadn’t given her?


How did you learn English from romance novels?

I probably had a vocabulary of 200 words, so your basic first year English instruction in China, and that was not enough for anything. So like sometimes I would tell these stories about how I would first read romance and well the first books I picked up had a story about a governess, and I thought a governess was a female governor, so it was quite disconcerting to see, okay, so this governess gets off at the train station, like the little platform in the middle of nowhere, and nobody to welcome her with pomp and circumstance, and this dude drives up in this buggy, and takes her and dumps her in his attic. I was like, “This is not right.”

There was another book, early book I picked up, it was like an Infamous Pirate. I was like, “why would I care about this pirate if he’s not even famous,” you know, put it right back down. But then I went back home and said maybe I better look it up, what infamous means.

I went into undergrad with a biochemistry major and I just really do hate biology ever so much, so it didn’t quite work out. So like my second year I transferred to business, so I did an econ degree, because I always thought I would go to grad school.

I actually got married in my last year of college, before graduation, so yeah, and I started writing, we had a baby right away, so I started writing when the baby was one half, and I was kind of a desperate housewife. Yeah, so one day I got a book from the library, a book by an old favorite author, and I thought, at that time I had so little free time to do much reading and gave all my free time that day and it was so stupid. Because it was a library book, I did not throw it across the room, but I would’ve had I paid money for it. And something struck me, “Hey, maybe I could do better than that.” 

So then, because the American system offers very little support to parents, especially to mothers, right so if you want to go out and work, you have a lot of expenses, plus additional taxes and all the cost of childcare, so I thought, “If I could write, that’s a way to make money from home.” So there was always the monetary incentive. It was not as if I said, “I must write, this is my passion all my life.” No it was nothing like that. I hadn’t written anything major up until then, and I said to myself — you know, the arrogance of the young — I should go at it. This is a multiple New York Times bestselling author, maybe I could do better.

It was a creative- it was wonderful, because until then I had been baking like crazy, and looking back I’m like, “Yeah, I guess that was me searching for a creative outlet,” even though I didn’t know what that was called. As soon as I started writing the baking stopped and I also had a case of rather terrible postpartum depression, and I think writing was what lifted me out of it. Once I had a focus of my own, something other than just daily life and running after this child, and not quite knowing what the future will bring, once I had a focus of my own, a pursuit of my own, it changed everything. It’s like I became a happy person again

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