I wish I could say that I have always wanted to write a novel. But if I said that, I would be lying.

Whenever well-meaning people suggested that I should write a book -- and, for some reason, they suggested it often -- I always answered that I was not disciplined enough to undertake such a time-consuming project.

The idea that journalists should be able to produce novels easily and painlessly is a lot of hogwash. Fiction writing is a foreign territory to us. We are used to reporting the facts in a straightforward and unbiased manner -- or so we say. And we are accustomed to a quick, adrenaline-pumping schedule of weekly or daily deadlines. Conditioned by years of those fast-paced but, mercifully, short-lived timeframes, I didn't think that I had the attention span necessary to toil over a book.

So the thought of undertaking a slow, arduous writing project, with no definable end in view, didn't turn me on. In my mind working on a book was, as another writer, Richard Krzemien, so aptly put it, "tougher than Himalayan jerky in January."

It was.

One of the great mysteries of life is why some of us end up eating crow. I am still choking on mine!

So what happened? One morning in December 2003, I opened my eyes and I knew
that there was a novel inside me desperately wanting to get out. I was perplexed at how this novel got into me in the first place. There had been no warning signs or other symptoms.

By the time I fully awoke, the novel's plot was slowly but steadily thickening. Characters were born. Even dialogues started to appear before my eyes in a Times Roman script. Just like that. I swear!

So I got up, shuffled across the hall to my office, shook off dog hair from the chair, and dusted off cookie crumbs from the desk. I turned on my computer and started to write.

Okay, so it wasn't all flawless and flowing. I'd grapple with the style and wording, with characters and narratives, with settings and dialogues. And, of course, the most dreaded enemy of all: writer's block!

I'd go to sleep plotting a scene or a twist, and wake up in the morning still not sure what fate would befall my characters that day. I even started speaking in dialogues; one moment I'd be Megan, the next Brent. And then -- God help me -- Mamma! I carried these multiple personalities in me for over a year, thinking thoughts and speaking words that were not mine.

Such is the life of a novelist. Himalayan jerky in January.

About the Author

H.B. Milligan (Helena Bachmann Milligan) is a graduate of New York University. She majored in journalism and, immediately after graduation, worked as a staff writer at the Herald Statesman in Yonkers, N.Y.

In the 1990s she worked as a European correspondent for USA Today. Her current job (since 1998) is as the Geneva, Switzerland correspondent for Time Magazine.

In addition to the above publications, Helena also wrote freelance articles for Los Angeles Times, N.Y. Newsday, United Press International, Wine Spectator, Science Magazine and others.

She lives in Geneva, Switzerland and Bradenton FL.

The award-winning novel, Teeth in a Pickle Jar, is her first work of fiction.

Email the author at: iwriteforliving@yahoo.com

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