Five Reasons I Fell in Love With Fiction Writing at 57

A guest post by author Kassandra Lamb who, like actor Carl Gordon, experienced a divine calling that led to her late-blooming passion. (Note: Later Bloomer Unlimited is an equal-opportunity supporter of divine intervention!)

I’ve always loved to write.

For decades that passion was satisfied by writing professional articles. When I started teaching college in my mid-forties, I even enjoyed writing test questions.

(I learned not to mention that to my fellow professors. It ranks right up there with admitting you hear voices in your head.)

In 2004, I retired from my profession as a psychotherapist and moved with my husband to Florida. I taught part-time, took up golf, learned to play piano, and became more involved with my church.

At 52, I was a happy early retiree. Things went swimmingly for a few years.

Eventually, however, I became a bit too involved with my church and started to burn out. My spiritual advisor suggested I take some time off from all my church duties and recharge my batteries.

What does all this have to do with writing?

Ill-Time Engagements (Kate Huntington #2)One day I was batting around the house, feeling like a retiree again, when I thought, “What am I going to do with all my time now?” I was quite amused by the concept. Wow, I had spare time again!

Then an idea popped into my head for a new opening to an unfinished novel — one that had been languishing in my hard drive for fifteen years. I immediately sat down for just a few minutes (I thought) to type it out so I wouldn’t forget it.

Six weeks later, I’d finished the first draft and had fallen in love with fiction writing. Here’s why:

1. It was God’s idea. During that frenzied writing marathon, I realized God had answered “What to do with my time?” with the new scene. Now I’m very careful how I talk to myself. You never know when He’s listening, and He’s got a well-developed sense of humor!

2. Writing fiction is wonderfully consuming. The story took over my life. I stayed up all hours, dropped into bed, and woke up early with more words in my head demanding to be written.

Family Fallacies (Kate Huntington #3)Over the next two years, I drafted four more novels and polished the first one for publication.

My muse has been a bit easier on me lately. I don’t think my body could have kept up that pace. But I still spend hours, and sometimes whole days, in an altered state as words flow from my fingertips onto the computer screen.

3. I can continue my life’s calling and have fun doing it. For the longest time I couldn’t figure out why God had given me that divine nudge. I write murder mysteries! Not exactly inspirational stuff.

My protagonist, Kate Huntington, is a psychotherapist who specializes in trauma recovery. This started as a case of “write what you know,” but God had a different agenda. (Can you hear Him laughing?)

Somewhere around the fifteenth edit of my first book (I did 33), it dawned on me that my writing could bring into play what I’d been doing all my life.

First I was a therapist, then a professor teaching the next generation of therapists. Now I could pass along, in an entertaining format, some of what I’d learned through the years about coping with life and difficult circumstances.

 Celebrity Status (Kate Huntington #4)4. I love to watch the story unfold. I am, in the world of writers, referred to as a pantser. I don’t do much planning and write by the seat of my pants. I start with a premise, a “what if…”

For instance, what if a former CIA black-ops agent, who is now an average-Joe family man, stumbles over someone he knew back in the day — someone with a lot more invested in keeping the past a secret?

Next I decide who’s going to get killed, by whom, and for what reason. Then, with only a basic outline, I start writing.

I’m fascinated by how ideas develop, how one thing leads to another. Sometimes a seemingly insignificant action will become relevant two or twenty chapters later.

In my latest book, guilt is one of the main themes. About halfway through the book, a minor character, a bodyguard, tries to resign because someone gets hurt on her “watch” — a natural response from someone dedicated to a job who feels they screwed up.

Lo and behold, at the end of the story, that character’s guilt ignites the final confrontation between the good guys and bad guys. I so didn’t see that coming when I typed the words, “I’d like to tender my resignation.”

Collateral Casualties5. I love how characters take on a life of their own. This, for me, is the most fascinating thing about being a pantser.

My first book focused on my main character Kate and her friend, lawyer Rob Franklin. Everyone else played a secondary or minor role.

Since then a couple of those secondary folks have morphed into more important characters. And Kate is now married to a minor character from the first book! How’d that happen?

This week, I’m celebrating the release of my fifth Kate Huntington mystery, Collateral Casualties. The other four novels are out there for readers to enjoy. Perhaps now my pace will slow and I can feel at least semi-retired again. Maybe I’ll even dust off my piano and play some golf.

But somehow I doubt it. My sixth book is almost drafted and the seventh book is writing itself in my head.

Retired? I’ve never worked so hard in my life! (Did you hear that cosmic guffaw?)

Thank you, Kassandra, for sharing your tale of late-blooming creativity and the impressive body of work it has produced! 

Mystery Author Kassandra LambYou can read the Kate Huntington mysteries in any order, but I suggest you start with Collateral Casualties, since it’s a celebratory $1.99 at Amazon and Barnes and Noble through June 12th:

When a former client reveals a foreign diplomat’s dark past to psychotherapist Kate Huntington, she and her family and friends are sucked into a vortex of international intrigue. Forced into hiding, they struggle to stay one step ahead of a ruthless killer bent on protecting the ambassador’s secret.

You can find Kassandra Lamb online at misterio press, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

28 Responses

  1. Kassandra Lamb
    | Reply

    Thank you so much, Debra, for letting me share my story with your readers. Your website is so beautiful and the stories of later bloomers you bring us are so inspirational–with or without divine intervention 😉

    • Debra Eve
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      It’s a pleasure, Kassandra. Your process is so intriguing and your output since you started — I’m so motivated. I think it’s all about finding what has meaning for each of us.

  2. K.B. Owen
    | Reply

    Wow, two of my favorite internet peeps – together! Kass, I’m so glad you got that divine “nudge.” I’ve read and enjoyed Collateral Casualties, and I love how you intertwine the psychotherapy and the suspense!

    ~Kathy

    • Kassandra Lamb
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      Isn’t Debra a sweetie!! I’m thrilled that you enjoyed the book so much. And I loved your Grover Cleveland post.

  3. Let me start by telling you that the covers of your books are extraordinary. I see so many that just don’t draw me in but yours are gorgeous. And BOOYAH for Later Bloomers like us. I didn’t get the writing bug until I was about the exact same age as you were. Yay us!

    • Kassandra Lamb
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      Wow, Patricia, thanks so much! I drive my cover artist nuts because I’m so nit-picky but the end result is worth it when I get comments like yours. Cheers to you, fellow Later Bloomer! *raising orange juice glass*

  4. Marcy Kennedy
    | Reply

    I loved hearing a little more of your story and how you became a writer. My husband says all we need to do if we wonder whether God has a sense of humor is look around at some of the animals He created and look at what happens when we think we have it all figured out 🙂

    • Kassandra Lamb
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      LOL Most definitely the latter, I’ve found, Marcy! And then there is the platypus. 😀

  5. Lee J Tyler
    | Reply

    Isn’t it fabulous when our characters start dictating for us? I loved this post, Kassandra. And Debra, your wit shows through in just an intro!
    I have left a comment at misterio press and I’m putting your books on my wish list!

    • Kassandra Lamb
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      I literally laughed out loud, Lee, when I saw Debra’s introduction. So glad you enjoyed the post and are intrigued by my books. I’ll hop on over to misterio press now and check out your comment there.

    • Debra Eve
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      Thank you, Lee. Always happy to introduce my readers to someone who truly exemplifies the joy of later blooming, as Kassandra does!

  6. Kristy K. James
    | Reply

    What fun to learn about how you came to write, Kassandra! I don’t know too many people who could deal with a idle retirement, so it’s good you have a second (or third, fourth, or fifth?) career. Especially writing. There isn’t much in life that’s more rewarding (or frustrating!) than that. 🙂

    I have Collateral Casualties open on my Kindle. Thought I’d at least get part of it read as I have time over the weekend. I will say though, if there are any parts like you might find in Criminal Minds (the parts that would give me nightmares), I will skim over them. 🙂

    • Kassandra Lamb
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      No need to worry, Kristy! I try to keep the gore off stage as much as possible. I don’t think there’s anything in the book that would give you nightmares. I love Criminal Minds but I do close my eyes sometimes during the nasty parts.

      Let’s see, I think this is my fourth career, and yes, it is both rewarding and frustrating at times.

  7. Julie Glover
    | Reply

    Bless you for this post! I sometimes envy the 20-somethings who have it all figured out so YOUNG. But then I realize that my life has been pretty good, and my past jobs (most of which I liked) prepared me to be where I am. I used to work in ministry–yet surprisingly when I told my mother that I’d written a novel, her response wasn’t “You’re kidding!” (like I expected) but “It’s about time.” LOL.

    I’m happily 45 and embarking on a terrific writing career. Kudos to you, Kassandra, for finding your calling in your 50s. I’ve got your mysteries on my TBR list!

    • Kassandra Lamb
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      Thanks, Julie! I have no regrets about any of my past jobs/careers (well, maybe about that short stint as a door-to-door encyclopedia salesperson 🙂 ). Each one has taught me a lot about life and people and myself. And they’ve brought me to where I am today.

      Best of luck in your own new career!!

  8. Jennette Marie Powell
    | Reply

    Debra, thanks for bringing Kassandra in to share her story – I love reading these! I also love how Kassandra works her life experience into her stories. Now I need to go get Collateral Casualties…

    • Kassandra Lamb
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      Aw, shucks, Jennette, thanks for your kind words. Hope you enjoy the story. I have one of your time-travel books on my kindle that I will actually have time to read now that this book is launched!

    • Debra Eve
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      Always a pleasure, Jennette! Just picked up my copy 🙂

  9. samantha stacia
    | Reply

    I realy needed this article, Ive been feeling SO down in the dumps about not being able to get a novel off the ground and wondering if it was too late for me already and if God even wanted me to be doing a novel when this article came up!
    Thank You for this!

    • Kassandra Lamb
      |

      Hi Samantha, I believe all things happen for a reason so there may have been a little divine nudge involved in the timing here. Have faith in yourself and keep on writing!

    • Debra Eve
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      My dear friend, thank you for commenting. We’ve been out of touch recently, but I’m so happy Kassandra’s story spoke to you. For women writers over 40, Samantha founded the fabulous Blooming Late group at She Writes, which I can highly recommend and plan to be much more active in.

      This post has prompted a flurry of private emails curious about my own beliefs — just for the record, as an anthropologist and archaeologist by training and temperament, I’m an atheist. But as my introduction notes, I support all forms of the sacred.

    • Kassandra Lamb
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      Thanks for the heads-up about She Writes, Debra. I just went over and joined! And that’s another great sentence: “I support all forms of the sacred.”

  10. Karen McFarland
    | Reply

    “Note: Later Bloomer Unlimited is an equal-opportunity supporter of divine intervention!” I love that Debra! Now Kassandra, I so relate to your story. I just started writing a few years ago in my mid fifties. Now, I hear voices in my head and I’m going crazy. Well, I was already crazy, but we won’t go there. I too like to pants. I will draft a wannabe outline and take off from there. No greater feeling than seeing where your Characters take you. It’s a wild ride. Oh, wait. That’s Susie Lindau. I’ve got to head over there next. I may never get to bed at this rate. Congratulations to you Kassandra and keep ’em coming girl! You Rock! 🙂

    • Kassandra Lamb
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      Karen, you are the best cheering section ever!! And yes pantsing our way through that first draft is definitely a wild ride.

    • Debra Eve
      |

      Thanks, Karen! Once we’ve racked up a half-century of experiences, I think it’s just natural to spin them into stories.

  11. florence fois
    | Reply

    Debra, you probably already know from my blog that mystery is my fav genre. Love to follow series. I took a tour of misterio books and plan to visit often.

    Kassandra, there is a power that we feel after 50 that is so wonderful, it’s hard to explain to young women … it’s worth getting older to have this sense of self. I enjoyed reading about you and your books 🙂

    • Debra Eve
      |

      Love the flash fiction of yours I’ve read, Florence, and have noticed your preference for mystery 🙂 Happy to introduce you a fellow late-blooming writer!

    • Kassandra Lamb
      |

      Hey, Florence, I’ve been stumbling around the blogosphere on my little blog tour and just now got a chance to stop back in here. So glad you liked our site, and that mysteries are your favorite genre.

      “There is a power that we feel after 50…” I love that!! So, so true, and so hard to explain to anyone who isn’t a woman over 50!

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