It seemed like a very good idea. I would quit my day job as a middle school teacher to spend all of my time writing an idea burning in my brain about little mischief-makers in elementary and how they grow forward through middle school.
This wasn’t an overnight decision—I had been practicing how it would feel to live off one income for a couple years. I have one of those husbands who supports my dream chasing.
This also wasn’t my first adventure in writing. I’d already published two previous novels, one of which was middle-grade fiction, the other non-fiction for adult children caring for elderly parents. So I was ready to untether myself from the district until someone suggested I use common sense—take this year as a sabbatical.
Anyone who has ever pursued an entrepreneurial path knows the risk involved when a safety net remains firmly in place. The worry is one might languish—eat bonbons, watch daytime television—until sadly, not a chapter is written before year’s end.
Fortunately, I did not succumb to these temptations, and, shamefully, I have missed every Ellen episode during this time away from the classroom. Instead, I wrote feverishly every single day, including nights and weekends. I was nervous that I’d have little to show for this gift of time. The possibility of returning to my administrators empty handed gnawed at me.
This is the only motivation I needed—to save face in front of my peers, bosses, and former students.
Here’s what I discovered. There’s a lot I can get done in the day when school bells aren’t going off every forty-five minutes, with thirty kids clamoring at my door, anxious to come inside! Oh, how I loved them dearly.
This peaceful time alone at my desk with my thoughts has unleashed some pent up creativity. Characters I never remembered creating came spilling out of my brain. Toward the end of the series, I went digging through stories I’d written ten years earlier for a scene I wanted to revive, and I found Lynn Hannigan—again. The name had evidently been stuck in my head all this time without my awareness.
I wrote Lynn Hannigan with such clarity when she interacted with her son, Slater, that she must be a repressed memory. The closest inspiration I can conjure up is a fifth-grade friend whose mother washed her mouth out with soap—an actual bar of soap—and sliced her tonsils with her overly long fingernails in the process. Ouch! My friend never used naughty words again. But I love this kind of energy for Slater’s mother. “Is she helping, or is she hurting?” seems to be the regular commentary I get from my friends.
Writing Mischief-Book 1 came easily. There might be those naysayers who think these characters and plot lines must be thinly disguised versions of what’s ever happened to me inside my years of teaching twenty-seven hundred students. But I submit, what would be the fun in that? I prefer my own imagination. Besides, no one would believe the worst of what I’ve seen in the classroom!
Plus, whatever has happened in the classroom needs to stay in the classroom. It’s the unwritten promise we educators make to our students. It’s the right thing to do. After all, childhood is meant for learning.
Writing Mayhem-Book 2 filled me with excitement because the characters were now indelible to me and the reader. But I was sick with worry that I wouldn’t love this one as much as I did Mischief-Book 1. Isn’t that a normal feeling for any parent ready to welcome a second child? Thankfully, the beta-readers loved it even a little more and the anticipation for a third book put even higher expectations on me. Could I deliver? I was frantic that I might not.
Writing Menace-Book 3 was so much fun! I caught my rhythm and could type a chapter a day. In my mind, I became a boy. I thought of muddy situations to bring boyhood to life and ta-da, Elmer Woods became the scary place where Slater and his friends would meet their match. It was absolutely delicious to invent. I bounced out of bed every morning awaiting a good story, even though I was greeted with a blank page. By the end of the day, I was quite pleased with the trajectory of the plot but managing all of the moving parts for three books in different stages of production was robbing me of my writing time. I felt very much like the lady in the circus spinning plates on poles!
Writing Malice-Book 4 became difficult emotionally. I spent an entire month trying to avoid one scene because I didn’t want it to turn out that way. My aim in writing this series is that I’d engage non-readers, boys in particular. I had to include the heartache of childhood because I know kids in real life experience the same. This modern day Tom Sawyer-type adventure reminds us that even Tom had his share of woes. We can’t always play pirates on an island. Life throws us curveballs, and we take them like a punch to the gut in Malice-Book 4.
The scariest part of writing is always getting up the courage to share it with the world. It’s the tortured artist in me and I daresay, most creative types must feel this way too. But I trust my instincts and when a scene is not right, I know how to hit delete and begin again.
I feel so happy with how the story in Mischief Series has unfolded—and I’m so incredibly grateful others are discovering it now too. These characters have not let go of me yet. The fourth book in the series is set for a December 2017 release. Available at Books, Inc. and amazon
A gift for Mischief lovers...
Now through Sunday, December 17th you can grab the MISCHIEF series on Kindle for only $0.99 each!
Mischief (Book 1)
Mayhem (Book 2)
Menace (Book 3)
I hope you’ll take advantage of this special offer, and please share with your friends!
And don’t forget our December Giveaway Deal: 20 readers will receive a FREE copy of Book 4 after posting reviews of Mischief Series:Books 1-3 to amazon. Email me your screenshot once reviews are LIVE and provide a good address where book may be shipped on December 20th.
Book 4 will be signed and sent 2-day USPS. Reach me at: StefaniaShaffer@gmail.com with any questions