Responsible for more than 25 romantic novels (and still counting) Meryl Sawyer has quickly become one of the biggest names in romance fiction. A New York Times best-selling author (as well as an author that has won numerous other awards for her writing), Meryl Sawyer has established a track record of excellence not only in her writing, but also with her storytelling and ability to reel in new readers that might not have otherwise picked up a romantic piece of fiction.
It’s hard to imagine that growing up as an only child in Santa Fe, New Mexico would be easy – but when you compound things by adding in the fact that you’re being raised by a single mother that needs to work to support and provide for you, things only get a bit more difficult and unorthodox.
However, by all accounts, Meryl Sawyer has been able to rely on many of the experiences that she had growing up to help her become the kind of author that she is today. She makes a very specific point in saying that her mother gave her a tremendous respect and love for the written word at an early age, and made sure that she appreciated the transcendent power and that words have.
Encouraging her to write at every and any opportunity, her mother was a driving force behind her work and her love of the craft. And though it’s almost impossible to imagine that a child could build exactly what they want to be when they grow up (the little girls and little boys all have dreams of becoming a firefighter, princess, soldier, or mermaid, after all), Meryl says she knew from a young age that she was going to become a storyteller in some way, shape, or form.
It was in the third grade that her entire life changed dramatically, as she was given a typewriter for her birthday from her mother. The gift might seem a little bit underwhelming by today’s standards, but that ancient Underwood typewriter (that had a missing “e” key) is the driving force behind Meryl’s writing today. She says it was the gift of the typewriter that completely and totally put her on the course that she has continued to this day – developing her into a master storyteller while understanding that you need to put in a tremendous amount of work and effort to create really memorable work.
After all, that missing “e” key wasn’t enough to deter her from writing her favorite stories. She would spend hours and hours crafting tales, pulling from her everyday life as well as a wildly active imagination and all of her young experiences to create memorable stories that seem advanced for her age even today.
After the work had been done on the typewriter, she would go back through each and every date and piece of the story (red pencil in hand), editing her work – while at the same time making sure that each and every one of the missing letter “Es” were replaced by hand!
It was probably around this time that her mother began to really understand how seriously she took her writing, as well as how gifted her daughter could be when it came to telling incredibly compelling stories – though it’s unlikely that she understood then quite how popular Meryl’s work would become in the future.
Before the big break
And though that latent talent was always there right below the surface, it really wasn’t until later in life that Meryl decided to get serious about honing her craft. High school had of the pretty much universal demands and distractions that all teenagers have to deal with, in the first few years of college brought along their own exciting times, trials, and tribulations.
All the while, Meryl continue to write and write and write, though probably not taking quite as seriously as third-grade Meryl did – or even as seriously as she would in the years to come. That Underwood typewriter continue to get extensive use, though she also began to experiment with other tools and technologies to make sure that she was able to get in writing at any and every opportunity.
It wasn’t really until she attended a specific writers program at UCLA and meet her future mentor that things really started to snowball.
Finally understanding and fully embracing and that she wanted to see her name on the spine of a novel – and wanted to see the words that she had written in print and being read by hundreds and hundreds (and maybe even thousands) of people – she started to take her writing all the more seriously.
Working at all hours of the day and night – grabbing up every single moment of free time she had – she was able to start honing the skill of storytelling by sucking up as much information as humanly possible.
But it was the moment that she was introduced to Colleen McCullough (and author of a number of novels and a recognized writer) that things really started to click. Introduced to Colleen through the Writers Program at UCLA, Meryl was able to steal just a few precious seconds of her time at a cocktail party that they were both invited to.
It was in this moment and that everything started to really fall into place, as if the world or universe had conspired to bring this moment to fruition.
Colleen was forthcoming with all of the answers that Meryl could ask, literally pouring out information that Meryl simply would not have had access to otherwise. Though Colleen was on a tour to promote her books, she spent a tremendous amount of time providing Meryl (and other writers present at the party) with all kinds of insight, anecdotes, and stories from “the other side” – encouraging each and every single one of to try and craft stories that they would be proud of.
The moment that sparked everything
There aren’t any transcripts of the conversation that unfolded, but there was a very specific line that Colleen spoke that has stuck with Meryl her entire life – and even shaped the way she writes to this very day. Meryl points to this quote as one of the real transformational points in her life, the kind of line that gets dropped in casual conversation with almost no idea to how impactful it’s going to be further down the road.
In the middle of the cocktail party (apparently near where things were starting to unwind), Colleen was giving advice about the actual writing process. This is an issue that a lot of writers have to deal with when they are just getting started, and most of them are completely ignorant of how to move through the “blank page blues”.
There might not be anything more terrifying as a writer then staring at that little blinking indicator in a word processor (or the white page, clean as fresh snow, stuck in a typewriter) and having absolutely no idea whatsoever how to get things started. There’s a sense of dread, trepidation, anxiety, and pressure and that most people just don’t feel on a day to day basis – but a feeling that creative writers the world over understand and appreciate.
You know that you need to get the ball rolling, but you have absolutely no idea how to start, where to start, or what words you need to introduce your story with. Even if you understand completely that first drafts are meant to be basic “word dumps” and that you can fit, finish, and polish later down the road, there’s just something about that blank page that puts people in a fix.
Meryl was 100% aware of these “blank page blues”, but something that Colleen said cut through the fog in an instant – shining a light down from above that burned away all of the confusion.
“Write what you like to read”.
That’s exactly what Colleen McCullough said to all of the writers present at that cocktail party all those years ago, and whether or not it had the same kind of monumental impact on all of the writers present that it had on Meryl is impossible to say – but in her case it was the equivalent of the nuclear option.
“Write what you like to read”.
In just six simple words, author Colleen McCullough unlocked the future of a New York Times best-selling author – an award-winning author read by thousands and thousands of people all over the world – and may not have even been aware of the transformative power of what she had said.
Meryl decides to write what she likes to read
Rushing home from the cocktail party with a renewed enthusiasm (and very serious and professional approach) for her writing career, she decided to revolutionize the romance world as she saw it.
Deciding to become a “female Sidney Sheldon”, she began crafting the kinds of romance novels that she would have absolutely loved to have read all the while she was growing up – and has continued down that path today. Working to hold her craft as best as humanly possible every single time her keys touch the keyboard, she was using the fuel that Colleen had provided to craft tight stories with interesting plots (and even more interesting characters) for a very specific audience.
This kind of focus allowed her to dominate in a space that has become absolutely flooded over the last few years – and has always been rich with competition. Still attending UCLA, Meryl work done her breakthrough novel for months and months – polishing it time and time again until it felt absolutely picture-perfect – and then polishing it just a bit more.
She also spent a tremendous amount of time attending writing seminars and participating in writers groups, meeting with different publishing agents and looking at the inside of the business side of the world, and was able to enjoy offers from four different publishers (major publishers) within 60 days of finishing her first book.
Obviously, this is a unique experience – not all brand-new authors are met with this kind of overwhelming enthusiasm for their very first work – but as you can tell by the quick bit of history you’ve read Meryl story is anything but average.
Bumps in the road but still keeping on
Ever since that breakout novel in 1990, Meryl Sawyer has been writing books that she would want to read – and thousands and thousands of people all over the world have been reading them right alongside her.
After that first initial exposure to what the top of the publishing world felt like, Meryl began to feel as though she would be famous in just a few short days (she jokingly says), but 23 years later she knowledge is that she might not be a household name she was hoping to be – but she’s been more than successful and tremendously happy.
With more than 25+ books on the market today (in hardback, paperback, and e-book formats) and more on the way, Meryl Sawyer continues to hone her craft and almost daily basis. While the days of typing out her manuscripts on that old and ancient Underwood typewriter are probably gone forever (though it’s likely that she keeps this memento from her early days around), it’s unlikely that she’ll ever forget where she came from and how she got here.
Hands down one of the most popular women authors in the world (and definitely one of the most beloved authors in the romance thriller marketplace), there is a real reason why she has been a consistent New York Times bestseller and one of the most decorated romance novelists of our time. This prolific pace and almost universal acclaim doesn’t show any sign of slowing down anytime soon – and her fans will definitely appreciate that.
You can check out Meryl Sawyer’s work online and a number of different places (though Amazon probably has the most complete list of books available by Meryl), and if you have yet to check out any of her titles you’ll definitely want to as soon as humanly possible!