What happens when something you love becomes WORK?
Yes, that's my current dilemma. I love to read (who doesn't?) and mystery has been my favorite genre until I became acquisitions editor for Oak Tree Press. The manuscripts came fast and furious, box loads via snail mail, cyber submissions filled my e-mail. All of a sudden I was forced to speed read the first 30 pages, make decisions like a Roman emperor: thumbs up or thumbs down? Then I had to break the news, good or bad to struggling authors. Even good news came with caveats like “What is your platform?” and “You do understand it could be a year before the book is published, right?”
All of a sudden the wonderful mysteries waiting for me on my own bookshelf looked unappetizing. Another dead body, another clue. Even my pleasure reading was turning into WORK.
I'm not sure how it happened, but one day my mind informed me that I needed to learn everything about Alexander the Great. Not that I'd given him much thought before, but it seemed crucial now that I understand what he was all about in the grand scheme of history. I found books, fiction and non-fiction, saw the terrible movie with Colin Ferrell and a terrific one with Richard Burton. I got ancient maps out and pieced it altogether in my head until I understood Alex's link between crude warfare and military genius.
From there I had to know everything about the Roman empire, so I tackled Colleen McCullough's series. At a thousand pages each in very small type, the seven books are daunting. But they led me on a quest to Margaret George's The Memoirs of Cleopatra and a new-found curiosity about her sister Arsinoe. Talk about sibling rivalry!
At this point, I became a library junkie. I went on a spree trying to learn the whole Plantagenet family tree and the War of the Roses, which sounds much prettier than the reality. The upstart Tudor's were easier to keep track of, despite Henry's six wives. Wolf Hall by Hillary Mantel made Thomas Cromwell come to life and convinced me he got a bad rap in the history books.
Mad Juana of Spain, Lucrezia Borgia, the Medici's, all this history I urgently needed to cram into my brain. Why this sudden thirst for knowledge? And, where were all these great stories and characters when I was sitting bored in history class? I felt gypped and realized as my list of titles grew longer that I would never catch up, not in my lifetime.
Maybe, as I get older (I just turned 61 three weeks ago), history seems more relevant as my own life dwindles down. What is my place in the grand scheme of things? What impact did I make on the world? I just want to know how the times I live in are connected to the past. Unimportant facts suddenly seem of the utmost importance. I'm greedy for knowledge.
The other day, the local librarian asked if all these books were for research. Would my next mystery be set in medieval times? No, I told her as she swiped my card. Just my summer reading. Otherwise, it would be WORK.
Excuse me now. I have to apply sunscreen because I have a hot pool date with Attila the Hun.