Visit Wendy at her website: http://www.watyson.com
My family and I just returned from a trip abroad where I was doing research for the next Allison Campbell mystery, Fatal Façade.
I had only one problem: the language barrier. I’m proficient at neither German nor Italian, the two primary languages spoken in South Tyrol, and many people there don’t speak English. Armed with Google Translate and a first aid kit’s worth of Italian, I meandered my way through Sesto, taking copious notes and hundreds of pictures. But that wasn’t enough. I had compiled a list of questions and I needed to talk to someone.
Fortunately, I met several people whose mastery of English was far greater than my grasp of their language. I so badly wanted to tell them that I was a mystery writer, to sit down for hours over tiramisu and a cup (or three) of cappuccino and discuss the rich history, culture and traditions of the area. My issue? A sudden attack of shyness. I found myself afraid to approach these strangers. Research or not, I was feeling oddly sheepish.
It was Julia Child who said, “The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” In cooking…and in writing. Julia Child believed in living life unapologetically. Her robust, take-no-prisoners attitude was one of the things I loved about the chef, and as we made our way through Europe,
sampling the culinary offerings in each region, Julia came to mind. How many times had I avoided asking questions for fear that I would be bothering someone? How many opportunities to learn and grow as a writer had I missed because I censored myself, believing that people, including those I met in Sesto, would be uninterested in helping me or that I would look like a fool? How many times did I apologize before asking for help—for taking up time, for taking too long, for not being fluent in a language? Too many times.
I realized then that I have trouble saying the words, “I am a mystery author.” After all, I don’t have the street cred or name brand recognition of Patterson or Child or Gerritsen. I still feel a little bit like an imposter. If you’ve ever experienced Imposter Syndrome, you know exactly what I mean. Imposter Syndrome is not unique to writers. As a first year lawyer at a big Philly firm, I spent many days wondering when people would figure out that I didn’t belong. Little did I know at the time that most of my first year colleagues (and some more tenured ones, too) felt the same way. It seems Imposter Syndrome is universal amongst new lawyers. Perhaps it’s universal amongst writers, too.
But in order to do research for my book, in order to do right by my readers and create the most authentic story possible, I needed to develop, like Julia, a what-the-hell attitude. I needed to get past Imposter Syndrome. I needed to stop apologizing.
After five days in the region, I felt my confidence growing. Perhaps it was a result of the sustenance gained from local delights like spinach knödel, fried apples (with ice cream!) and grappa. Perhaps I was simply getting more comfortable with the area and its people. Or maybe I was channeling a little of Julia’s chutzpah. In any case, I asked questions, outing myself as a mystery writer. Unsurprisingly, everyone I spoke with was helpful—and interested. The more I opened up, the more I learned—and I vowed that there would be no more apologies.
Julia was right—giving in to a fear of failure is the surest way to fail. Confidence and conviction are key. But what else would you expect from a woman who said “A party without cake is just a meeting”? Clearly, she knew her stuff.
Wendy Tyson is an author, lawyer and former therapist whose background has inspired her mysteries and thrillers. Wendy has written four published crime novels, including Dying Brand, the third novel in the Allison Campbell Mystery Series, which was released on May 5, 2015. The first in the Campbell series, Killer Image, was named a best mystery for book clubs in 2014 by Examiner.com. Wendy is also the author of the Greenhouse Mystery Series, the first of which, A Muddied Murder, is due to be released in spring 2016. Wendy is a member of Sisters in Crime and International Thriller Writers, and she is a contributing editor for The Big Thrill, International Thriller Writers’ online magazine. Wendy lives with her husband, three sons and three dogs on a micro-farm just outside of Philadelphia.