"You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write."
- Saul Bellow
Let's be honest, I've always been somewhat of an introvert.
I grew up on the rougher side of town, and in my school, I was just a little bit of an anomaly - a quiet little dark-haired white girl, who had tanned skin and brown circles under her eyes, which usually confused people when they looked at me.
It was really just a mix of genetics and always being outside, but at the time, I didn’t know how to explain when people would ask, “What are you? What’s that under your eyes?” or, as in my grandmother’s case, “Why does she always look so dirty?”
I made good grades but hardly spoke to anyone (except for a very select few), and if I absolutely had to participate in something, I did precisely what was required of me, nothing more, nothing less.
Well, except for band class, where I played the flute and held first chair for a while.
Oh, and one year, I was a cheerleader in middle school.
I think that was more of a fluke of nature than anything else really, one of those times when I thought I'd try the world on for size but ended up realizing I didn't have much in common with other people, so I retreated and stuck to myself.
"Writing is a solitary job - that is, no one can help you with it, but there's nothing lonely about it."
- William Faulkner
My home life had been making me feel like I was living in two different dimensions… three if you counted my school life too.
On the one hand, any time I was with my grandparents, everything was right with the world, I was taken care of, I had rules and consequences that made sense, the appropriate number of legit meals in a day, and if I needed anything, they were always there.
Luckily, they still are.
On the other, when I was at home with my mother, stepfather, and big sister… well, let's just say it left much to be desired.
My husband once asked me why all my main character's parents are dead (at least up to this point in my career), which shocked me. I'd never made that connection about my writing before, but it was true for each of my characters, and as soon as he said it, I shared a glance with him.
We both knew exactly why that was the case.
Don't worry, I'm not going to air my dirty laundry in public, but I know I became the writer I am because of the life I've led. If you're wanting to get to know me and why I write the things I do or what inspires me, you probably want the real me, not some watered-down, groomed, and societally appropriate version that sounds nothing like the voice you hear in my books, so I'm going to be real with you here.
Also, it's my website, and I'll do what I want.
*Insert maniacal laugh here*
"Anxiety is the hand maiden of creativity."
- T.S. Eliot
La dee da dee da, trauma, trauma, trauma, and then boom. I was fourteen, cut off from my grandparents and sister, my stepfather was in jail, and in my mother's words, I was the reason our family was broken apart… i.e., more trauma.
I started doing all the nefarious things… alcohol and other stuff were involved, so you get the idea… doing anything I could to escape my reality. Even painting, dancing, singing, books, poetry, and writing, which I'd always turned to when life got to be too much, didn't offer me any of the solaces they once had.
"I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity."
-Edgar Allan Poe
I'm just eternally grateful life didn't stay that way for long.
I know it may sound gushy or whatever, but that's when I met my husband, Kevin, and I can tell you now, even though he claims I was the one who saved him from his own spiraling world, I know in my soul he's the one that saved me from mine.
We got married and had our first son when we were just sixteen (yes, I was sixteen and pregnant long before they made a show that I think gave all of us a bad name), and we've been together ever since.
Almost eighteen years later, we’ve been together longer than we ever lived apart.
We have five beautiful children, two Great Pyrenees fluff balls, teenagers that have started driving, a mortgage, and everything. I wouldn't trade it for the world.
"I'm not sure which is worse: intense feeling, or the absence of it."
- Margaret Atwood
However, as awesome as wedded and maternal bliss can be, there for a while, I lost myself in it.
There was no 'Cilla' to speak of; I was just 'Mom' and a wife.
It wasn't a bad way to spend my time by any means.
In fact, I loved it so much I actively chose to focus on them every day for years, intent on giving our children better lives than we'd had, but at some point, I realized I hadn't written a thing or painted in years, hadn't made any real friends, or had so much as something like a girl's night out, ever.
And like I said in my first book, Initiate, "You can't unlearn something you already know."
As soon as I made that realization, it was like the real me turned into this ravenous beast I couldn't control, who wouldn't go quietly back into the hiding spot I'd thrown her in.
I had to do something for myself, or I was going to go insane.
"I wonder which is preferable, to walk around all your life swollen up with your own secrets until you burst from the pressure of them, or to have them sucked out of you, every paragraph, every sentence, every word of them."
- Margaret Atwood
I ended up in front of my laptop, opening a Word doc in the middle of the night, winging it on what would eventually become the first book in my Beholden to Balance Series.
It took time and a shit-ton of revisions, but I didn't really know what to do with it once it was finished.
Kevin was the one who actually pushed me to self-publish, but I'd been worried about all the wrong things at the time - What if my family finds out what I'm writing? What if no one ever reads it? Ooo, what if they do read it but end up hating it?
Regardless, I published my first book, Initiate (Beholden to Balance, Book 1), in July of 2019. Though I still worry about some of those things from time to time, for the most part, writing has become one of the biggest joys of my life; I mean, it's right on up there with my kids, husband, and dogs, hahaha.
I can get my feelings out when I write. I can imagine worlds that are drastically different from this one, but so identical to this one at times, it's almost painful. It allows me to ask 'what if' with no consequences, to explore what I've seen in the world and write a different ending, and to make use of all that time I spent in my own head growing up.
"To write something, you have to risk making a fool of yourself."
- Anne Rice
It's been almost three years since I turned this passion into a career that I love, and my life has changed dramatically over that time. I'm still a wife and 'Mom,' but I'm also more myself than I think I've ever been.
My self-expression has never been this loud, and I’m not lying when I say I fucking love it. I’m covered in tattoos, my hair is in dreadlocks, and I have a nose ring, much to my grandmother’s dismay, haha.
It's the perfect vocation for an introvert like me... even if it has made me a little more extroverted than I was before, lol.
I've finally found some balance is what I'm trying to say.
As I'm writing this, I've published five books as Cilla Raven, and I'm currently working on five different series at once (I tend to bite off more than I can chew... I highly recommend it, lol).
"There are moments when I wish I could roll back the clock and take all the sadness away, but I have a feeling that if I did, the joy would be gone as well. So I take the memories as they come, accepting them all, letting them guide me whenever I can."
- Nicholas Sparks
I guess that just about sums me all up, lol, but I'm nothing if not an open book.
If you would like to know more, ask questions, or just send me a message, please don't hesitate to reach out; I would love to hear from you!
Also, if you never want to miss something I put out there, be sure to sign up for my monthly newsletter and follow me on all the social things! I want all the friends/fans I can get, hahaha.