It’s funny how fate (or weird ol’ coincidence) can play huge roles in our lives.
As a kid, I went to a Catholic elementary school. Overall, I loved my experience there. However, their library plain sucked. Being a smaller, poorer school, it contained only 3 types of book:
1. 30% religious books.
2. 69% ValueTale books:
(SIDE NOTE: Does anyone remember these? They basically gave you a life lesson in the form of a famous person’s biography? I don’t know if our school had a partnership with ValueTale or what, but the library overflowed with them.)
3. 1% fiction.
Being a kid powered by imagination and weirdness, only fiction interested me. Sure, I read the ValueTale books, but I never learned any lessons. Instead, I liked the rabies that played in the dog’s stomach (I always imagined they were my friends).
That 1% of the library was pure joy in my book (pun intended). And for some reason, the fiction section was dedicated entirely to Miss Nancy Drew:
In case you’re not familiar (shame on you!), Nancy Drew was an 18-year-old amateur detective. She and her friends, Bess Marvin and George Fayne (I didn’t have to look that up) had all kinds of adventures solving mysteries. One day they’d figure out why a mysterious cult was killing the business of a charming bed and breakfast. The next day, they’d discovered the true identity of a ghost haunting a lake.
Being the only fiction in the library, I resigned myself to reading about “icky” girls and dove right in. I immediately fell in love with the Nancy Drew world because:
4. She drove a Mustang.
In Pampa, Texas, Mustangs were like Rolls Royces. You owned one and, bam, you were cool.
Nancy Drew drove a blue mustang convertible in all her adventures. It was so prominent, it was like a character of its own. I may or may not have named it “Chad”.
3. She was brave.
I didn’t really care that Nancy was smart. Big deal, I was “book smart” as a kid so that didn’t appeal to me. What I fawned over was Nancy’s bravery. She never hesitated to ignore the (very) numerous warnings she received – usually on paper or via phone call – to “Abandon the case…or else!” She would also inspect every abandoned bungalow, shack, or cave, no matter how dangerous.
I was a huge wuss, so I lived vicariously through Nancy’s bravery.
2. Her Adventures Scared the Crap Out of Me
When I read “Nancy Drew and the Haunted Bridge”, I had to keep the lights on all night. Seriously, wouldn’t any 9-year-old be freaked by this cover?
Every action sequence in every book had me peeking thru my fingers at the pages.
1. Nancy Drew Ate Out… A Lot
Yes, this is my number one reason. In every book, Nancy found herself in different towns that always contained amazing diners or fancy hotels. Nancy always had the money to dine at these places. And us readers got to revel in everything she ate.
Why did this appeal to me? Because we was poor! In my family, fine dining meant eating at Furr’s Cafeteria once or twice a year. So reading about Nancy always having the money to eat wherever she wanted amazed me.
Nancy Drew and my Writing Life
Everything on that list added up to a world I worshiped. I loved River Heights (Nancy’s home town) and everything about it.
I was so drawn in, I felt compelled to add to it. Instead of people writing Twilight fan fiction, I wanted to show my love for Nancy Drew by contributing my own adventure stories.
Therefore, I often found my 9-year-old self at a desk, scribbling out the first pages of “Nancy Drew and the (Blank) in the (Blank)” (“Nancy Drew and the Clue in the Hideout”, “Nancy Drew and the Orphan in the Cave”, “Nancy Drew and the Locket in the Haunted House”, etc…). I never finished more than a page or two, but those were the first times I was genuinely excited to come home from school, sit at my desk, and write.
And that excitement continued…
Fast forward 10 years (Oh God, I can’t believe I’m admitting this).
When I was 19, I came across a few old Nancy Drew books. Nostalgia kicked in and I began reading.
Halfway thru one I realized, “Wow, these aren’t scary at all.” My more mature self saw how cheesy it was that professional bad guys would send threatening letters to an 18-year-old.
On the other hand, Nancy still had a Mustang. And she still ate out. A lot.
Translation: I still loved Nancy Drew (in a strictly plutonic sense).
As a hip teenager, I decided Nancy needed a reboot. I wanted to keep her Mustang and penchant for eating out. But I needed to introduce some real danger into her life. Therefore, I sat in my bedroom for hours, thinking of new storylines. Then I sat at my computer and got to writing. And I realized, again, how much fun it was to create scenes.
The rest is history.
So thank you, Nancy Drew, for kick starting my writing life.
(SIDE NOTE: I still remember my first Nancy Drew reboot. In the first chapter, she encountered a bad guy who…gasp…broke her nose. I was so proud of that moment. I’d introduced blood – but not too much – into the Nancy Drew world. I thought I was so edgy and on the verge of a masterpiece.)