Many years ago, when I was 18 (it was in the last century!) I discovered a wonderful thing called “fanfic.” I read and read and got my Star Wars and X-files fix, and in doing so, made friends with a talented young fanfic writer, named Marianna Roberg.
Of course we didn’t know each other by our real names, no, but eventually we chatted a lot more, grew to trust each other, and realized after a while that lo and behold we lived only a few blocks from each other! So of course we had to meet & solidify our friendship.
Then about a year and 1/2 later I graduated from BYU & I went and joined the Marine Corps, moved to the other side of the country and we lost touch for a few years. Until once again on a Star Wars forum I saw the handle I recognized so well & bam! Marianna & I were back in touch again.
I was absolutely delighted that she was able to make it out to see me this past October during Crystal Coast Con, and after a bit of talking/catching up, I asked her if she wouldn’t mind sharing some of the challenges/experiences she’s had with her writing/life over the years, and I’m so grateful she was willing to do so.
I’ve always been a fan of Marianna’s writing, so if you are looking for something new to read, please check out her Broomcloset series: http://amzn.com/1475221312
Not long ago, I visited Janine and her family for a trip to the Crystal Coast Con in North Carolina. I hadn’t seen Janine in way too long, and it was fun to get caught up. While we were talking, a subject very close to me came up. That was of my Lupus, and how it affects me as a writer. She asked me to write a guest blog post about it.
I was fourteen when I was diagnosed with Lupus. I had a severe attack of something called idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (try saying that one ten times fast!), and my platelet count dropped down to a mere 9000/cc. I was covered from head to toe with little pinpoint bruises called petechiae, and if I’d cut myself even a little, there was a high chance I could bleed to death before getting help. Platelet counts below 10,000 are frequently fatal, I learned later, and can lead to spontaneous hemorrhaging in the brain. To put this in perspective, a normal, healthy person’s count is usually ~150,000-400,000/cc. My blood was more of an orange than a true red whenever they drew it.
I was an aspiring writer at the time, just finishing up my last few weeks of junior high school, and I spent my time writing X-Files fanfiction. It was poorly written, nearly all of it mushy romance between Mulder and Scully, but I loved doing it. When the prognosis came, I was told that I had six months. Back in 1996, coming up on my 15th birthday, I was devastated. I completely retreated into my fantasy writing world and struggled with the knowledge that I might not to make it to high school, let alone get published like I wanted. Of course, at that time, I also wanted to be an FBI agent, but I think even then I knew I would rather write about them than be one.
Obviously, I didn’t die. While Lupus was a big, scary thing back in the mid ’90s, it was misunderstood a great deal. I recovered, as best I could, and went on to finish high school. I tried a somewhat abnormally long stint at college, but with my health wearing me down, I never completed the degree in theatre I’d been going for. Instead, I turned to writing full time, because it was something I could do while sick from the fatigue, the anemia, the headaches, and everything else that came from my illness.
Writing, I found, gave me the chance to explore things that I couldn’t do on my own. I started writing my first novel, Pasted, that last year of college. I’d created a little world where my main character didn’t have the health challenges I had to deal with on a daily basis, and I could, through her, live vicariously. Yes, it was all made up, but I had more fun exploring her world than I did living in my own.
Someone said once that unless you write every day, you’re not really a writer. I don’t remember who it was who said this, but I want to kick them in the butt. I struggle with depression and anxiety, side effects of what my illness has done to my nervous system, and there are days I can’t get out of bed, let alone turn on my computer and write even a hundred words. I go weeks without putting pen to paper. But writing is in my blood, and even if I’m not actively saving the words that come to me to the hard drive, they’re
still there in my head. The story unfolds every day in my brain, and I think that, ultimately, is what it is to be a writer. It’s the drive to tell stories, to bring other worlds and realities to life, and share them with those around you, even when it isn’t easy.
Truthfully, writing is never an easy thing. It shouldn’t be, in my opinion. Yes, you sometimes get that work that just flows out of you like water from a pitcher, but those are rare. Add to it a real-life struggle, and sometimes it gets to be too much. But it can also be a release valve, as I found with the book I’m about to release. I gave the main character Lupus, and while I didn’t have her as ill from it as I have been during my worst flares, it was still cathartic to be able to address, through her, the things weighing on me about my own disease. Not all of that made it into the book, ultimately.
There are large sections that I never intended to publish that consist solely of this character dealing with the reality of her situation, that had no relevance to the overall plot. But it helped me to face and deal with my own issues in a way that traditional therapy never has.
Sometimes writers are accused of putting too much of themselves into their characters. I have to wonder, how can you not? Even if the character is your polar opposite, they’re still an extension of you, in some way, and their world experiences are invariably shaped by your own. It’s possible to take it too far, certainly, but I’ve found that it’s impossible to create a complete separation. For me, that’s been a boon, a tool that helps me keep going to do the thing I love most.
I’m not able to travel as much as I’d like to promote my writing, and I don’t know how long I’ll be able to continue because I honestly don’t know how long I’ve got. There’s no cure for Lupus, only treatments to control the symptoms. I could live to be 90, or I might not make 40. But as long as I can tell my stories, that’s okay.
Marianna Roberg was born and raised in Utah. She has been a costume designer, a website designer, a slush pile reader for a science fiction and fantasy magazine, and con committee for Life, the Universe, and Everything, Brigham Young University’s symposium on sci-fi and fantasy. She’s the author of the Broom Closet Mysteries series, as well as an upcoming romance novel.
She lives in Utah with her family and two cats, and makes jewelry in her spare time.
And you should totally checkout her books – I for one can’t wait for the next book in her broom closet series!
Print edition: http://amzn.com/1475221312
Epub/other e-reader formats: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/244083