On 50 Books and 50 Years: Things I Know for Sure
By: Marie Force
This week marks a major milestone in my publishing career. Desire After Dark is my 50th book, and it releases 17 days before my 50th birthday. To those who would ask, I didn’t plan that. Like many things in this life, it just sort of worked out that way. I wish I could say I’d written a book a year, but in fact most of them have been written in the last five frantic years that have gone by like a flash.
I thought this 50-50 combination platter was a good time to reflect on what I’ve learned writing 50 books and living for a half century. (God, it sounds DREADFUL when I put it that way!) So in no particular order, here’s what I know for sure halfway through my life. Note to my kids: I intend to stick around for the entire second 50, so batten down the hatches.
- I’m acutely and painfully aware that too many of my high school classmates didn’t live to be 50, so I’m thankful for every day I’ve spent on the right side of the ground. I’m not planning on indulging in a middle-age funk or crisis or anything like that because being 50 certainly beats the alternative.
- I’ve accepted that my arms are never going to look like Michelle Obama’s guns. I’m learning to live with that and letting them out to see the world more often than I used to, taking comfort in the fact that they are still smaller than my thighs. I’ve also learned that eating salt and vinegar potato chips makes me happy, so I will continue to eat them in my second 50 years. This is nonnegotiable as is my relentless war against all forms of chin hair.
- My mom had a magnet on her fridge declaring that FIFTY IS PRIME TIME. I believe that. This time next year, my youngest will graduate from high school and next fall he will head off to college, leaving his parents with now two empty bedrooms and hearts full of memories. In my fifties, I’ll be able to do just about anything I want any time I want. If that’s not PRIME TIME, I don’t know what is.
- That said, being a mother has been the greatest thrill ride of my life. There is, simply, nothing better in my world than my two wonderful kids, who are both better people than I could ever hope to be. No matter what they do or don’t do or achieve, all I care about is that they are healthy and happy and productive. The rest is up to them, and I can’t wait to see what they get done while I sit in my tub and eat bon bons, knowing I was never a perfect mother, but I always tried to be a fun mom and I did my very best for them always.
- Family is everything. Parents, siblings, cousins, close family, extended family—if you got lucky in the family department like I did, then you know what I mean. They know you better than anyone and don’t let you get away with anything, which is actually a good thing—until they tell people you look like Nick Nolte’s mug shot in the morning with photographic evidence to prove their point. I’m grateful for the brother who has traveled all but one year of this journey with me as well as our posse of cousins who made us feel like we had a huge family when it was only the two of us.
- I honestly believe the outcome of your entire life can be determined by who you are born to. I was born to two of the best, and they are as much responsible for the life I have today as I am.
- Friends who stick with you through bad times—and good—are worth holding on to. Everyone is there for the bad times. The ones who show up during the especially good times, who share in your joy selflessly and without reservation, are the people you want on your journey with you. I have been enormously blessed in the friend department.
- I also got lucky in the husband department. We don’t always see eye to eye (what fun would that be?), but I always know I can count on him and so do our kids. He gives me Valentine’s Day cards that say things like “I’m still not sick of you,” which is the perfect sort of card for the nonromantic romance author. And his family is rather awesome, too.
- I’m grateful every day for the series of fortunate events that led to my career as an author. If you had told me at 40 that THIS would be 50, I probably would’ve laughed myself senseless at your delusions of grandeur on my behalf. However… Here I am with 50 titles to my name, 5 million books sold, 22 times on the New York Times list, my closest friends and family members working with me, a new house that Mac McCarthy bought for my family and a life that five years after it happened still feels like a dream in progress. For that I thank the readers who’ve taken my books to heart and me along with them. You have made all of this happen, and I never lose sight of that fact. I’ve also learned that never allowing myself to be entirely satisfied with where I am at the moment can lead to new challenges that broaden and expand my sense of the possible.
- I have learned that I can do just about everything right, be the best possible friend/family member/colleague/author (fill in your own blank) I know how to be, and it won’t be enough for some people. What I know at 50 is that I’ll never make everyone happy. I’ve learned to be okay with that and to know FOR SURE that if I can make myself and those who matter most to me a little happy every day, then I’m doing something right. And that is more than enough for me.
Here’s to the next 50 books and the next 50 years. As Sam Holland would say, bring it on.