Alex Haley was one of my neighbors when I was living in Norris, Tennessee. He would come by the Museum of Appalachia to see owner and local author John Rice Irwin. Haley and I would often get into long discussions about writing and achieving one's dreams.
He told me of the many times he'd been rejected when trying to get his novel ROOTS published, and told me not to get discouraged. He also told me something else I've used as a mantra to aspiring writers: "If someone tells you you're a fantastic writer, the best they've read, don't believe 'em," he said. He added, "If someone tells you you're the worst writer they've read, don't believe 'em. Believe in yourself and keep on writing."
That philosophy has kept me going through many rejections I've had to deal with--and who hasn't? In my 37 years of writing, I've found Haley's words to ring true time and again. Now book #9 is about to be published; I'm working on a sequel to a YA novel, GROWING SEASON, and continue to keep his words in mind. Every day, I try to write better, and when I look at something I wrote years ago, I am amazed at how far I have come. Every good writer teaches themselves how to write better, and looks for ways to achieve this.
Other authors who have encouraged me include W.E.B. Griffin (co-author of the original MASH series and many best-selling military thrillers) and his son William E. Butterworth IV, the latter of whom writes military thrillers as well (best-selling DEATH AND HONOR is one of them). Sonny Brewer, author of THE POET OF TOLSTOY PARK (among others), has also encouraged me along the way, and Winston Groom has served to inspire me, although I am sure he is unaware of this!
All these authors are, of course, contemporaries. Others, long taken to that Big Bookstore in the Sky, have influenced me: Beryl Markham (read her if you haven't) is one of my favorites.
Any author out there who has become well-known has done so because they kept at their craft, honing it and learning from others. I intend to follow their lead.