As Barbara Weitz knows, life is a journey that leads to unexpected opportunities, even during retirement.
While Weitz was working as an information technology specialist at Sears Holdings Corp. several years ago, she saw Brenda Novak, a New York Times best-selling author, signing copies of a romance novel.
She had no interest in reading a romance, but took a copy because it was free.
After reading it, she was determined to write her own romance. Inspired by a dream, she began writing her first manuscript, which featured a policewoman who unraveled a troubled past after finding an abused German shepherd.
“It didn’t turn out like the dream. But it opened this Pandora’s box, and all of this flowed out of me,” the 68-year-old Algonquin resident says.
“It taught me that I could finish a book from beginning to end.”
In the last six years, Weitz has completed six books, two of which have been published by The Wild Rose Press. Although her specialty is romance writing, she likes to tie in mystery.
“Teed Up for Love,” published last year, is about a rural beauty who meets her match, a London bachelor. Miranda, the main character, moves to West Dundee after accepting a marketing job in Chicago for an English golf club company. She is just learning the ropes when company money goes missing.
“I picked West Dundee because it’s just a lovely little river town,” Weitz says.
She also chose South Barrington for other scenes because it exemplifies the high-class area that she needed for the home of Miranda’s friend.
Her new release, “Cutter Mountain Rendezvous,” is about rebuilding life after wrong turns and bad decisions. Kate is a divorced mom and former songwriter who crosses paths with Colton, an injured Chicago ballplayer. Both characters are seeking new direction and meet in the Appalachian Mountains near the inn that Kate is renovating. The mystery begins when Colton encounters a stranger lurking on the inn property.
Weitz has dabbled in many creative outlets. While raising three sons, she wrote bedtime stories for them. She also has written poems and composed music for the guitar. But she felt driven to do more until she started writing novels.
“I’d never considered romance writing,” Weitz says. “But once I gave it a shot, I became addicted to the creating process.”
She began emailing Novak, who writes romances and thrillers, to learn about the publishing business.
As suggested by Novak, she joined Chicago-North Romance Writers of America, a professional network of published and unpublished writers.
RWA has helped her get a better understanding of the publishing process, such as how to present her work in a query and how to write better dialogue. She also has established contacts with publishers through the group.
She describes herself as a “panster” — a writer who starts with a few ideas and little structure.
“I typically write 50 pages before I say, ‘OK, I like this story,’” Weitz says. “And then I’ll draw a rough outline to focus and guide myself.”
To complete a manuscript, she generally needs eight months — three months to prepare a rough draft and several months to polish the story, which is edited eight to 10 times.
In her office, a train of tables serves as a long desk to provide ample space for a computer and pages in progress. A small knight on a horse sits on the desk as a symbol of Miranda’s recurring dream in “Teed Up for Love.”
Weitz uses her experiences from a wide variety of jobs to create stories. Before working as an IT specialist for Sears, she was an executive secretary for a balloon company and took on jobs with odd hours to be a stay-at-home mom. She has waitressed, sold oil paintings, worked in an animal hospital and helped in an emergency room as a secretary.
“It’s the influences in your life that you draw on when a character develops in your mind,” Weitz says.
For instance, like Kate in “Cutter Mountain Rendezvous,” Weitz has written country music. She includes lines from one of her songs in the book.
Currently, she is working on finding a publisher for her story about the policewoman — the first of a three-part series — and she is completing two other books.
“I write because I cannot stop myself from writing,” Weitz says. “Once I open that door, I have so many ideas and characters begging to come out onto the page.”