Farmington Hills Woman Overcomes Obstacles In Life to Write Novel

BY JONI HUBRED

STAFF WRITER

Call Cynthia Simmons a survivor.

It's the only way to describe the Farmington Hills woman's journey through a childhood stolen by poverty and abuse, an attempted suicide at age 11 and a teen-age marriage that eventually left her a single mom. Now, she's a published author, writing the kinds of books that literally transformed her life.

Simmons first novel, "Anything, My Love," is a romance-western story which is historically accurate.

Life should have calmed down a little by then.

"The rabbit's in here," Simmons says during a guided tour of her spacious home, wherein reside the afore-mentioned dwarf rabbit, its mother (one of three household cats), three dogs, a bearded dragon lizard and a fair number of fish in more than 600 gallons worth of aquarium tanks. "It sounds crazy, but they're not all mine."

Daughter Misty was to take about half of the animals when she and her husband move into a new home with their infant son.

"Raising my kids helped my confidence a lot," Simmons says of her adult life.

Married at 17, she gave birth to her oldest son, Jimmy, when she was barely 18. At first, the idea of mingling with other parents scared her to death.

"Little by little, things worked out. People carried on conversations with me."

While that might not seem like much to most adults, Simmons considered it nothing short of miraculous. She was raised by parents who understood little about parenting; a mother who was too young and a father who had been a wonderful man before suffering a closed-head injury in a car accident.

"She was very frustrated," Simmons said of her mother. "My mother was way too young. She had no background when it came to being a parent."

The family moved from place to place in Michigan, always poverty-stricken. Simmons was ridiculed at school because of her clothes and appearance; her mother would never spend money on her children or herself.

"I didn't have my first real haircut until I was 18. There were a lot of things we missed."

Simmons' mother had a difficult childhood herself and didn't get any support from her husband. Simmons has grown to understand the whys of her childhood. She and her mother, who lives in Texas, have reconciled. Simmons' father died in May after a massive stroke.

He didn't live to see his daughter's first novel, "Anything, My Love" reach book stores in June. That it was written at all is a testament to the power of the written word and Simmons' own tenacity.

READING CHANGED EVERYTHING

She picked up her first romance in 1975, while baby-sitting at a neighbors' house. It piqued her interest, and she asked to borrow it. Simply carrying the thick novel around finally drew some positive attention from her classmates, who asked what she was reading.

"This book was something that intrigued me. There was a picture on the cover of a girl riding a horse. I never dreamed I'd finish it."

Not only did she finish it, Simmons read the book twice, looking up words she didn't understand. Before long, her baby-sitting money went to buy books, because there were never any at home.

Gradually, she stopped thinking of herself as deserving of a miserable life.

"When I started reading was when I knew I was half-way decent. When I picked up that first book, things just changed."

It took years for her to work through a series of challenges, from raising three children through a divorce, caring for her ailing father and reconciling with her mother. Simmons also went back to college, flying through 21 credits and earning a spot on the Dean's list. She also obtained a Realtor's license.

A writer since her high school days, she finally pulled out the novels she'd been working on for years after her grandmother suffered a stroke in 1998.

"I wanted to get something published while she could still see it," Simmons says of her paternal grandmother, whom she adored.

It wasn't to be. Shortly after her grandmother died, Simmons brought her father home, where he remained until his condition required more intensive physical care.

Now, she is able to immerse herself in her writing, sometimes burying herself for days in her bedroom office, coming out only to eat and grab a cup of coffee now and then. She chose the romance genre because it was the first thing she read, and Simmons believes the ease with which she writes convincing plots and dialogue comes from all those years spent secluded in her room as a child, trying desperately to escape what felt like an intolerably miserable life.

Reading romance was her escape then; writing romance is her victory now. In addition to honing her writing skills, her dedication to historically accurate books has allowed Simmons to delve into research she enjoys.

"Romances have so much to offer. They're always stories that have such a good basic theme people can relate to and learn from. The main characters are good people, and love conquers all. The underdog wins."

That's really the story of Simmons' own life. Though she seems to see a value in her past, her eyes are firmly fixed on a much brighter future.

"People say be grateful for the life you had. I don't look at it that way. I don't think you should be grateful for the struggle."

jhubred@oe.homecomm.net | (248) 477-5450

 

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