Pearl was only eight as the century turned but she had spent four years thinking deeply about her future. Things became remarkably simple. Since there was no money in her future, not even a nest egg, she realized she would need to begin her intended success immediately. She was as motivated as ever. Her father was more and more absent. And her mother was increasingly immobile. Pearl did as other similarly-alienated children do She planned an escape that would take her a long way from home and solve all her problems.
Her planning involved deciding on a career. She learned on TV that obscure women, many from places like Tea, had become best-selling novelists. There were other avenues. But one look in the mirror told her that she would never be an actress. And one auto-probe of her modest musculature convinced her she was no athlete. If she excelled, it would be with her fertile mind and the best possible agent she could find, at least until she could manage her own affairs.
Her mother's romance hinted at what she was looking for. But they seemed to her insipid, not deep enough to be templates for the sort of saga sold millions and became a blockbuster. She dreamed of some new Elizabeth Taylor-James Dean combo on the big screen, bringing her widely-known words to life.
Pearl planned escape from Tea by the year 2008, when she would be sixteen. She meant by then to have a draft of her first best-seller. She would set it in the future. It would trace a family through many generations. It would grab readers multiple times as they resonated to the lives, loves, crimes and deaths of the Rollins family. That was the name she chose for for the multiple protagonists of her first saga.
Pearl became a regular at the Tea Community Library after school and on weekends. She learned how to use Word and store her work on floppys. Her writing was economical and careful. She never threw anything away. She went forward always. As she wrote, she created an outline that was her bible. Every day she spent time thinking about each person in each strand of her story. By 2004, she completed the first of sixteen intended books. She wanted the book to be heavy.
Pearl could not imagine her name on the jacket of her best-seller. Pearls were the end, not the beginning. She changed it from Pearl to the name millions around the world know, Merla. Pearl from Tea, South Dakota, became Merla T. Morrow of Mt. Vernon Streat, Beacon Hill, Boston, Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Merla's hero was J. D. Salinger, not because of his writing which she did not like, save for its apparent commercial appeal. Salinger had become as aloof as she intended to continue being. He transcended the ordinary fate of authors. He was not eaten up and trampled by the demands of the herd. Merla wanted to stay free, think her own thoughts and act according to what she willed.
One might say Merla was the product of a self-made childhood.