Dreams can come true at any age; just ask Sally Russell. She started writing romance novels in her mid-70s. She self-published her first book, “An Escape for Joanna” with AuthorHouse when she was 79, and self-published her second, “Finding a Path to Happiness,” this year.
Achieving dreams isn’t new for Russell. She was born on a farm in Macomb, Ill., during the Great Depression.
“My grandfather, dad and three brothers were home decorators, but work dried up during the Depression because people just didn’t have the money to spend on their homes,” she says.
“My mom’s parents had a small farm, so dad moved our family there to ensure we had food on the table.”
When the family returned to Galesburg, Ill., in the mid-’30s, Russell started dreaming about becoming a secretary like her mother, getting married and living in a little white house with green shutters.
At Galesburg High School she focused on business courses and used her writing skills to correspond with troops during World War II. The first part of her dream was achieved shortly after high school graduation. She became a secretary at a local lumber business.
“I wasn’t very good at shorthand,” she says, laughing.
“When the boss dictated letters, I wrote down phrases in long-hand and then composed the letter myself. He never sent one back.”
She married in 1954 and three years later built her dream house — complete with green shutters.
“We got a good deal on the lumber because I worked at the lumber company,” she says. “My two sisters never got over the fact I achieved my three dreams in such a short space of time.”
She settled into her dream house, gave up her secretarial position, raised two boys, became active in the Parent Teacher Associations, including two stints as president, and was heavily involved in her church, including where she organized various writing projects to celebrate the church’s 100th anniversary.
When her husband died in 1977, she returned to work at the lumber company and married the company’s CEO, John T. (JT) Russell, in 1983.
They retired to Charlotte, N.C., in 1997, and when health concerns developed, moved to Lawrence in 2005 to be near JT’s daughter. Russell starting reading romance novels, and a character called Christy, who moved from New York to Colorado, began to form in her imagination.
“I’d read so many romances and thought I could do just as well,” she says.
She’d been given a computer and printer in 2005, and after learning to use them, Russell starting writing.
“I just love to write,” she says.
“When I go to my room I enter another world. My imagination takes over, and I have fun working with the characters I create.”
She’s just completed her 10th manuscript.
“As soon as one book is coming to an end, characters for the next novel emerge, and I’m ready to move on and start writing the next story,” she says.