CASSVILLE, Mo. — When Linda Sarton was a student in middle school, she was tasked to write down what she most wanted to do with her life. She scratched out a single word: “writer.”

Like the famed authors she so adored — Arthur C. Clarke, Issac Asimov and Ray Bradbury — she wanted nothing more than to make a living penning and publishing science-fiction novels. But it wasn’t long before Sarton was called down to the principal’s office. What would happen next, she said, would leave her heartbroken for years.

“The principal actually told me I wasn’t smart enough to be a writer,” Sarton said with a shake of her head, “and that I needed to find something that I could support myself with. I was absolutely crushed.”

With those words bouncing around inside her head, she turned her back on fiction writing. She continued to do this until she reached the age of 30.

“My husband finally badgered me into writing,” Sarton said. Her husband, Gary, was a published and respected author and poet. “We had been married almost 10 years, so it took him 10 years to finally convince me to write again. He just wore me down. He kept saying, ‘You need to write.’”

So yellow legal pad in lap and pencil in hand, she wrote. And wrote. And wrote some more. In the end, she’d scratched out a science-fiction/romance novel, a tome eclipsing 400 pages. And between the time she was 30 to when she reached the age of 70, she would attempt to sell this novel. Over those years — while working a number of full-time jobs, managing a household and raising three children — she would send her book off to publishers both big and small. And time and time again, her novel would come right back to her, rejected.

“The publishers didn’t think it was going to sell,” Sarton said. “I even had a publisher from Berkley, years ago, say to me, ‘You’ll never get this book published.’ Just because it was a sci-fi romance.”

Re-writes would follow, based on the publisher’s expert suggestions, sometimes with entire shifts in point-of-view and characterization made throughout the manuscript. Off it would go again to another publisher, maybe in Chicago, maybe in New York City. Eventually, back it would come to Cassville. She received nearly a dozen rejections, she said.

“Every time I got discouraged, (Gary) was there,” she said. “And he knew I was going to get this book published. ‘It’s going to be published,’ he’d tell me.”

His words would eventually prove prophetic. Her novel — her science-fiction romance hybrid — finally saw the light of day in late 2017.

“It’s a dream 40-plus years in the making,” Sarton said with a smile.

Sadly, Gary, her inspiration, would not live to see this much anticipated moment.

“My biggest regret is that he passed away before I was able to get it published,” she said. “He passed five weeks before our 49th anniversary.”

Now a published author with three more novels and a novella on the way, she keeps a framed picture of Gary next to her computer. She’ll often reach out to touch it for strength and inspiration.

“He is with me,” she said. “He is always with me. I cannot write a word without his picture right there in front of me.”

Victory at last

She was sitting at work in late 2015, behind the desk at Westco Home Furnishings in downtown Cassville, when she received an important email from Lagan Press, an imprint of Oghma Creative Media, a publishing company based in nearby Springfield.

“I was reading it out loud to Mark, my boss, and by the time I finished reading it, my voice had probably gone up an octave.” Her book, the email read, would be published. Her boss, she said, immediately jumped up and gave her a hug. “I didn’t cry. I was just numb. This was a fulfillment of a 40-year dream.”

Earlier, she’d attended the Ozark Creative Writers Conference in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, a gathering she hardly ever missed. But this time, she was frustrated. Frustrated not at the rejections, so much, but at the advice the publishers were feeding back to her.

“I don’t remember too much about the earlier rejections. It wasn’t so much about the heartbreak as it was the frustration,” she said. “I’d taken a lot of editors’ advice (over the years), listening to them tell me ‘you can’t do this’ ... and one of the things the editors say now is that you shouldn’t begin (your story) with a dream or shouldn’t have any dreams in your books. With my book, dreams are very important to the entire plot. So I’d tried to write my book without dreams, but I just couldn’t get it to work.”

At the conference, she turned to a dear friend, romance author Velda Brotherton. There, she spilled out to her all of the pent-up frustrations concerning her decadeslong struggle to publish her novel.

“She said to me, ‘Turn it back into what you want it to be, (then) send me four chapters.’ So I said, ‘OK.’”

Later in the day, she was scheduled to pitch her book to a publishing company she was unfamiliar with at the time: Oghma Creative Media. Minutes later, she discovered that Brotherton worked for the company. Without even realizing it, Sarton had already successfully pitched her novel to the company during her heart-to-heart with Brotherton.

Within three days, Brotherton wanted to read her entire manuscript. Four days after that, Sarton received the fateful email that she now admits has made such a positive impact on her life: “Bound by Honor” had been unanimously approved for publication by the publishing firm.

Completing her vision

So many other writers would have long given up their dreams and shelved the manuscript for good. But not Sarton.

“I had my moments,” she admitted. “I think there was a period of time where I put it down for nine months, but I couldn’t let it go. I don’t know if it was pure stubbornness on my part or what — I am pure bulldog. But it was also an investment of time, and energy and heart.”

She also admitted the novel helped her grow as a writer.

“I learned to write with this book,” she said, patting the hard back book on her lap with her hand. “It taught me how to write.”

Writing under “Rose Sarton” — Rose is her middle name — “Bound By Honor” is book one of the “Bonds of Honor” trilogy.

The novel asks a simple question: “Can two hearts bond a galaxy apart?” The book involves an alien named Rhyel, of the nearly extinct Centallian race; an interstellar ship named Novaria; an ancient artifact known as the Acqeli; and the Earth woman he eventually kidnaps and falls in love with, the book’s protagonist, Dr. Amber Donovan, of Southwest Missouri.

The second book in the series, “Bound by Earth,” is slated for publication this November. The final book, under the working title of “Bound by Forever,” will follow in November 2019.

A novella, titled “Acqeli” — serving as a prequel to the “Bonds of Honor” series — will be published in June.

Currently, she is finishing up a novel that has absolutely no ties to her far-reaching “Honor” series. Titled “Heart of the Stone,” this paranormal romance novel, a first for her, will be published sometime in the spring of 2019.

While she loves and could probably recite from heart, every single word in “Bound By Honor,” no passage is more cherished than the 15 words printed at the top of the dedication page. It reads: “To the memory of my husband, Gary Allen Sarton, the hero of my life’s story.”