I’ve been a writer since I was about eight years old. I made knock-off G.I. Joe comic books and wrote short stories about the secret life of cats and the true world that exists in the dead of night. I won a few awards as a kid and had a few stories and poems published anonymously—I was shy about that stuff—in Junior High and High School magazines. I wrote my first book shortly after my dad died. I was 22, it was a sudden death, and I was wholly unprepared to lose my dad so early in life. I thought I had a few more decades with him and didn’t know how to deal with the shock and loss. I buried myself in writing, especially after my mom went to sleep and I was up alone with my thoughts. I was surprised to find that it not only served as a way to keep my mind off things, but it also seemed to clear it of the dark thoughts that floated around in there. Previously, writing had been something I did simply as a creative outlet. Now it was an artistic confession that exorcised my creative demons.
When I finished that first book I let my mom read it and then put it away. It wasn’t meant for public consumption. It was fictional, but it was too personal and I wasn’t ready to make myself that vulnerable. It was raw emotion wrapped in a veil of assassins and betrayal set in a steampunk-ish fantasy world. Even though that book wasn’t meant to see the light of day, it awakened a new hunger. It was when I began to get a glimmer of what I really wanted to be—an author. But I wasn’t there yet. Wasn’t sure yet. Instead, I spent the next seven or eight years trying to find a more traditional path. I went to college for graphic design and photography, dropped out a handful of times, and ended up in the IT world. All the while I was writing. I kept starting novels with ideas that I thought were golden, but would lose interest or motivation halfway through. It wasn’t until I started writing what would become Necessary Evil and the Greater Good (NEGG for short) that I found an idea that I couldn’t let go off. Well…sorta.
Writing NEGG was easily a five-year journey from its start as Angels and Demons: A Secular Love Story (a title only I found funny), to Good/Evil, to its finally published iteration as NEGG. I started writing and got several chapters into it when a friend introduced me to Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens. I loved the book, but it was also a bit soul crushing because it felt like mine was far too similar. What I thought was a cool, edgy, unique idea felt like plagiarism. I stopped writing immediately. Months went by and then one day that same friend ended up stumbling across a print out of the first chapter I had written. To my surprise he really liked it. When I told him I had abandoned the project because I was a shitty, book stealing hack he laughed. Not because he thought it was funny, but because he thought I was stupid.
“Sure, it’s got some similarities, but then again so do a dozen other books. If you’re waiting for an entirely original idea you’re never going to finish.”
Now I know you don’t know this friend, but this particular nugget of wisdom coming from him was mind blowing. He was genius-level smart, but he was the laziest, most apathetic, guaranteed future burnout I had ever known. But it renewed my faith in myself and I began writing again in earnest.
The process of finishing the book was less than smooth sailing, though. I reached a halfway point and then scrapped everything but the first few chapters because I was so unhappy with where I had forced things to go. I refused to try polishing a turd and decided to abort my mistakes instead. Over the next year or so I pounded away at the keyboard in my spare time. I spent hours in a coffee shop on my days off being publicly antisocial. I was determined and a wee bit obsessed with finishing. Finally, after years of work I had written, rewritten, edited, and re-edited the book until I could finally say I was done. I had a product that I was happy enough with I was willing to let others read it and wanted to put it out for the masses. It was terrifying and liberating. And then the search for a literary agent trudged on fruitlessly for months. Over a hundred query letters netted dozens of rejections, but more often than not all I got was silence. The final straw was when an agent expressed interest in my work and wanted to reread the manuscript over the weekend to make a decision. That Monday I got an email from a different agent in the same firm stating the agent that had been interested in me quit to pursue her dream job and that the agency wasn’t interested in taking me on as a client. I was disappointed and angry. Angry at myself for letting myself get my hopes up, and angry at the agent for leading me on when it seemed pretty clear to me she was already debating leaving the publishing business altogether. After that, I gave up.
For six months I did nothing but sulk and make feeble attempts at writing other things. I thought about self-publishing a few times but it felt like the ultimate admission of defeat. If I couldn’t get traditionally published I wasn’t a real writer. And then indie superstar Hugh Howey came out with the first serious report of the facts and figures of the self-publishing industry. It proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that self-publishing was something to take seriously. Authors were making real money and the public was altering their view and opinion on indie books and writers much faster than anyone realized or the traditional publishing industry wanted to admit. That’s when I decided to jump in and give it a go. A freelance editor and cover artist later and I published my first book and began calling myself an author.
So the short version of all that is that I write because I have to—for my sanity. But I also write because I can see a reality where my calling can become my living. For that second one, I want to thank you. Knowing there are people out there who read my work and find enjoyment makes it possible and fulfilling. It’s why I’ve written a second book, Sons of Light and Darkness, even though I’ve barely broken even from the first one. I still have a day job, but I’m confident that one day soon I will be able to make a living as a full-time author. Again, thank you.