I wrote my first book at age eight, The Mystery of the Golden Football Trophy, as a class assignment. It was foolish to think how easy it was to write an actual book at such a young age… plot, characters, suspense—my little spiral-bound, fourteen-page book had it all! In fact, it probably captured all those elements better than many of my other books, no doubt.
I was always a reader. If a teacher assigned a book to read over the summer, I had it done in a week. I spent my summers making absolutely sure I got every stamp on our town library’s summer reading card. Sherlock Holmes. Hardy Boys. Nancy Drew. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy… anything with a series, I was hooked.
Later, I became infatuated with John Bellairs, a children’s mystery author, famous for The House With a Clock in Its Walls, among others. The day that John Bellairs showed up at our school library was like meeting the President of the United States. Better, even, because this was the guy who wrote the stories that kept me up at night. I was terrified just sitting across the table from such a masterful mind. Mr. Bellairs proved to be a kind-hearted soul and must have left a lasting impression on my fifth-grade self that being an author would be kinda cool, although I can’t profess writing was in my career ambitions just as yet. I was pretty hooked on going to outer space, then playing power forward for the Boston Celtics (even with my lanky, 5’ 11” frame), then back to space, then it was finally music which captured my heart and never let go… but I always kept writing.
Somewhere among my years as a struggling professional musician, I got the idea I could stop working day jobs to support myself if I published a book. So I wrote about what I knew, which was working in an office, and I landed my first agent. Even though the book never sold, I was committed to the idea of writing, and was already searching for my next topics. I wrote a couple of almost-novels, a screenplay, and a slew of other projects that kept me up late at night, and which quite literally never saw the light of day.
All this time I had been traveling a lot, so I wrote about that, and finally published my first book, Please Hug Me–I’ve Been Delayed: The Only Guide You’ll Ever Need to Survive the Not-so-Friendly Skies. That opened a lot of doors. My book was a featured title at Hudson News and Pacific Gateway Airport retails, right next to Oprah and James Patterson. I got booked on NPR. I was in the Chicago Tribune, Boston Sunday Globe, North American Travel Journal, among others. I got paid to blog. I got paid to advertise on my blog. I blogged anywhere that allowed me to sign up for an account.
Then, I got really serious about this whole writing thing.
I started tackling topics I knew needed to be tackled. Politics. Relationships. Retired parents. Christmas. I also dipped into the romance market, and self-published some titles that did fairly well. Then, I set a much larger goal. I wanted a real publisher. A full team. And money to promote each of my books. I had learned the industry, but could never learn the industry that way that others knew it. I kept writing, and I focused on becoming a New York Times best-selling author… the only kind that matters.
Through it all, I’ve enjoyed what I guess is the same thing that motivates anyone to work endless hours on something that no one else might ever even know about. Call it madness, or therapy, or art… it’s just what makes sense: we write because we can. Sometimes, others benefit.
In the end, it doesn’t matter–or at least it shouldn’t matter, if our work is read by an audience, or not. It’s our time we spend, grasping ideas out of the ether and making them our own. Adding our life experiences, our beliefs, our little nuggets of wisdom to whatever project we feel is the most important to get down on paper that day. I can’t honestly say why I wrote about a stolen football trophy at age eight, or working in an office, or airplanes, or Christmas… all of it just felt right at the time.
My story of an author is really just following that simple format… writing what I believed was important, and spending the necessary hours honing my craft in order that when I stumbled upon something of importance that others felt was important, too, I had the skills to convey my ideas to a wider audience, and spawn a larger conversation. Because that is what writing is… it’s a conversation that doesn’t have an immediate response, other than the one in your head. Get a lot of heads conversing about the same thing, and you might’ve just stumbled onto something.
I had at least a few people wondering in their heads who stole that golden football trophy… to me, that was enough. I had succeeded as an author. The rest is just part of the story.