We all have one; here’s mine.
The Short Version:
I grew up in rural Columbia County, New York, graduated from Ichabod Crane Central High School and briefly attended Columbia-Greene Community College. I have been —at various overlapping intervals throughout my early life — a civil servant, stand-up comic, folk singer, Irish dancer, husband, father and member of a fundamentalist religious cult.
In 2002, and through no fault of my own, I moved to Britain, where I subsequently published three books of humorous essays about life in the United Kingdom. My first (published) novel—Finding Rachel Davenport, a humorous crime caper—was released in 2012.
I currently live with my wife in a picturesque market town in Sussex.
A Longer Version:
I decided I wanted to be a writer when I was ten years old.
Having grown up in rural New York, surrounded by fields, farms and lots of cow, I was practiced at using my imagination to keep me entrained.
On that particular day, I had come up with a mind-story so elaborate, I decided I should write it down. It involved a plane crashing in the jungle, and then a second plane, that had come to help, also crashing. The plucky survivors then had to fight off hostile natives while they built one working plane from the parts of the two disabled planes. They manage to take off just as the natives over-run their camp.
I was pleased with the result and, in later years, when I saw Flight of the Phoenix, I became certain that someone had stolen my idea. (Despite the fact that the book the movie was based on came out a year before I wrote my story.)
From then on, in addition to thinking up elaborate adventures, I also wrote them down.
By the time I was a teenager, I had acquired a typewriter and a reputation as a kid who wrote stories and plays and poems (the less said about them, the better) and essays, and who might be persuaded to lend you one for your English assignment.
I might have continued to improve my fledgling talent, except that I fell in with a fundamentalist cult who saw writing fiction as the work of the devil. Subsequently, I was encouraged to burn everything I had written and vow to never write again. Over the years, my temptation to write (as well as other desires) put me at odds with the elders and I was eventually ejected, though not for the sin of fiction. (The exact phrase, as I recall, was, “Don’t come near me, my church or my daughter again.”)
It takes time to recover from a mind filled with mush and I didn’t begin writing seriously again until my thirties, when I found a talent for humorous essays. I began to publish regularly and earned a reputation as a humorist. I was in negations with a local newspaper to write a humor section when my marriage disintegrated and things went sour again.
Through all this, I continued to write novels, because that was what I really wanted to do. I had not, however, learned the number one rule for writing, which is to write consistently. My novels took years to finish (if I finished them at all) and they were abysmal. Still, I kept trying.
Then, when I hit my mid-forties, I went on a two-week vacation to Ireland and, to my surprise, found myself–six-months later–married and living in the UK. (If you want to know the full story, read the book.)
Due to my new and unexpected situation, humorous essays poured out of me at a startling rate. Soon, I had enough for a book and, after a few years and a few dead ends, found a publisher willing to take it on. It was a small (okay, tiny) publisher, but my joy was unbounded. All things considered—niche market, limited publicity, new author—Postcards From Across the Pond did fairly well, and the publishers asked for a sequel.
By now, the self-publishing craze was in full swing, so I told them I wanted to try publishing the creatively titled More Postcards From Across the Pond myself. They agreed, but asked for another book, which I promised them. Fast forward a few months and I had discovered that self-publishing was hard work, and I returned to the publisher with my final book, only to discover that they had sold the company and the new owner had turned it into a vanity press.
Not all was lost; the old publishers returned the rights—and the cover—of my book and wished me well. So, I self-published it, along with Postcards From Ireland, and moved on to another novel.
Then, out of the blue, an agent from NYC contacted me. Convinced it was a scam, I did some googling and found she was, indeed, legit. She was a very nice woman, who had recently moved to Britain, and was looking for new clients. Fortuitously, I just happened to have a freshly finished novel that she liked. And so, as writers do, I left it with her and waited. And waited.
Several polite enquirers went unanswered. And I waited some more.
I might still be waiting had I not gone to a book fair and met Felix Riley, an author whose book I had read and thoroughly enjoyed. He was friendly and helpful and when I told him my story he reminded me it was my career and my book and I had no obligation to wait on her, so I sent it around myself and placed it with a medium-sized publisher.
After so many years of looking forward to that moment, the publication of Finding Rachel Davenport happed so quickly I nearly missed it. The book came out and, again, taking all into consideration, it did fairly well, and I set to work on my next novel.
By now, I was exhausted, and the plot for my new novel kept slipping through my fingers. To give myself a break, I took a month off and wrote a fantasy adventure story for my grandsons. I had it made into a book, sent them each a copy and returned to my novel.
But the little story wouldn’t let me go. The adventure kept growing in my mind as I tried to work on the real novel, and the more I tried to forget about it, the harder it gripped me.
So, eventually, I give in and began work on a project that would fill the next eight years of my life.
As I write this, the manuscript for the final adventure of The Magic Cloak series has just been finished, and I am beginning the process of sifting through the big pile of words to distil a short book for my grandsons, who now see the yearly novel—starring them—as an unbreakable tradition.
The longer stories are still in my files, however, and I feel I owe it to myself (otherwise, the past eight years will have been pretty much wasted) to do something with them. I, therefore, begin this new phase of the project in the hopes that it won’t take quite as long to revise, format and publish the stories as it did to write them.
Book I of The Magic Cloak series will be released by Lindenwald Press the end of this year, and I plan to release Books II thru VIII one after the other until the complete epic is available to the half-dozen people who might want to buy it.
Then I can start on that second novel again.
We all have one; here’s mine.