I’ve been making up stories for as long as I can remember and, as I’m turning 35 in a few months, it looks like the odds are good I’ll be telling them for the rest of my life (not just gonna yell ‘That’s it! I’m done!’ as I blow out my birthday candles). But how did I grow into the writer I am today? Here’s what I remember (note: these ages may be off a little) —
Age 6 — Some of my first memories were playing with He-Man figures, though I remember liking the villain Skeletor better than the hero. We also had an Apple computer and played ‘Choose Your Own Adventure: Cave of Time’.
Age 7 — Loved listening to stories but couldn’t hardly read at all till one summer my sister and I got excited about the Athens Regional Library’s Summer Reading program. I think I read about 50 books including my first ‘big’ novel — Black Beauty.
Age 10 — Wild Ponies! Wild ponies everywhere! I loved The Black Stallion, The Island Stallion, Smoky, and all those horse stories and so I made up a lot of tales of wild horses while running around a 50 acre property my mother care-took.
Age 12 — Huge TV fan. We never had cable (still don’t) but for a while I’d watch 2-3 hours a night and tape many programs (VHS tapes, ha ha, the memories!). I once even pretended I was the head of a network and invented 50 series (each with a log line) and then rolled dice to see which were successful and got ‘high ratings’). Few of the people who call me intelligent and thoughtful today know just how many episodes of The Nanny I’ve seen.
Age 13 — Sisters the TV show premieres. I’ve watched better shows with my sister and mother (Quantum Leap!) but something about this show makes me start telling stories about people instead of horses (mostly just Teddy & Falconer [a young George Clooney!]). Adolescence has begun.
Age 14 — I’m reading a lot of Stephen King and Dave Barry. Also, SeaQuest DSV and The X-Files debut followed by Earth 2 a year later. My sister Sarah and I spend untold hours playing out ‘episodes’ of the shows that we ‘write’ (as well as Chicago Hope). We even have props, like a bicycle tire gage that serves as a syringe.
Age 15 — I start my first book, pretty much called ‘If Dave Berry Had Written Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’. I write a few chapters, enjoy it, and still remember a scene where a road crew is placing giant, brightly-colored fish in the highway, like stones in cobblestone. My adventures in literary greatness have begun.
Age 16 — I make an epic sci-fi / fantasy love story called Move to Fathom about the assistant to the president who is destined to be the soul mate to an invading alien king. Strangely enough, I only write down the dialogue, not the whole story.
Age 18 — I decide I’m serious about screenwriting. Later, when asked why, I said, “I was just enamored by Hollywood I guess.” I take a 2 day workshop lead by Michael Hauge. As a home-schooled-off-the-radar person, it is my first formal training. I go on to complete two feature length screenplays — ‘Murder in the Movies’ which is about a murder on a murder mystery set, and ‘Divining Grace’, which is about an angel earning his wings by helping a human girl.
Age 19 — I get first job just so I can buy an amazing desktop computer with my sister for gaming. It was AWESOME. Suddenly, Duke Nukem 3D, Unreal Tournament, Arcanum, X-COM, Civ II, and Myst start to inspire me.
Age 21 — Watch High Fidelity and then start reading Nick Hornby. My favs (in time) become About a Boy, High Fidelity, and Slam.Age 22 — I take a three week trip to England to watch the world’s largest dog show (why do other people go?). I also fall in love for the first time (well, first time reciprocated) with a handsome English bloke. I come home determined to finally start my story ‘Other Gods’. I try it as a novel instead of a screenplay because I want to flesh out the world and make it deep and meaningful. I fall instantly in love with novel-writing. I also join my first critique group and learn about the evils of -ly words. And I started watching LOTR and the reading the book for the first time. Yowza! I realize I have to take my writing to a whole new level.
Age 23 — Go to my first Writer Conference. I have a fifteen minute session talking to Patrick LoBrutto, who ruins me for talking to any other agents/editor/etc types — he’s so sweet and nice and helpful. I’m probably here today because of him (at least partly)! Also see 28 Days Later — the era of my modern movie love has begun. Suddenly Rain Man and Titanic just don’t seem quite as great. Hello (in time) Danny Boyle, Zack Snyder, Guillermo del Toro, Neill Blomkamp, Darren Aronofsky, and Alfonso Cuarón.
Age 25 — Shadow of the Colossus (PS2 game) comes out. DA-mn. Never gonna forget that world. Time to up my game again.
Age 27 — I watch Deadwood, my first cable show. I know it only as ‘That show that won all those awards and people curse a ridiculous amount”. After watching the first episodes, I know it as the show that changed my idea of TV forever.
Age 29 — I finally finish my first novel Other Gods. The story of two servants of the god of Darkness (one willing and one unwilling) on a journey to destroy all of the gods on a desert planet. It clocks in a 140,000 words but I’m very proud — my first book!
Age 31 — Start my second novel ‘A Caged Heart Still Beats’. I had been trying to write a sequel to Other Gods but the timing just wasn’t right. So I decide to pick a short, sweet idea, and ‘Let my romanticism off the hook’ for the first time. A love triangle starring a man trapped in a cage is born.
Age 33 — I start People Who Have Come Alive, to inspire others to live their dreams. I also meet Rob White, an Athens-area writer who has inspired me in many ways including founding the Athens Writers Association that year. I also wrote my first non-fiction book How To Come Alive: a Guidebook for Living Your Dreams and self publish for the first time. Yow! Things are getting busy!
Age 34 — Finish and self publish A Caged Heart Still Beats. Will finish (soon!) 12 year project — ‘Fall Street’ novel. Am writing a teleplay. Soon to start next novel…
Still crazy after all these years.