I've wanted to be a writer since I was four years old. I remember very vividly taking my favorite children's book at that age, taking a piece of paper, and tracing over the letters. I thought that made me a writer. Little did I know, huh? I started writing short stories in second grade and storing them in my desk so they'd never be found. I was supposed to be paying attention to the teacher, but I know how to add and subtract things, so I think I ended up all right. 2+2 is 7, right?
By the time I was ten, when other kids were turning in the bare minimum for their writing assignments, I was creating worlds and turning in pages upon pages to my teachers. They were bad pages, to be clear. I was ten and probably awful, but my teachers encouraged me, and I liked writing, so I kept doing it.
When I was 14, I wrote what would later be termed fanfiction, but I didn’t know that was a thing yet. Buffy the Vampire Slayer came on when I was several weeks shy of my 13th birthday, and I was immediately obsessed. I sat in class at school with my wide-ruled loose-leaf paper, and instead of taking notes, I hand-wrote a script for an episode. I called it Sisterly Love. Yes, it had a title. It also introduced Buffy’s sister. Yeah... about 3 seasons before Dawn arrived (and my sister was better). I wrote another one after that where there was another slayer (before Kendra and Faith were a thing), and I remember being devastated when Buffy episodes aired where suddenly, there was another slayer, and Buffy got a sister, because “those were my ideas.”
In high school, I remember thinking that maybe that meant something. Maybe if I had some of the same ideas as professional writers, that meant I could be one, too. My freshman year of high school, I was supposed to write a 5-page short story. It was an 80-page novella when I turned it in… My teacher liked it, gave a copy to the principal, who then wrote my parents a note. It was a whole thing, and I was embarrassed. It wasn’t my best work; I had to fit the parameters of the assignment. My parents made copies – actual physical copies of this story – and gave it to my aunts and uncles as a Christmas gift. (Talk about a parental brag flex.) I didn’t like that. I didn’t know they’d done it. I wasn’t prepared for the comments I got at the family Christmas party. They were all good, but nothing I was ready to hear. Sidenote: my parents and that high school principal still exchange Christmas cards each year.
Anyway… I thought I wanted to be a writer, so I quit all my sports and decided to focus on school and writing. I took creative writing classes in high school and went to college as an English and Film major because initially, I wanted to write movies or TV shows. I kept writing. In my creative writing courses, I was getting As, and people told me they loved my stuff. During my sophomore year, I decided to hand-write my own autobiography but make up the ending because I was only 19 and I wanted to make the book end with my dream coming true. I later typed it up.
I graduated and got a job as a corporate trainer, taking me from Indiana to Boston, and at that time, I read a book by Augusten Burroughs. Well, I read several of his books. One of them was a collection of non-fiction short stories, and I got the idea to turn my own life into shorts. So, I started collecting things that had happened in my life, and I turned them into short stories. Then, I got an idea for a TV show. I hand-wrote that, too. Then, I got Final Draft and started typing it up and revising it. I moved to LA during this time and got the idea for a novel. I started writing it. I finished another one; I never finished the other one. One of my uncles knew a novelist and screenwriter and told me to connect with him to get feedback on my TV show, so I sent him the first few of the 12 episodes I’d written. His feedback was that I should work on a treatment, but the way it came across to me was that he wasn’t all that interested. I wrote it off and thought that it was bad. Later, my uncle would tell me that the screenwriter liked it and thought I had something, so maybe I shouldn’t have just assumed and actually asked the guy. I still have those 12 episodes fully written and an outline for season 2 around here someplace. Maybe I’ll dust them off one day.
Later, I turned to fanfiction to express what I needed to say and was shocked at the positive feedback I received. I still wasn't sure I had anything worth saying. I wrote several fanfiction stories before I took a novel I had finished not that long ago and turned it into fanfiction because I was scared to put out original characters. When people responded well to that, I kept writing fanfiction. It’s all still out there, and I cringe at the typos and grammar issues, but I don’t have the heart to take it down because people really love them. Not a week goes by, a decade after posting some of them, that I don’t get a follow or favorite, comment or review. Crazy, huh?
While I was writing fanfiction, I was working my day job but I’d moved up in the ranks and was a training manager or senior manager or something really corporate-sounding. I met my wife through my fanfiction stories. She was in a whole other country and read stuff I’d written and messaged me. When we got engaged, she moved to the US and needed a job. Seriously, if you like my writing, you need to thank my wife: she’s the only reason it’s out there to read. She asked if I wanted to publish. By this time, I’d written about 5-6 novels, and she’d read them all. She was the only one who had then. We decided I would try to send a few manuscripts to publishers first, and I submitted a couple of novels I had written to 2 LesFic publishers. I didn't hear back from one, and the other one told me my novel needed some work, but that they'd re-read it. I hired an editor, reviewed it, and was proud of it. I re-submitted it, and they read it again but still turned me down. They were nice about it and gave me feedback, which isn’t what a lot of publishers do these days, but I was at a crossroads because I finally believed that what I was saying was worth publication, but the publishers were telling me it wasn't. After all those years of doubts – not wanting anyone to see what I was writing – I was finally ready to share, and no one wanted me to.
So, my wife started researching self-publishing, and we agreed that if the publishers said no, I’d let her self-publish my stuff. One of the best decisions I’ve ever made. (Marrying her is up there, too). In 2017, I published my first novel, and soon after, my second. The books did well and I continued. Soon, I was seeing reviews come in; some good and some bad. I kept writing. My wife kept publishing. It became and still is her full-time job. (Well, I’m a full-time job as a wife, so she really has two full-time jobs).
Fresh Start came out on 11/15/17, and All the Love Songs came out on 11/17/17, because I’d already written those and the rest of The Chicago Series, too. That first sale (that wasn’t my mom) was another of those defining life moments – someone had bought my book. Then, people were reading and reviewing, and we kept publishing. I don’t think either of us expected we’d still be publishing. Honestly, I thought I’d run out of ideas. (Looks at the dry-erase board on the wall and sees 30 ideas I’ve yet to write.) And I didn’t think we’d make enough money that it would be worth it; my wife was still creating a LinkedIn profile and getting her resume up to date back then.
Years later, I've released more than 30 books, and way more than several of those books became bestsellers in my Amazon category. I still remember coming home from a work trip the day Just Tell Her was released. I was in the Uber a few blocks from home, and my wife messaged me that it was #1. I opened Amazon on my phone and saw that bestseller badge. I took a screenshot because I knew I’d need to look at it repeatedly to believe it. I’m still that person. I take screenshots every time it happens because I still can’t believe it when it does.
It’s still all insane to me that a little girl from a small town in Indiana could start by tracing letters in Frog and Toad Are Friends at four years old, and could end up publishing books and having people around the world read them, but here we are. And I have the screenshots to prove it.