When did you know you wanted to be a writer? Joe Konrath poses that question on his blog today. I’ve known almost all my life what I wanted to be. Not too long ago, my Mom found a paper I wrote in fourth grade where I said I loved writing stories and that I wanted to be a writer. I posted one of those early stories here on my blog…along with one of my daughter’s written at the same age.
When I was ten or eleven, I was already pecking novels out on my Mom’s old typewriters. The first one was a futuristic tale about a cop born in an underwater sperm bank. I don’t know why the bank was underwater, or how deposits were made, but I thought it was very cool. I followed that up with a series of books about gentleman thief Brian Lockwood, aka "The Perfect Sinner,’ a thinly disguised rip-off of Simon Templar, aka "The Saint." I sold these stories for a dime to my friends and even managed to make a dollar or two. In fact, I think my royalties per book were better then than they are now.
I continued writing novels all through my teenage years. Some of my other unpublished masterpieces featured hapless detective named Kevin Dangler. I remember my Uncle Burl being quite amused by that one. He even wrote a story about Kevin Dangler one summer when we were fishing at Loon Lake. Only Dangler wasn’t a detective in his tale. He was the lead singer of a rock group called Kevin Dangler & The Scrotums. Being a packrat, I still have most of those novels today in boxes in my garage (some were destroyed in flooding a few years back).
By the time I was 17, I was writing articles for The Contra Costa Times and other Bay Area newspapers and applying to colleges. I didn’t get a book published, but my detective stories got me into UCLA’s School of Communications. My grades weren’t wonderful, so I knew I had to kick ass on my application essay. I wrote it first person as a hard-boiled detective story in Kevin Dangler’s voice. The committee, at first, had doubts that I actually wrote it myself — until they reviewed articles I’d written for the Times, including one that used the same device as my essay.
I sold my first non-fiction book, UNSOLD TELEVISION PILOTS, while I was a freshman in college and my first novel, .357 VIGILANTE, shortly thereafter (thanks to Lew Perdue). And so here I am, at 43, doing exactly what I was doing when I was seven or eight. I haven’t really changed. It’s cool…and kind of weird, too.