When Did You Know?

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  Some of my other unpublished masterpieces featured hapless detective named Kevin Dangler.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.

6 thoughts on “When Did You Know?”

  1. Very cool. I think I’ve always wanted to be a writer as well, but I haven’t done really anything to the extent you had by the time I got to college. I’m actually in my third year and I’m just now realizing I should probably start taking more English classes to help my writing. I’ve mostly written fan fiction stuff, but people seem to enjoy it. I’ve tried writing my own short stories and they usually end up unfinished because I lose my inspiration or I get tired of it. I have really good ideas, but they end up lost between my head to my fingers as I attempt to write them.
    Perhaps one day I’ll be a famous author as well. Until then though I’ll enjoy your works and many others using them as inspiration to do my own stuff.

  2. I always kept it in the back of my mind but I wanted to write nonfiction so I knew I had to do something to write about and I did for years. Other than many letters to the editor I published nothing. But I crafted my stories as I traveled the country for my work, and for the hell of it.
    I carried the manuscript around for years before printing it as part of a belated college media class. That same book has been expanded and is still in the process of being shopped around. Three others as well. I’m Still looking for the first legitimate score as are many many more of us out here.

  3. I knew I wanted to be a writer at 8:03 on the evening of December 4, 2001. The decision involved a large tub of vaseline, an ice cream cone and a chihuahua. To this day, it’s still hazy how those three things hung together, but the old guy who ran the newsstand as well as my lawyer and my chiropractor agree that my decision was a sound one.


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