I didn’t ever set out to become a writer. For that matter, I didn’t initially set out to become a cop, either. Both just kinda happened. Well, not exactly true, you don’t accidentally apply, complete a thirty-page background packet about everything you’ve ever done, ever thought about doing, or ever been within range of doing, and wake up one day at the academy graduation with a shiny new badge on your chest and a used Glock on your hip. In all fairness, I didn’t accidentally stumble upon a 145k-word story, either. My point is just that I didn’t start out planning for it to happen.
I grew up reading and writing. Not because I had to, although my parents and grandparents certainly encouraged it. Because I wanted to. I’ve loved the written word since early grade school. In fact, the first thing I remember writing was a comic strip about a cockroach family, and I’m pretty sure every strip had at least one family member being embarrassingly caught on the toilet. Probably something I should pay a high-dollar Ph.D to hear about. Skipping ahead, I tried writing monologues, poetry, and rap in high school, but had far greater success with essays. Not cool enough for NWA, but way hip enough for the Oxford comma. Moved on to critical research papers in college, financial analysis and marketing at my first job, and, eventually, the almighty police report. Everything I voluntarily wrote, from the roach strip to essays and poetry, was cathartic. Throughout my adult life, my most effective therapy would be to run about 5 miles on dirt trails and then go home and write about it (I’ve never actually combined them before, so stay tuned for that gem).
So, here’s how the accidental path to Authorsville happened. I got hurt at work. Not bad, I wasn’t shot or stabbed or anything like that, but bad enough that I didn’t wear a uniform for five months. I suddenly had a lot of time on my hands, but no ability to work out, run, or relieve any stress. Still had writing, though. The injury happened during an especially dark period; a “recession” happens when your neighbor’s unemployed, it’s a “depression” when you’re unemployed. The economy was in the shitter, nobody was hiring, and we’d taken a huge pay cut at work. So, being hurt, no overtime, plus, for an added bonus, medical bills! Yeah, I know. I said I got hurt at work, I didn’t say they covered it.
So, a particular bank called every few hours every day that our car payment was late. They knew when I got paid, because we’d told them exactly when we could pay them, but that didn’t stop the calls. So, being hurt, a little doped up, and maybe a touch angry, I hung up on them after an especially unpleasant call, and said aloud, “Heavens to Murgatroyd! I sincerely hope those telephonic ruffians see the err of their ways before some devious scallywag sees fit to sink their battleship!” Maybe not an exact quote, but you get the idea. I imagined their building going up all Fight-Club-style, and the next thought in my head was to write a short story about it. That short story turned into a long story, and has since turned into a long novel. It in no way resembles the original text, and I’m glad for that. Whatever you write under the influence of narcotic pain killers should never see the light of day.
“Write drunk. Edit sober.”—Ernest Hemingway