The story is told of the comedian Jerry Lewis teaching a class at UCLA, in (no surprise) comedy. The class was invitation only, and the only way to be invited was to answer a simple question: why do you want to be a comedian? The only answer accepted was ‘Because I have to’.
Substitute writing in the place of comedy and I’d be on the list. I’ve been writing since I was a kid, encouraged by my grandmother Ruby, who owned a bookstore during the depression and was one of Chicago’s first woman reporters for a newspaper (not one of the big papers though). During the 1980’s I was writing a lot of short stories and some of them actually got published (I’m sure all the magazines I’d submitted to have since gone belly-up), but I never considered writing novels until the last 10 years or so. However, the market has changed quite a lot. During the 1980’s you could get short stories published, getting the editor’s notice, and in time they would start nudging you towards writing that first novel, as a couple did right before I abandoned writing for a time (my mundane life was becoming too complex to allow the serious time writing a novel and seeing it published would entail).
But the muse woke back up on a trip to Ireland. I began writing novels and at first tried the old way of traditional publishing. But instead of being 25 I was now 45, and the agents I sent my material to were looking for younger folks they could mold the way they wanted, so the publishing houses could get the books they wanted. Problem is, I have a strong style of my own, and while I always listen to critical advice from my readers, I won’t change my story just because someone doesn’t think it will sell. I write the type of fiction I like to read, which is usually fast paced but not dumbed down (I like the complexities of politics and culture mixed in with the action), and thus I am putting my books out there myself (with a lot of help from some very talented local people). It’s hard, and a lot of the time a little voice inside reminds me how much easier life would be if a major publishing house picked me up and did all the heavy lifting, letting me do just the two things I enjoy about the process: writing and selling what I’ve written to readers.
But like the pirates I’m writing about now, in the end I want the freedom to sail off into evening’s gold streaked sky in the direction I choose, taking a crew of like minded mates with me on our travels. So if you like the direction I’m heading (and I’ll send you a long sample of any one of the three books on the market you desire: ‘Shadow Waits, ‘Last King of the Maya’, or ‘Dragon Pirate’, so you know for sure) climb aboard! Because I’m not writing to make tons of money or any other reason but one…
Because I have to.