No Escape: A Writer’s Confession
I have an INTJ-A, aka “Architect”, personality type; if you’re not familiar with what that is you can read about it here. I’ll expound on that in a bit, but the reason I opened with it was to provide my readers with an understanding of why I began writing, “retired” a couple of years ago from it, and subsequently why I am now here to announce I’m coming out of retirement.
How it Started
I have to admit my entry into the business as a professional writer came pretty easy—it also happened in somewhat queer fashion. My first two novels, Chaser and Chaser’s Return, were published in unabridged audio in 1998 and 1999 long before they ever saw paperback format, which is pretty much backward of the norm. They did well considering I was an unknown author. About the same time, I managed to get my work in front of the executive editor at Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd. They contacted me asking if I would be interested writing for Don Pendleton‘s The Executioner series as part of a writing team involved in producing books for that franchise. I jumped at the chance and wrote something on the order of thirty-five or so novels between 2000 and 2015. Two more titles would emerge under my own name in the Christian fiction markets: Soul Runner: A Novel of High Adventure (2009, self-published) and Finding Faith (2014, Köehler Books).
How it Ended
I “retired” from writing in a paradox of professional and personal circumstances. For reasons I may never understand, my work wasn’t well-received by the Christian markets and Finding Faith tanked so badly I barely earned out the whopping $250 advance they paid me. Yeah. I think the publisher actually lost money in returns. Nobody’s fault, really, this happens in the business. Then Harper-Collins bought Harlequin and announced they would stop publishing the various titles in their action-adventures series in December 2017. In May of that same year, doctors diagnosed my wife with stage 4 ovarian cancer. When that happened, I was done with it all, threw up my hands in frustration that I’d never get my “big break”, and decided that was enough turmoil so I opted to retire. Besides, I was now working for a company as a software support manager, banking good coin. I figured I’d had a decent run but it had also become nakedly obvious I’d never achieve “literary stardom” unless it would be for one of the worst career failures ever. I’d even come to referring to myself as a “hack” when it came to my writing, which apparently I said out loud around my wife and immediately regretted it. I had to basically talk her off the ceiling because she started yelling “HOW DARE YOU SAY THAT ABOUT YOURSELF”s and “YOU ARE NOT A HACK”s, and a number of other maladies containing some, well… let’s say “verbose” metaphors.
I’ve come out of retirement and I have to confess that I’m happy. It happened like this. I got an e-mail out of the blue from the very awesome lady who had been my senior editor at Harlequin the some past seven years, give or take. Harper-Collins executives had informed her they were going to extend The Executioner Series into 2018 with the publication of four more books, but only in e-book format. Going through the list apparently my name came up as a candidate to write one of them, and what did I think about that, and was I game. I hesitated for about, oh… a millisecond. Now I have to admit that on first pass my thoughts were purely mercenary. You see, we’d been saving for a down payment on a house, and the lump sum payment for the book couldn’t have come at a better time as it would get us to our goal. The truth is, that’s simply a God-given blessing. The reality of my retirement is I never wanted to stop writing. Maybe I just needed a break, maybe I needed a boost of confidence, maybe it’s just ego. But here’s where that little personality thing comes in I spoke about at the beginning of this post:
While they don’t care for the spotlight, INTJs do enjoy controlling their ideas, and will often expand into low-profile but influential roles as project managers, system engineers, marketing strategists, systems analysts, and military strategists. But really, INTJs’ vision, creativity, and competence in executing their plans make them viable in just about any career that requires them to think about what they’re doing.
Put another way, the incomparable Don Pendleton, father of the action-adventure paperback and one of my favorite authors, wrote in The Metaphysics of the Novel:
Poets may become kings and kings may become poets, but only gods may write a novel.
So we come to it. I will continue to write because I have to write! It’s now a very individual, personal thing for me and I should’ve never left it. I’m working on that book right now for Harper-Collins (to be published next year), and I’ve begun work on a couple of other projects I’d started but to which I’d thought I would never return. As soon as the first one is finished, I’m going to find an agent, and he or she will find a publisher for it. Maybe people will buy it, maybe they won’t. Maybe I’ll achieve literary stardom, maybe I write the rest of my mortal life in obscurity.
But whatever happens, I will never quit writing again or throw up my hands in exasperation and disgust that I’m not good enough. I still have plenty of stories to tell, and I’m going to tell them. It’s inevitable.