I’ve been asked a lot about my age as an author. Getting published for the first time at 15 can do that. It’s a question the media, and the general public, like to ask. What fascinates them, I think, is that I’m a fiction writer who’s written a few books that aren’t half-bad. But deeper than that, I think they realize how difficult it is to write a book in the first place. Chances are that they’ve probably attempted to write a draft, to get an agent and to find that publisher who drools over the manuscript, but they never seemed to pursue the work to publication. So, they see that my passion is for writing, and they take a look at my age. Shock. Then more questions. I like them, though. It helps to let people know that I’m more than just a name on a book cover. For me, my age has been a blessing, allowing me to connect with people who might have otherwise refused to look at my work due to preconceived notions of my being a pompous yuppie or some old guy too removed from current trends to “get it right” with today’s youth.
But why is my getting published a big deal? The truth is that it isn’t. It’s merely something people like to gravitate to. If I were to guess, I’d say people gravitate to aspirations, probably more than they gravitate to other figures, almost like they fall in love with the idea of something. Much like I am fascinated by story concepts, the reading and interviewing public seem fascinated with the ability to pen a good story, even more fascinated by one’s ability to do it at a young age. Why? Because most of society’s youth are getting stoned, pregnant or still trying to find themselves in college. Am I saying I am not one of these people? Of course not. In fact, my child’s due any minute now by my crack-addicted girlfriend. The world needs to hear stories of people actually accomplishing things, of people doing what makes them happy, fulfilling dreams they themselves have always had. This is where the hearts of others lie. We live in the dreams of others when we can’t call these dreams our own. Age becomes a number we judge our accomplishments by, a number that often dooms us to depression and discontentment. What little things haven’t we accomplished? As human beings, our desire to strive for something is great, much like our affinity for failure. For the writer, this is an opportunity to connect with such a networked world, a world that doesn’t even recognize its own reflection half the time, and in doing so, struggle to make an mark.
Although the goals of many is to make it, whatever that means, countless people seem to fall through the cracks. Who gives them a voice? Who lights a path for them? I believe writers do, in our struggle to create names not only for ourselves but for the nameless and for the faceless sea of souls trapped by society, empty hopes and dreams unfulfilled. This is part of the reason people gravitate to movie stars and the idea of celebrity, because we like to live in another world apart from our own. Readers and writers are perhaps the most guilty, even if this compulsion is not necessarily a bad thing. We try to make sense of our own wars and our own fears and failures by peeking into the lives of others: our fictional worlds. In a lot of ways, this is a redemptive voyeurism.
So my journey to becoming a writer begins with this desire to enter another world, and to allow others to do the same through me. It began when I was a young kid, a punk with ideas of grandeur and a fictional life I desired to call my own. I started to write a book. It didn’t matter that I was only in the sixth grade. It didn’t matter that I had never before published anything. It didn’t matter that I might fall flat on my face. I was young, ambitious and naïve. But aren’t we all, during one stage of our lives or another? I think somewhere along the road we lose sight of that; we get so caught up in our busy, ordinary lives that we forget what it’s like to be those characters we sketched out in our minds, the fearless ones, the heroes.
When people ask me about my age, I tell them that it’s a blessing I started to write. It’s a blessing that I found this passion so early in life. One, because it allows me to connect with readers while I’m young and hopefully hold onto them well into my twilight years; and two, I can unload what’s on my mind to anyone willing to read it. People find safety in a story, they let their guards down, if only for a moment, and that’s when they remember what it’s like to be that child, to be that dreamer. There’s a connection which transcends ideas, a connection beyond words on a page. I write because I have to, and my age is just something that seems to get my foot in the door with some people. Maybe it’s time to get in touch with the dreamer again. You never know what might happen.