Me circa 1977 age 10
Me circa 2012 age 44
I didn’t set out to become an author. I didn’t set out to become anything, really. Sure, I had dreams of perhaps one day doing something spectacular with my life, but I can honestly say now 35 years after the picture at the top of this blog post was taken that I truly did not set out to become an author. (Those dreams included driving around in a customized van with a teardrop windows, a chain link steering wheel and freaking amazing mural. The mere fact that one could actually sleep in a van they customized was prrrrrobably the coolest thing I’d ever seen in my ten-year-old mind. The notion that shaggin’ wagons were for sex hadn’t yet occurred to me at the time.)
A bit odd because my fifth grade teacher at College Street School in Sudbury Ontario Canada encouraged me to write seeing as how I won a creative writing competition where I believe I wrote something in the way of nearly eighty stories and the closest kid to me had about thirty. There was a big chart with stars for every story each student wrote and submitted. My stars went off the cart and onto the painted cinder block wall.
I could draw, though. I still can. I think I might have wanted to become a cartoonist with my own comic strip starring my Siamese but that didn’t go anywhere. (A good thing, too – newspapers are in big trouble these days and I asked a twenty year old if they ever read the funnies. She looked at me like I was from another planet.)
I was in the army after high school. Served my time. Got married. Had kids. Got divorced. Got remarried. I was too busy with life to remember that writing mattered which is why so much of what I wrote in my spare time was of the recycle bin variety.
Anyway this blog post is maybe a bit melancholy, I don’t know. It just seems that everywhere I turn now, there’s something reminding me that I am getting older. Children growing up are obvious reminders, but there are other ones, too. Like your best friend in the entire world that you’ve known for thirty years who has been diagnosed with something that can’t be cured and will eventually take him. Like not seeing a 1979 Honda Civic in every parking lot in the western hemisphere anymore. The ones I always spotted were blue, like this one – I just loved that color.
I look around at these little reminders of the distance I’ve traveled since that freckle-faced kid in the picture above to the bald, wrinkling, achy, cranky far too often for his own good guy holding a book he wrote about a teenage witch and her dorky best friend, and I’m literally blown away by the fact that I am forty-five years old. I’ll be forty six in four months.
This whole growing older thing? Yeah … nobody and nothing really prepares you for it.
You wake up at three in the morning (or at least I do) and you stare at the ceiling in the darkness and you remember the way the sun felt against your face on that first day when you just knew that winter was truly over – you did this just before you smashed a thin layer of ice on a large puddle with the heel of your boot. You think about how summer evenings seemed to stretch on forever or that people once upon a time wore these track suits as casual clothes and you wanted one more than anything in the world and you drove your mother insane to the point where she broke down and cried because we just didn’t have the money. Then you feel like the biggest shit in the known universe – only it’s 35 years after the fact. (Mental note: call Mom and apologize for being a rotten kid.)
You think about people you once knew whose faces are still clear as day in your mind’s eye but you can’t remember their name for the life of you. (This is basically everybody I went to high school with save for two or three people. There’s all kinds of people I went to school with friending me on Facebook and I have no bloody clue who the hell they are but according to their profile they’re James Fowler High School Class of 1985. I always accept because I think that it would probably bad for a guy who is a published author to not friend someone back.)
So naturally I’m in a hurry to write that incredible mind-blowingly epic novel that will cause readers to stand up and cheer, crap their pants, give nothing but five-star ratings and land me a killer movie deal. Okay, well maybe not that massively successful, but just something that is significant. To date, I have written books that feature magic, evil bad people, a hero who can sling magic or who can bloody well fly – the reason for this is because I secretly wish I was my protagonist. I wish that life’s journey wasn’t fraught with kinds of perils that will rob you of your memories like my best friend of thirty years. I wish we could cruise around in his 1968 Fleetwood Cadillac on a hot summer night in 1984 with the absolute certainty that nothing terrible would ever happen to either of us ever, ever, ever, ever. Because when you’re sixteen in the early 1980’s, you believe this how it is meant to be.
I’m getting older. I can’t stop it and I’m trying to become wise. My son asks me for advice all the time so I figure I must possess some wisdom. I’m putting aside puffy magic for a while as I start on a project that I think is important.
I’m a middle aged author who is very lucky to have been published. I have a book coming out in three months and I’m now writing something completely different from anything I’ve ever written.