Old School New Kid
Yes, that’s what my teenage Millennial son would call me in this age of social media, iPhones and Internet branding. How did I, that 21-year-old version of myself, survive without the bells and whistles of 21st century technology? But hey, I’m a Baby Boomer and I own it.
I am always fascinated and intrigued when other authors share their stories; every path to becoming a novelist is different. For me, it started early on, with countless trips to the library as soon as I could get a library card. Vivid imagination spurred short stories about animals and their families, where I actually wrote a series of short stories about a family of mischievous seals (go figure).
As an African American/Native American/LGBT man, those stories changed over the years, but my passion for writing didn’t. How many people have written short stories based on dreams they had–better yet, remembered? I have. Still, life went lifing along, and in the timeless words of Gwen Guthrie, “Ain’t nothin’ goin’ on but the rent.”
I am so grateful for that psych degree I received, for it was a major boost on my road to writing my first novel. I made up psychological profiles of characters for fun, and a pastor friend of mine read them and said, “Why don’t you put them all together in a book?” Seed planted!
Now, the million-dollar question: what to write about? One never knows where inspiration comes from, and mine sprang from a need. Being a man of color in the 1970s and 1980s, I was ever on the search for fiction novels featuring characters who looked like me and came up short. I was dying to read novels of successful African American men as entrepreneurs in areas other than sports and entertainment. I knew such men existed in real life, like John H. Johnson, A.G. Gaston and H.G. Parks, Jr. However, it wasn’t reflected in fiction. And as for characters who were also LGBT….
Faced with the choice of complaining about this challenge or writing a novel on it myself, I did what my dad would do and chose the latter. Thus, my concept for Mark My Words and the character of Allan Beckley Christopher. Thanks Dad, for being my No. 1 fan and my greatest critic. Your stamp of approval on this character as representative of your generation meant everything to me.
Trust and believe, Mark My Words was a novel 17 years in the making. Between written pages, typewritten pages and what was then a state-of-the-art laptop (oh, those days of floppy disks), it was written in 5 years. The new challenge was the next umpteen years getting it published, and everything that goes with being a new author. Fortunately, I was blessed with 1) the mantra “Never give up” and 2) a great support system.
Today, this “old school new kid” has embraced a new learning curve in marketing and social media as a self-published author. Believe in dreams and never give up.