Dean Murray talks about how he became an author.
I discovered a love of reading in the second grade and never really looked back. Over the years, I devoured everything from mysteries to science fiction, fantasy, and westerns. Unsurprisingly enough, during all of that I had the idea in the back of my mind that it would be neat someday if I could write something as entertaining as the books I was enjoying so much.
I made a couple of half-hearted attempts in grade school—all of which were quite terrible—and more or less gave up on the idea until I stumbled onto some shockingly good fanfiction in college in which the author challenged his readers to write stories of their own.
I accepted his challenge and proceeded to write two short novels which garnered positive responses from the people who read them, and by the time I graduated with my accounting degree I had decided that I would work in the field of accounting for just long enough to write something I could publish.
An old dream had been revived, but the next two years didn't work out quite the way I'd envisioned. My drive to exceed expectations at work—combined with the need to study for the CPA exams—resulted in a lot less free time in the evenings than I'd hoped, and I made very little progress on the book that I started during that period. All of that changed when I was fired (the first and only time that's ever happened to me) from my second accounting job, and the experience left a bad enough taste in my mouth that I never wanted to go back to an accounting job.
When I left behind my decade-long career in accounting back in August of 2012 to write full-time, and people asked me why I was making such a drastic change, I often told them that I've been an avid reader ('story addict') since the second grade, and this was just something I'd always wanted to do.
It wasn't a lie—I really do love stories (in fact I get myself in trouble on a regular basis by binge-watching TV shows because I'm so desperate to find out what happens next in a new series I've just discovered), but it also wasn't the full truth, but that's probably a story best left for another time.
Instead, I'd like to focus on exceeding expectations. I spent nearly ten years as an accountant and six years before that in school studying, and at every step of the way I tried to exceed the expectations of first my professors and then my managers. It usually wasn't easy, and I didn't always succeed, but there was just something inside of me that cringed at the thought of merely coasting along, and that hasn't changed now that I make my living writing stories full-time.
Gifted then with a surplus of time, and a renewed determination to make it as a writer, I wrote Frozen Prospects and The Greater Darkness (along with most of the sequel to Frozen Prospects, a book that would be titled Thawed Fortunes) in a white-hot burst of creativity that lasted for three or four months. I racked up three or four thousand words a day, six days a week, and then after what I can see in hindsight was an insufficient editing effort, I started submitting my manuscripts to agents.
That process was surprisingly difficult. It wasn't just the rejection—which I'm sure you've all experienced in some way or another—it was the fact that so often I never heard anything at all back from the people I was submitting to.
To make a long story short, I eventually realized that writing wasn't going to pay my bills soon enough and accepted another accounting job. Somewhere along the way I realized that I no longer really believed I was ever going to get published. That was a pretty soul-crushing realization given just how unhappy I was at that third job, but fate intervened shortly after that when a co-worker said that her friend wouldn't shut up about some 'Twilight' book.
I still loved to read, and upon finding myself in the bookstore without anything else that was catching my eye, I hunted down Twilight and purchased it—all without any idea of what I was getting myself into. I devoured both Twilight and New Moon in less than twenty-four hours and then went online to find out when the next book would be out.
More than just the story of a normal girl thrust into a dangerous world that lurked just beneath the surface of the one that everyday people see, the story of how Stephenie Meyer published Twilight sparked my imagination. The idea of someone having a dream, writing it down, and then going on to expand on that initial scene until she had a completed manuscript which sold for what was being reported at the time as the first million-dollar advance in the field of young adult fiction rekindled my hope that someday I could make a living entertaining people.
My day job hadn't gotten any less difficult, but even before Eclipse came out, I sat down to write my next novel, the first in a new series that I knew almost from the start needed to be set in the same world as The Greater Darkness.
I tried to capture some of the same elements that had sucked me in so completely with Twilight. I wanted to take a normal girl—Adri—and thrust her into a world nobody else knew about, one where she had a chance at finding true love, but one that was much more obviously dangerous than Bella Swan's world. I added in an element of uncertainty regarding who Adri could trust, pushed her into the middle of a war that had been going on for nearly half a decade, and then created a new mythos for an old supernatural group, complete with legends of their own and a big chunk of things that wouldn't become important until much later in the series and mixed it all together until I had Broken.
Broken is a lot of things, but more than anything else—for me at least—it's the book that got me started writing again after I'd given up. Without Broken, I'm fairly sure that I would have given up on writing altogether and I never would have met so many amazing readers who love Adri, the Sanctuary Pack, and all of the rest of my characters just as much as I do.
I'm incredibly grateful that Twilight came into my life when it did, and that I stumbled onto the story of how it came about, because it's one of the key reasons that I am where I am today. It really did change the course of my life.
Looking at the way small events can sometimes have a big impact on someone's future is actually one of the things I love most about writing.