I love writing about all topics except myself.
People who meet me are surprised to learn I'm an extreme introvert masquerading as an extrovert who is more comfortable reading a book at home than going to a party in front of dozens or hundreds of people. I love one-on-one chats, not grand speeches.
So when I was told I needed to "open up" and create an "about the author" section of my website, you understand such a topic is a bit out of my comfort zone.
Like most writers, I've been creative writing since grade school. My second-grade teacher gave us the assignment to write anything we wanted, so I readily took the opportunity to write a fantasy story about a young boy who found a tiny monster living in his neighborhood. When adults told me it was good and creative, I was hooked. I continued creating worlds and adventures through short stories and even role-playing games.
I never really wanted to be anything else other than a writer, but the world has a way of forcing us to put our dreams on the backburner. I've had jobs in construction, shipping and receiving, and retail. When I finished earning two degrees, I worked in graphic design, public relations, journalism and other forms of media as well as teaching. All the while, I kept piling up thousands of words in unpublished manuscripts by writing whenever I could--mostly from 4 to 6 a.m. when the rest of the world slept. I submitted manuscripts and received a few close calls, but mostly added to my collection of rejection slips. I always thought there'd be more time.
And then a couple of things changed (cue epic music here).
I had been a mentor in a program like Big Brothers, Big Sisters called Mentor Me North Georgia. Soon after we were matched in 2010, I made a promise to my little brother who was 11 at the time when I noticed he wasn't reading as I did at his age (all he loved at the time was video games). I asked him if I wrote a book for him, would he read it? He said he would, so I promised him I'd write him a novel and went home daydreaming about the possibilities...
At roughly the same time, my best friend from childhood lost his father. The death took us all by complete surprise. As anyone who has been through something like this knows, you feel helpless. I felt there was nothing I could do for my friend. I took it upon myself to find a way to help him cope with the loss the best I could. We had created a role-playing game as kids and called it "Star Runners." Again, I started daydreaming about the possibilities...
These two events, mentoring and the passing of my best friend's father, led to writing the first book in the Star Runners Universe. As I had in the past, I woke up every day at 4 a.m. for months. Something was different this time, however. I felt propelled, driven. I wanted the book to be fun and lighthearted for two people who mean a great deal to me. They were my only audience. I kept the book a secret and piled up the words. The universe grew, adding more ideas and worlds I could save for a future book to entertain my friend and little brother.
I finished the first draft, edited it, and handed it to my wife. I was terrified, worried she would think I was crazy for wasting all this time on a young adult book. Surprisingly, she loved it (of course, I realized she probably wouldn't have the heart to tell me otherwise).
So I gave it to my best friend, told him I wrote it for him when I didn't know how else to help him cope with the passing of his father. He liked the book, too, said it helped him on a long flight. Most importantly, he said it made him smile.
Both my wife and friend said it should be published. At first, I said this was just for a couple of people. They insisted, so I sent the manuscript off.
I submitted the book to a few traditional publishers in 2014, but all passed. I continued writing, starting on books two and three of the universe. Meanwhile, I just kept submitting the first manuscript, convinced I would eventually get a bite.
In the summer of 2014, I realized my little brother was getting older. I worried he would think I had lied to him or hadn't fulfilled my promise. I panicked. How would I publish this book?
And then my beautiful dog of nearly 14 years passed away in September 2014. We were devastated. I felt lost and genuinely impacted by how fragile life is. I suddenly felt time--and the chance to make good on my promise--was passing.
The same week my dog passed away I discovered "The Creative Penn" podcast by Joanna Penn. She changed my life and gave me a new direction, challenging me to publish the book myself and not wait the agonizing months for an answer from traditional publishers.
I went for it. Following every morsel of advice from Joanna, I readied the book for a Christmas release in 2014 and showed it to my little brother. He was so happy. I can still remember the expression on his face when he saw the cover for the first time. I felt like I had proven to him there are people in the world who keep their promises.
I thought that was the end of the story.
And then the book sold.
It sold more copies than I ever thought possible. In early 2015, "Star Runners" had climbed into the top 300 of books on Amazon. It was a dream come true (it still feels unreal).
Well, there you have it. It's been a rollercoaster ride since the first book came out, but it has been one of the most significant experiences of my life. I will keep writing and keep telling stories to make you smile or perhaps escape the real world for a little while.
If I can ever answer any questions for you or you'd just like to chat about books in general, please drop me a line or follow me on social media. For now, I'll see you out in the stars.
And, of course, stay frosty!
- L.E. Thomas