Wednesday, September 09, 2020

I Wanted To Be A Cartoonist


I enjoyed reading the recent posts by Thomas and Rick about how they came to be writers. So I thought I’d talk about my own writing journey.

As a kid, I never once thought about writing as a career. Sure, I enjoyed the creative writing assignments in grade school and junior high. I even worked on the school newspaper. But that was only a fun thing to do, not a potential career choice.

No, the first thing I remember wanting to be was a cartoonist. I spent many happy hours in grade school drawing the Peanuts gang, copying what I saw every day on the comics page of the newspaper, dreaming about creating my own strip one day. This is the only drawing I kept from that period.

Still, the few stories I wrote must have been important to me since I saved them, stashing them away in a box of memorabilia. When I found them a few years back among the report cards, autograph books and miscellany I’d collected, I discovered I gravitated toward crime stories even then. I remember reading a lot of mysteries, but hadn’t realized I liked to write them as well.

The older of the two stories I found, “Sleepy Toes and Fido,” featured a donkey (Sleepy Toes), a hippie dog (Fido) and a jewelry theft. By the end of the (very) short story, the jewelry had been returned and all was well. The second story, “Murder in Catville,” involved cats, a murder, a ghost, a séance and a secret panel in the wall. At the end, the murderer is caught and peace restored to Catville. Both of these stories end well, so I can see at a young age I was more inclined toward cozies than noir. That’s still true today.

At the time I wrote “Murder in Catville,” my interests had turned to more academic subjects like math and history. I’d pretty much given up on the idea of being a cartoonist. When I entered college, I was considering math as a major, but hadn’t fully committed to it. Then, on the campus of the University of Southern California, I discovered Computer Science and fell in love with programming. The major was fairly new at the time and was pretty darned exciting. After graduation, I spent many fulfilling years in software development.

Fast forward twenty years. I woke up one morning with the image of a young woman finding the body of her painting teacher in her garden. That image stuck with me for days. I was coming to the end of a programming contract and looking for a new challenge so I decided to dive in and give writing a cozy mystery a try. Many years and lots of trial and error later, that idea became my first published book, FATAL BRUSHSTROKE, the first book in the Aurora Anderson Mystery series.

 I’m glad I started writing when I did. I don’t think an earlier me could have written books or short stories. Even though it can be frustrating at times, I’m proud to call myself a writer. Just goes to show you that you never know where life will take you.

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