“How did you become a writer?” When we tell people what we do, their reaction is always the same. Eyes widen, smiles cross their faces, and a look of intrigue and interest passes over them. They ask that question, typically followed by “What do you write?” and “How did you get into that?”
Answers to those then usually lead to the inappropriate questions of income, but I believe the meaning behind them is sincere. People that are not within the arts have a hard time wrapping their mind around others being creative for a living.
So here is our story. It is very condensed for blog purposes, but I hope it inspires those seeking to write. If not, we hope it is at least entertaining!
I believe everyone that ends up being a writer already knew they would from childhood. This was true for Dorian and I both, though the details were different.
I have been crafting stories ever since I could pick up a pencil. Even before I was old enough to know how to spell and write sentences, I told my stories through a series of pictures Crayon-colored across ripped-out notebook pages. It is little wonder I ended up loving drawing so much!
Once I learned how to write, that was my hobby. My love. My passion. I wrote everything. I wrote Star Wars fanfics even before I knew what a fanfiction was. I wrote stories inspired by characters from my set of Yu-Gi-Oh! cards. My original story was selected to be put up in my elementary school. If my adoptive parents hadn’t kept such a tight leash on me, I probably would have been involved in community writing programs and field trips. Such was my love for it.
By my preteen years I was writing 200+ page novels by hand. I had written six of them by the time I was 18. And one ghost-story children’s book, but I quickly found I didn’t like writing children’s stories. My reading was advanced, and so my writing reflected what I read.
For Dorian, he started out differently. His love of the craft came not from putting words on paper, but from the art of storytelling. He dabbled in creating short films with his friends as an adolescent. He admired the early pioneers in digital journalism, especially for video games, comics, and other fantasy topics.
The largest project he undertook in his adolescence was writing a comic book series called “Produce Guy”, inspired by his local job at a grocery store. It involved a produce worker getting superpowers and battling villains in a light-hearted and witty storyline. Alas, it never got past the first draft as he had no artist friends.
For me, experiences with college and “advice” from my adoptive parents made me believe pursuing a career as a writer wasn’t the right path. I need to go into the corporate world! I got my degree in psychology, which I still believe today helps me write characters.
During college I spent my free time writing fanfictions for The Legend of Zelda, Xiaolin Showdown, Sonic the Hedgehog and the like. I had a lot of success and won many community awards, including “Fanfic of the Year”, “Best Adventure”, and “Best Romance.”
I went into Human Resources, specifically recruitment because I like to help people. I thought I would be helping people get a job and enjoy their work life. But my personality did not mesh well with corporations, and I was appalled by the systemic racism I found within which even went as far as a boss telling me to bring him “less brown people”.
Wanting to get away from that culture, I moved into career advisement for a college. I enjoyed a more practical approach to helping graduates. I helped them write resumes and even published one career-oriented newspaper that then got cancelled by executive leadership because they didn’t want to get graduates’ “hopes up” that they could land a certain career. Covering their asses, as it were.
Suffice to say, I was burned out and depressed by the lack of creativity within these spaces, and felt quite hopeless about my future.
I met Dorian just as I was graduating college. Unlike me, he was more closely following a career as a writer. He’d been discouraged from pursuing the type of writing he wanted by family, saying it wouldn’t “lead anywhere”. So instead, he worked across a few local news stations in his early career. He moved from entry-level cameraman job to writing stories for the anchors as well as for website publication. He wrote commercials, breaking news, and produced the newscast as a whole.
On the side, he wrote and hosted a podcast for Einfo Games for free as a way to indulge his creative side. The side that enjoyed fantasy stories and adventure. Like me, he didn’t enjoy his jobs and wanted a better fit for himself. He’d gone to college for journalism, even though it wasn’t the university he’d desired or the specific degree program to get him where he wanted to go. Like me, he’d followed the advice of family and it wasn’t turning out how he’d hoped.
The Turning Point
I would say 2018 was the biggest turning point for us. Three years after we got married and bought a house, we were both laid off from our jobs. My college closed down, and his news station did staffing cuts. We were at home for six months, and for the first time we started to explore other options.
Maybe we didn’t need to live in this state? Maybe we could follow our original dreams? Maybe we could turn both of our passions of writing into something else?
A series of events happened from 2018-2020 that really kick-started this. I took a remote job writing resumes for clients on a freelance basis. This allowed me flexibility with my schedule and the ability to pursue other passions.
Dorian wrote freelance across a variety of platforms remotely, this time focusing on nerdy news. He wrote for free for a website called The Nerd Stash for a couple of years, getting me on the staff, as well. We also both wrote for Car Bibles and The Drive, this time for pay. He was published across other platforms on a freelance basis, which was very hard work to get pitches accepted for a writer that had no big names behind him.
Still, at least we were enjoying ourselves for once. We were both at home together, writing about things we actually liked. Minus the resumes for me, of course, but it paid well. And there was Thread of Souls.
The Beginning of Thread of Souls
We started playing D&D 5e in September of 2015, two months before we got married. Dorian discovered the game after watching Critical Role. I was more hesitant, not really understanding what it was. I only agreed to join because only two of Dorian’s friends agreed to show up for the first game, despite him helping a large group learn the rules and make characters. After that, I was hooked.
I loved the game so much I started drawing for the first time since starting my corporate career. As the game progressed, I thought about writing again. I wanted to turn this story we were telling into a book series. When I was around 19 years old I had tried to get my novels published. But I was young, inexperienced, unpolished, and didn’t have a great deal of support to help me learn what I needed to do. Because these books were based off a game that was so close to our hearts, I didn’t want to go down that path again. I didn’t want them changed by a publisher for what was “marketable” or “trendy”. I wanted to tell our story the same way it had touched my heart.
In 2019 we wrote and published Phantom Five independently. And in 2020 we did the same with Ash & Thunder. This initially was just for fun. Just because we loved it. When other people began to read it, and give it good reviews, we realized we had something special. Something that other people might enjoy and be moved by.
Our Lives Now
Both of our careers have become more stable after the drastic shift we took to become writers. We write for video games and still do some freelance work. But our focus is on Thread of Souls. We publish one book a year and intend to increase that number as the years go on with supplemental stories. We also started publishing for Dungeon Master’s Guild. Thread of Souls may have started as D&D 5e, but it did not take long for us to change it to a fully homebrewed game with our own rules, pantheon, monster stats, and classes. We decided to share that creativity on another platform.
That has led to a social media presence, and Dorian getting back into video production for YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok. It has led to our weekly blog writing and getting to express ourselves creatively through other means. We also became digital nomads, moving from one city to another, and sometimes traveling in our campervan.
That does not mean everything is easy. After all, for writers the future is often a question mark. You can only hope the jobs don’t stop, and that people keep buying your work. But after layoffs from the corporate world, that wasn’t exactly stable, either. For us, the freedom and sense of personal achievement we feel is far worth the risk.
If you are looking to become a writer, my advice is this. Don’t let people who have never followed this path tell you what you should or should not do. They don’t know. If you can find a mentor, or be involved in a group, all the better. I wish we’d had that. You don’t need to worry about a degree or work history. One of our most fulfilling creative roles hired us just because of the content on our website and never asked to see a resume. Doing something even though it’s risky is far better than doing something “stable” that drains you. And finally, be loyal to your own dream above anyone else’s dream.