When I came up with my first short story, in the summer between third and fourth grades, it was not very good. The premise, that a hi-tech gizmo painted bear fur green and had as its side effect that it rendered the bears nearly human in their behavior, was silly. Its execution, heavily influenced by the fiction I was reading at the time, was quite poor.
But I got hooked.
In fifth grade, I annoyed teachers and classmates with an attempt to start my own school newsletter.
By middle school, in full sci-fi fan-boy mode, my next homage was to the Star Trek franchise with an impressive list of stories that I kept writing – and rebooting – well into high school. My push to write, regardless of whether I had any talent, helped get me noticed in the seventh grade by the Disney Dreamer/Doer award. I also wrote my first editorial, a admonishment against watching television in class, when I was just 13 years old.
In high school, I was on the yearbook staff for two years and editor of the literary magazine for two years. I kept doing the editorial thing and for about a year had a guest column in a local weekly paper. I also discovered the Internet and starting using it to post my opinions and share it with other people who shared my interest.
I did the lit mag thing in college for one year, but my political bug dominated over my writing for my brief three years in undergrad.
It wasn’t until the summer after my first year of grad school, inspired by meta-fiction like the Scream franchise, that I sat down to write what ultimately became the first chapter of the Mike Adams series. I knew the nuts and bolts of Student Government politics was not interesting outside the college bubble, but the drama of what the University of Florida goes through was unique enough to merit exploration. So, in an often-thinly-veiled satire, Reunion at University Avenue was born – a story about a satire drawing angry protests from the subjects of its ire.
By the time I was finishing that novel, I was planning its two sequels. I originally had planned the third novel to be a thriller, like the Scream movies, where a murderer was running a meta commentary on his alma mater. I knew I wanted Adams to be a Senator during that story. So I quickly drew up plans for a campaign satire, The Proxy Senator, where a guilt-ridden Adams gets dragged into a campaign as the public face for other people’s motivations.
As I finished writing the second book, a fantastic change of the guards happened at my alma mater and I wanted to revisit the premise that a SG insider story could work. So I halted my plans for the third Adams book in favor of a prequel. Yet, I should have listened. Aside from a chapter, some scene ideas, and character sketches, I could never lift The Legacy off the ground. So I began looking for ways to salvage as much of it as I could, and eventually made significant revisions to both the second and third Adams books by introducing the young character of Jeff Simon.
In 2009, I finally finished Confirmation, the third Adams novel. A political thriller about a Supreme Court vacancy, the story begins when his hometown is ravaged by tornadoes. In the aftermath, the secret society he has loathed for decades does the unthinkable: it reaches out to the Senator for help. As other events unfold, he learns more than he ever thought possible about his alma mater.
Shortly after finishing that novel and other projects, I decided to try my hand at screenwriting. The first effort, The Making of an Idealist was a retooling of Confirmation with flashbacks to his college days, much in the vein of the failed television show Jack and Bobby. Eventually, this inspired the idea that Mike’s story was not finished – I never quite explained how he developed his strong moral clarity and contempt for The Circle. Yet, I also wanted to avoid the endurance test of another novel and instead try to write short stories. That is how I wrote The Stepford Student and The Young Mike Adams. The latter, a collection of 13 short stories, did some minor retconning by introducing several new characters to the franchise, including his best friend David Beider and love interest Yasmine Golshiri. We come to understand that a tragedy helped him gain that sense of clarity of moral purpose.
Mike’s story may be finished now, but that doesn’t mean we’ve seen the last of him or his friends. In the meantime, I’ve been working on other things, including a self-help book on leadership and a collection of my opinion and commentary.
“Ken is Speaking” is right. I always have something to say, and writing it down helps me to remember it. Will you join me in the conversation?