Why did I decide to become a writer? To quote Rocky Balboa, “’Cause I can’t sing or dance.” Which is true—I’m as tone deaf as a teapot and would do well to invest in some dancing lesson—but the real reason I decided to pursue one of the most solitary and frustrating professions on the planet is a little more complicated than that.
First an important distinction needs to be made. When I first decided I wanted to become a writer is very different than when I actually began writing seriously, and light years away from when I “officially” became a writer—and by officially I mean getting paid something for it.
So to begin: I decided I wanted to be a writer when I was about twelve or so. Around this time I also wanted to be an astronaut, a professional hockey player, maybe even some sort of scientist, though I can’t remember exactly.
What I do remember precisely is that Writer topped the list of these future professions. Up until this point in my very short life I had been a big fan of Choose Your Adventure and Hardy Boys type of books. Kids books. The kind of thing I would read with a flashlight under the covers at my cottage because my brother and sister, who shared the same room, would complain if I kept my night light on. I think I must have read the same books over and over each summer vacation, though I never grew tired of them.
Still, they were nothing but to pass the time. The real fascination with storytelling began when I was given my first Big Book. At the time I was in grade eight at a Catholic school in Toronto, Canada. I was in a portable classroom incongruously placed in the outfield of the asphalt baseball field (yes, it got bombarded by tennis balls every recess). It was a split class—grades seven and eight—and a grade seven gave me a Terry Brooks’ epic fantasy novel. I have no idea why. I never really knew him. Didn’t talk to him. Class snobbery—bad pun intended. Regardless, the title was The Elfstones of Shannara. It was the second in the trilogy (which to this date has expanded to something like a bazillion). According to the blurb on the cover, it had been on the New York Times Bestsellers List for sixteen consecutive weeks. Big deal. I barely knew the difference between the New York Times and The National Enquirer. But the cover art was cool, which is what sucked me in. An elf-looking guy, a pretty amber-haired girl, and some ranger huddled on a bridge, facing an off-cover looming menace (which turned out to be something called a Reaper—one badass demon with a grudge against elves).
I read the book in about two weeks. Which was lightning speed for me, considering that’s how long it usually took me to get through a Hardy Boys whodunit, typeset in baby font and maybe running one hundred pages. Elfstones, contrary, was industry standard Times ten-point and well over four hundred pages. I finished it, coincidentally, on the same day I graduated elementary school. Goodbye elementary friends. Goodbye Shannara make-believe friends. It was a doubly sad day.
Naturally I devoured numbers one and three in the trilogy. Problem was, the next one coming, The Scions of Shannara, wasn’t going to be released for another half year or so.
So I decided, screw it. I’ll write it myself.
Tomorrow: Jeremy Bates Day 2: ONE STEP AT A TIME
Jeremy Bates has spent the last ten years traveling the world, visiting more than thirty countries. He has lived in Canada, the United States, Australia, Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines. Bates is a graduate of the University of Western Ontario with a degree in English literature and philosophy and is a teacher in international schools. Where’s home for Jeremy? Canada, the United States, and Australia.