I decided I wanted to become a writer after reading the last page of Krakauer’s Into the Wild. Ideas were always my passion and I needed a canvas. The short story became that canvas. Through this format, I could get the ideas down as efficiently and profoundly as possible. Then I’d read them right after I finished, and I’d put them straight in the trash. I enjoyed being my own editor because I knew the next short story would be that much closer to what I wanted.
After reading Into the Wild, I found myself adopting an undying desire to discover what nature was at its core. This curiosity led me to Wordsworth. The perfection of craft in “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey” changed my world. That connection between youth and nature romanticized my New York City-smogged brain. The trips up to my grandmother’s farmhouse in Upstate New York would become a deep excursion into a Wordsworth poem or into Into the Wild itself. I was Chris McCandless. I was the young man escaping from the ebb and flow of city life. I was the kid Krakauer was writing about.
It wasn’t until college that I attempted to write my first novel. So many books had inspired me to do it. Allstars like The Great Gatsby, Catcher in the Rye, Cat’s Cradle, The Sun Also Rises, and even Brown’s Deception Point helped me get there. Films did, too. I couldn’t keep my eyes off Welles’ Citizen Kane, or Anderson’s There Will Be Blood, or Kubrick’s The Shining, Eyes Wide Shut, and Barry Lyndon. “Time for the endurance ride,” I told myself. “Let’s go for the novel.”
That process began the summer before I went to college and it ended the beginning of that following year. New to the agenting process, I sent my book out to every literary agency I could find. A few weeks later I received a request for my manuscript. Unable to fully comprehend what this meant, I sent the manuscript straight away to this agent, along with all the heart palpitations. Less than a month later, John Ware called me back.
“How old are you?” he asked.
“Nineteen,” I answered.
“Well, I guess you’ll be my youngest client ever.”
The words in my head didn’t match the words coming out of my mouth. He could tell how surprised I was. And he could tell how much more surprised I was when he talked a little about himself and his client list. I couldn’t believe it. It was too good to be true, as they say. This agent—the guy who I was talking to in my dorm room—was also Krakauer’s agent. No freakin’ way!
John became my mentor and my guiding light in the creative process. I worked with him until his unexpected death in April of 2013. The loss was beyond defeating for a college kid starting a professional writing career. And the death of a mentor turned off the burner of my inspiration and creative energies. It was time to put down this first novel of mine. It was time to focus more on college—those awful Faulkner classes.
Since then, I’ve updated and enhanced my first novel. I let time and experience grow it naturally. In between this writing, I became a copywriter for a few major ad agencies. I saw my work at Cannes, and I won other awards for creating an emergency app for the deaf, known as DEAF911. I also won awards across the world for my ThrownOutFlag campaign. This was an awareness campaign for all the teens in the world who are thrown out of their homes simply for having the courage to come out to their parents. The tattered rainbow flag became the campaign’s symbol for homeless teens.
Copywriting became a passion of mine and it helped me become a better thinker and a better writer. I used much of this advertising DNA to angle my thoughts and sharpen character and plot development in my novel. I believe this all led to one thing—HELL OF HOSANNA. It took a decade. But it was well worth it.