How did I become a fiction writer? Because of a tumor. It was at once the worst thing and the best thing that ever happened to me.
In January of 1995, I stood in our kitchen boiling Irish steel-cut oatmeal in the pan while my wife and daughter sat in the living room reading the Sunday paper. Outside, the temperature was 11 degrees with snow on the Minnesota ground. Stirring the pot, I was happily looking forward to the warmth of the oatmeal in my stomach when things suddenly changed in an instant.
One moment my head felt like it had detached and popped up to the ceiling. In the next, I thought my face would end up in the oatmeal. At the same time, a noise blasted into my right ear – a combination of a jet engine whining up in power mixed with the thunder of a freight train.
With my head “yo-yo-ing” back and forth, I staggered to the living room, and laid down on the couch. Every time I tried to get up, vertigo knocked me back down again.
I got an appointment with a doctor as soon as possible. An MRI uncovered nothing but a CAT scan showed a mass near my right ear. The medical term is an “acoustic neuroma.” The good news was that it was non-malignant, and didn’t affect my brain. The bad news was that it would continue to afflict my balance and hearing unless removed.
The medical team (a neurosurgeon and an ENT doctor) assured me that there was a 90% chance of success. At that time, I was a freelance business writer and, being a writer, I wasn’t terrified of dying – I was terrified I’d lose my imagination if somebody screwed up.
Well, the surgery was a success. The only permanent effect was a slight paralysis of the right side of my face, and some hearing loss.
(After the surgery, I had a temporary rigidity of that side and looked like that nemesis of Batman, Two-Face, to some people. In a supermarket, one superstitious woman fled back down an aisle in terror the moment she caught sight of me.)
Happy to get out of the hospital, when I got home, I found that my troubles were just beginning. I was a freelancer, and couldn’t work until I recovered. So, no money was coming in from me.
This sent me deep into a depression so bad that I knew I had to call a psychologist or things would spiral out of control. He had a psychiatrist prescribe an antidepressant for me.
At that time, Prozac was the primary anti-depressant. I took the full dose, and discovered that that was a big mistake. When it took effect, I was happy but I couldn’t keep my mind on track for a single instant. I was trying to pay attention to everything in my environment all at the same time – a book on a shelf, a fly buzzing by, the nap of the carpet, the elm outside the window, and on and on and on.
I reported this to the psychiatrist and he cut the dose in half.
A week later, I was in the kitchen when the half-dose kicked in and it had a wonderful, if comic, effect. While pouring myself a glass of cranberry juice, a cartoon light bulb went off over my head! Instantly, I knew I could write fiction, and draw as well (I’m an amateur cartoonist).
The doctor later explained that I’d always been creative. The Prozac simply lifted the depression, and freed that creativity.
And, boy, did it. Since that time, I’ve written the following novels:
- Corpse Pose, A Murder Mystery
- The First Misadventure of Fragger Sparks, A Ranger Leads the Way
- The Second Misadventure of Fragger Sparks, A Ranger Loses His Way
- The Third Misadventure of Fragger Sparks, A Ranger Paves the Way
- The Blood of Fragger Sparks
- The Relentless Pursuit of Everett Pick (my first novel, actually, but it has too many mistakes in it for me to recommend it; I couldn’t afford an editor at that time. Still my favorite, though!)
At present, I’m working on the second novel in my Lafayette Larson mystery series – The Two Ugly Detectives Agency. And, by the way, I’m no longer on antidepressants, thanks to my loving and caring wife, Regina.
These books are available from the publisher, BookLocker.com, as well as from Amazon, BarnesandNoble.com, and many other stores. If purchasing from BookLocker, use this discount code when checking out to get 10% off: Backstory
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