My Path to Becoming a Writer and My First Published Story
Hi, my name is Matt Mitrovich.
I have been an avid reader most of my life and like most book worms I had the desire see my own name in print one day. I wanted to witness my ideas and characters come to life.
I didn’t take orthodox route in becoming a writer. I studied history at Bradley University and law at The John Marshall Law School. I would often write down my ideas, but they were just brainstorming sessions not real writing. I talked about writing a lot to the point where everyone knew about my dream to be an author. It took a co-worker, however, who asked me if I had actually written anything to make me realize I wasn’t following said dream.
In fact I really wasn’t in a happy place when I started writing. Two years ago I worked as a contract attorney, doing temporary e-discovery assignments for companies and firms around the Chicago area. It certainly was not what I expected to be doing out of law school, but with the economy being as it was, I was just grateful to be paid while still working in the industry. Nevertheless, I felt like I had little control over my own life. My wife said there were days when I came home irritated, depressed and generally miserable. I needed to do something just to stay sane.
So I decided to take charge and write something. Thinking of something to write about, however, seemed like a daunting prospect. I didn’t have any ideas for stories. I wanted to write alternate history, my favourite genre, and thought I could post short scenarios and see what people thought. I would post it to my own blog so I could make the rules and not be under the thumb of a moderator or administrator.
Turns out blogs like that are a dime a dozen. I wanted something different and unique. I thought hard and realized something important. There was no single place to get information about the genre itself. Most SF websites will cover an alternate history work at some point, but it is rare and they are often ignored by most genre fans. Even worse, the forums and wikis alternate historians congregated at seemed to be full of people who professed a love of the genre, but were ignorant of the authors, works and history of the genre itself.
So I set out to rectify that problem. I wanted to keep people up to date, but I wanted to start slow. I decided to post a summary of the week’s alternate history news every Monday. It wasn’t a stretch after that to call it “Alternate History Weekly Update”. Afterwards, I was amazed to discover how easy it was to write an article once a week. Last June I was writing 10 articles a week. Now, however, I have found a more sustainable goal of 5 articles. This allows me to turn my attention to other projects…and keeps my wife happy.
Two years of constant blogging and I couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunities it provided. It introduced me to wonderful and intelligent friends and it helped me enter the larger world of fandom with my new gig blogging for Amazing Stories. More importantly, it finally allowed me to get the confidence to write my own fiction.
In 2011, I finished my first short story, “Collapse Theory”, which has sadly never seen the light of day. Still your first try is usually not that good and I have had more success with follow-up works such as “A Perfect Hell on Earth” and “Revenants in Warfare”. Those stories were with amateur publications, but to truly feel in my heart that I was real writer, someone had to buy my fiction. I realize not everyone thinks the same way, but it is how my neurotic mind works.
Turns out my path to my first professional publication started off in rather silly manner. After attending a live Rifftrax showing of Jack the Giant Killer, I did what I always do after seeing a bad movie: tried to make it better. At first it was just a jumble of thoughts in my head with nowhere to go, until I saw Echelon Press was looking for queries regarding steampunk retellings of classic fairy tales for an anthology titled Once Upon a Clockwork Tale.
I’m going to tell you something even my editor doesn’t know. I didn’t actually have the finished story when I wrote my query. I had an idea and I certainly must of convinced them because they emailed me back saying they wanted me for the anthology…and I had less than two weeks to submit my story. I had no idea they would accept my query. Honestly I had just wanted practice in writing queries since I had never done it before. I was not, however, about to let an opportunity like this pass me by. When I wasn’t working, I was writing, and somehow I manage to string together a story that the good folks at Echelon thought was worthy of Once Upon a Clockwork Tale.
The story is called “The Enchanted Bean” and as you can probably guess it is a steampunk retelling of “Jack and the Beanstalk”. Here is the description from the back of Once Upon a Clockwork Tale:
How do you reach a fabled land of giants without any magic beans? Build an airship, of course. A British adventurer takes to the skies seeking wealth and glory, instead he finds ancient gods ruling an oppressive flying kingdom. With the help of their allies, these former masters of men want to replant the World Tree and rebuild their war machines. To stop the sky from falling, our hero will have to do more than chop down a beanstalk.
I really enjoyed writing this tale. Although it is more “pulp” than “punk”, I think readers will enjoy this adventure tale that pokes fun at some of the common steampunk tropes. I also gave some nods to Norse mythology and a couple pop culture icons. I hope you check it out and enjoy it and all of the other stories contained therein. You can get your copy from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Createspace and Smashwords.
Writing has been an incredible journey so far and I am not through yet.