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My earliest attempts at "being a writer" occurred in the fourth grade. One of my first projects was a short story about UFOs, having just seen "Close Encounters of the Third Kind". The second was a story about terrorists taking over a nuclear missile silo. I can't tell you where the inspiration for that one came from (it was about the time of the Three Mile Island accident, so perhaps I had nuclear disasters on my mind). Whatever the case, it must have been disturbing for my parents to read my account of terrorists blowing away silo guards with machine guns.
At eighteen and in love with "The Hunt For Red October", I began my own techno-thriller. Hundreds of pages into it, lost and flailing, I sent a letter to Tom Clancy, asking for advice. A few weeks later (still living at home), a letter arrived. It read:
"Tried to call you, but you were out.
For a guy the first time out of the box, you pretty much have to be able to present a finished book, or enough that the publisher can make an informed judgment on what and how good the book will be.
So, GET TO WORK AND WRITE THE BOOK."
Twenty years later I finally got to work, writing a few short stories and a couple (what I consider) test novels that taught me a great deal about the craft.
Clancy's framed letter sits just six inches from this computer monitor as I write this.
In late 2010, I started work on Day One. In February of 2012, I finished the first draft.
It took two decades but I got to work, and wrote the book.