I'm a Writer: How I Became an Author (Ep. 49)

I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember. When I was a child, you’d find me cooped up in armchairs like a cat or propped up inside of door frames, always with a book in my hands.

During summers spent at my grandma’s house, I’d read books like The Little Prince, the yellowed old copy that is now framed above my desk, and The Diary of a Young Girl, which I didn’t really understand, because I was too young. This is where I ultimately wrote my first story: a short story about a little cigarette called Phillip who went on an adventure to avoid death by fire. It was inspired by my grandma’s chain-smoking habit, and guess what her favorite brand of cigarettes was. Yep, Phillip Morris.

I was never good at saying what I meant, so writing gave me a voice and an outlet. Reading a poem at my best friend’s funeral as a young teenager made me realize just how much power these words could hold. But it was also what made me take a very long hiatus from writing. No words seemed to matter afterward.

In the end, the need for an escape returned me to books, written and read. With the help of Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs, as well as Bilbo, Dwalin, Balin, Kili, Fili, and the like, I began writing fantasy novels and short stories. We’ll pretend I never wrote an entire fan fiction novel as a sequel to Lord of the Rings.

It was years before I finally finished a novel. In 2015, I wrote Chase during NaNoWriMo, well, a very rough first draft. In 2018, it was edited and published. I recently published a video of myself re-reading the first chapter, and it’s imperfect, but I’m still very proud of it. I didn’t just check the bucket list item of publishing a novel, I published an entire trilogy. And by the time I published the third and final book, my next novel was almost done.

I was a writer. For the first time, I felt qualified to say that.

But there was an issue with my next book. Well, two, actually. One was that my editor didn’t like a major plot point in my book. And the second was that Warner Brothers or Rowling or whoever decided to make more money off of Harry Potter, and they announced that Pokémon Go game ripoff where muggles were threatening to find out about wizards. The book was done, but I was certain people would think I’d copied the idea from Rowling.

It quickly became apparent that no one cared about that game in the slightest. Most people had never heard about it, so I decided to fuck it, and finished the editing process. Out of Hiding was released a few months after Wizards Unite, but no one has cared. I never even downloaded the game, and I think the fact that it is getting shut down in January is saying something. Probably not the best game.

A little while later, I came up with this really weird idea for a book, and within a few weeks I had a five-book series—a pentalogy?—planned. Another week and 18,000 words later, the first book was done. At 18,000 words, it’s technically a short-story, just 2,000 words shy of a novella, but who cares. It was done, and I really enjoyed writing it. I’m still very happy with it, and writing the sequel has me excited.

After our move from New Zealand, writer’s block and pandemic-induced lack of motivation, paired with not feeling at home in a country so much like Germany, I couldn’t write for a long time. When I started studying at the university of Hamburg, things got worse. I couldn’t keep up with it all. Between YouTube, the podcast, studying, the household, errands, and being a wife, and a dog owner, it was all too much, and writing was pushed to the end of the list.

I didn’t write for more than a year. Not a single paragraph.

Finally, starting a book club with two friends revived my love of reading—which had been forced into the same hiatus—and I got back into fiction. I let myself enjoy audiobooks, even though I don’t remember anything about them, and got inspired more. In October, I opened my manuscript and began typing. 40,000 words later, I’m about halfway through a novel of firsts: my first LGBTQ+ novel, my first romance novel, and a novel written by me without my mask. I’ve poured a lot into this novel—and a second one that is getting planned and drafted at the same time.

Thanks to friends and my husband who keep encouraging me, I’m writing again. I am a writer. And if I could choose anything to earn my living with, it would be writing. Maybe, one day, I’ll be able to support myself with my stories.

But even if I never earn much from writing, I’ll keep doing it. How else will I get to explore the paths not picked, the paths I cannot travel, the alternate realities, and utter nonsense?

You know how they say people who read live hundreds of lives? Well, people who write get to be a hundred versions of themselves, whatever they want, wherever they want, and in whatever body they want. Fuck, I just finished a book written from the perspective of a crow. The author got to be a crow! How cool is that? Reading it, I got to experience some of that same feeling, but in a dulled version, much less vivid than the feeling created by writing, by becoming one with a character to the point where they, not you, decide the story.

Next week, I think, I’ll share some of Out of Hiding with you. Yeah, I’ll do that. Until then, dare to stay weird, my friends!

Kate Hildenbrand

Kate Hildenbrand

Kate Hildenbrand is the writer behind the essays here, author of fiction novels, the creator of the Kate Hildenbrand podcast, and a student of marine ecology. At least, that's her on the surface.