I like to challenge myself. And I like to learn new things.

These attributes have come in handy as I’ve focused on writing novels.

When I was a kid, I was enthralled by movies. One summer in particular, the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark was playing at a local dollar theater. Back before DVDs and online streaming, a dollar movie theater was a great place to see films once their initial run had ended. For the theater, they didn’t make money off of the ticket price, but off of concessions. So, if a film was popular, they would run it as long as people kept coming and buying popcorn.

Raiders was so popular that the film ran all summer long. Rarely a week went buy where I wouldn’t scrounge together four quarters and sit in the air conditioned theater, escaping the blistering heat outside, and willfully enter the world of treasure seeker Indiana Jones.

When I saw an interview with director Steven Spielberg where he mentioned he had storyboarded all of his shots, I found a book that explained how to do it and started practicing on my own. I wrote short films and storyboarded every shot. My scribblings were no masterpiece, but it allowed me to learn how to tell a basic story, frame and edit scenes together, without a camera, actors or film.

Later, in college, I wanted to learn more about writing screenplays and there were some new books on how to do just that. So, I bought them and taught myself the screenplay structure and studied films of all genres to find out they used the same template over and over again. I started writing screenplays, learning how to tell a story with a strong beginning, middle and end. I learned how to write dialogue and when to give the audience information and when to keep it from them.

I was also acting at the time, so I learned how to memorize scripts, get into a character’s head and change who I am to fit the role. I read books on acting and watched theater and film as much as possible, studying everything I could, absorbing any bit of morsel that would give me an advantage over my competition.

My hard work was starting to pay off. I won awards for acting. I won awards for some of my screenplays. A few of them were optioned by Hollywood production companies (never produced) and one I wrote for a friend (a low-budget action film) that was produced and distributed.

I just love learning new things. And I don’t understand people who don’t want to excel in their craft.

When I felt called to rediscover my faith, I started reading everything I could, from the Bible to Saints to the Catechism, from authors like Scott Hahn and Bible Studies by Jeff Cavins. The more I learn, the more I realize how much I have to learn.

When we were going to start Sonlight Pictures, a Christian film company, I watched every Christian film I could get my hands on. I researched the distribution options for Christian films, which genres were most effective, which actors of note were willing to participate in Christian films, potential income from such films, etc.

I learned so much.

When I decided to turn some of our Sonlight Pictures properties into novels, starting with Gabby Wells, I knew there was a lot to learn and there was a lot I didn’t know.

What always scares me the most is not knowing what I don’t know.

So, I’ve researched young adult novels, book covers, potential market places for Gabby Wells novels, editors, publishers, agents, book printers, distributors, ebooks and royalty rates. I’ve tracked down editors and fellow authors, looked at what books are in stores like Family Christian Bookstores, and what are not.

I’m researching marketing approaches from blog tours to book signings to release parties to speaking engagements to conference attendance and workshop participation.

Learning something new excites me. Taking on the challenge of entering an industry I’ve never been in inspires me.

I don’t know how this whole journey with the Gabby Wells book series will end. Hec, I barely know when it will officially start (i.e., book release date).

But I love the process. I love the impossible task of succeeding at this insurmountable goal.

It drives me.

And I know I’ll be the better person for having tried.

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