The heroes (and villains) in our books all have origin stories. Most writers do too.
I never knew my parents. I was left in the care of a gruff aunt and uncle on a desert planet with two suns and nothing to do besides moisture farming. But, I always knew, that, one day, I would blast off that planet, have a strange and confusing relationship with someone who turned out to be my sister, almost be killed by my father, and restore balance to the Force.
Or become a writer, one or the other.
I had a wonderful family growing up who failed miserably at turning me into a tortured writer, but I’ve always loved reading and writing. Growing up, I would write stories that were usually rip-offs of the Hardy Boys or Star Wars or E.T.. I stopped for a long time, though, and didn’t rediscover writing until I was in law school where I took an advanced fiction writing class with some undergraduates. While they were writing operettas, channeling Kerouac, and raging against the night, I wrote about my newborn son’s clown mobile, leading to probably the most awkward critique ever:
I like your use of clowns to comment on the absurdity of the patriarchal society.
No, they’re his clowns and he likes looking at them, but some day he’s going to grow up and not want them and I’ll have to pack them away and he’ll move away, and…I really can’t talk about this right now.
I’ve been surrounded by books and writing my entire life. I’m very proud to be the middle of three generations of Maine authors, even though, as the last to be published, I’m the slacker.
My father, Ed Rielly, lived on a remote farm (not a moisture farm!) in southern Wisconsin and remembers being thrilled to receive his Book of the Month delivery. He grew up, got his doctorate, and has been an English professor for decades. He’s written more than 20 books, mostly poetry and haiku, educational books and biographies (like F. Scott Fitzgerald or Geronimo). He’s literally written the book on baseball and football (encyclopedias both). More recently, he wrote his own memoir of growing up on the farm (Bread Pudding and Other Memories: A Boyhood on the Farm) and wrote two children’s books: Spring Rain Winter Snow and Jugo Meets a Poet.
My son, Morgan Rielly (the one formerly with the clown mobile), was published as a high school senior. In 8th grade, he read an African proverb that when an old man dies, a library burns to the ground. That resonated with him and he decided to save the stories of Maine WWII veterans. He spent the next four years finding and interviewing Maine WWII veterans and then turned their stories into a book: Neighborhood Heroes: Life Lessons from Maine’s Greatest Generation.
He’s beginning his junior year at Bowdoin College and is working on a second book, sharing the stories of teenage immigrants to Maine.
And his clown mobile has been packed away for years. I don’t want to talk about.
Our two girls, Shannon and Maura, have also written stories that they haven’t felt ready to try to get published. Like my Dad, my sister has written a lot of poetry.
And then there’s me–the slacker who can’t write poetry to save his life. An Unbeaten Man, book #1 in the Michael McKeon series, won the 2016 Best Crime Fiction Award at the Maine Literary Awards.
I’ve just finished the second installment in the Michael McKeon series and am working on a new series featuring a former art thief who became a CIA agent after discovering that the art he stole was funding terrorism then quit the CIA after he went too far in the CIA’s black sites. Now, both worlds are coming to claim him, all as he hides a cancer diagnosis from his pregnant wife that means he may never meet their unborn child.
So, I may not restore balance to the Force, but I’m enjoying being the middle of three generations of Maine authors. Check us out at http://www.riellybooks.com/
Just don’t talk to me about the clown mobile.