by Jeff Ayers
It was during the height of my mid-life crisis that I heard the voice. Due to a departmental reorganization, I had just lost my dream job and went from being a supervisor to a clerk, pay cut and all. I was depressed and felt alienated at work, and my family and friends were both confused and alarmed.
Before the changes at my job, I had looked forward to my work at the library each day. Being a voracious reader had originally led me to a library career. I then began reviewing books for Library Journal and found that to be emotionally satisfying. Seeing my name in print as a reviewer was a thrill, but the dream of seeing my name on a book on the library shelves still beckoned. Even so, I ignored the call. But then my job nightmare began, and instead of asking my family for help, I turned them away. I didn’t drink or do drugs, but I began to understand how someone could fall into that trap. It was during a drive to my new, meaningless job that I broke down and started crying. Then I heard the voice.
Let’s back up a bit. About three weeks earlier, I had reviewed a book for Library Journal that I thought was amazing. I knew it was going to be a huge hit, though I had no idea how much. After writing my rave review of The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown, I told everyone I knew to read it. While I was trying to drive through my tears, a book was the last thing on my mind. So when the voice said to me, “You will interview Dan Brown,” my first coherent thought was, “What? What does that mean?” The voice repeated, “You will interview Dan Brown.” But that is all the voice would tell me.
When I got to work, I sat down, emailed my editor at Library Journal, and asked her if she would be interested in an interview with Dan Brown for the magazine. She responded, “If you were going to interview him, it would have needed to run with the actual review.” Since it was already published, the answer was no. So that was the end of that idea--right?
My day at work was a blur, because I couldn’t understand why the voice would tell me something that wasn’t possible. Then on that drive home, the voice came back and said, “You will interview Dan Brown.” It was quite stubborn. So the next day I emailed my editor again and asked her, “Do you have any suggestions where I could interview him?” She suggested I try my local newspapers. I had no idea that authors were interviewed in the newspaper. Even though I read the papers, I had missed that part.
I found the name of the editor at the Seattle Post-Intelligencerbook section and emailed him with a proposal to interview Dan Brown. As part of his tour for The DaVinci Code, Brown was coming to Seattle. An interview would be perfect to tie-in his bookstore appearance. The editor was reluctant to say the least. I prepared a special packet of several of my reviews and tried to convince him I could tackle the job. I don’t know what exactly swayed him, but he finally said yes. Now all I needed was to find out if Dan Brown would actually consent to the interview.
Long story short, Brown said yes. I interviewed him and we had a wonderful conversation. Then came the hardest bit of writing and rewriting and rewriting I’ve ever done. Without the help of my lovely and patient wife and a good friend who was willing to give me hard truths, the piece would have been unpublishable. After finishing the piece, which was the most mentally grueling thing I had ever done, I sent the interview to the editor at the PI. The editor loved the piece and I became a regular freelancer for him. When I met Dan Brown after his talk, he told me, “That article was the best piece anyone has ever written about me. Why are you not writing professionally?” I pondered that for a while. Soon after that, my wife told me that she had never seen me as happy as I was while working on the Dan Brown article. I was focused on planning a novel, but she encouraged me to concentrate on what I did best. Shortly after that, an idea for a book popped into my head that allowed me to combine my experience writing book reviews, my extensive “Star Trek” book collection, and my newfound interview skills. Five months later, I had a literary agent and then a book deal to pen a comprehensive guide to the history of professionally published “Star Trek” fiction.
Looking back, losing my job was one of the best things that ever happened to me. It made me appreciate my family, and I make sure to tell them how much I love them every day. It also broke down the barriers necessary to finally hear the voice. When the voice came back, believe me, I listened. But that’s a story for another day.
Jeff Ayers is an associate editor at Author magazine and author of Star Trek: Voyages of Imagination a Star Trek Fiction Companion.