By Brian C. Earle
I feel compelled to tell you about my writing career that dates back to 1994. I remember talking to my mom about my emotional problems. I was going through some extreme highs and lows. She suggested I go see a therapist. About 20 minutes into my first session, the therapist encouraged me to write out my problems and frustrations. I then kind of dozed off when she said that because I knew I had found the solution to my problems. It seemed like it would work. So after I left her office, I went and bought some notebooks and pens, and off I went. It worked. It really felt good to get things off my chest. Then I remembered reading Get In The Van by Henry Rollins. “This is what I’ll do, I’ll publish my journals someday,” I said to myself.
The first piece of material that I wrote was a story written for the screen called “The Old New Me.” It was a lengthy story about my life at the time. To tell you the truth, I don’t remember much about the story except that it had some kick-ass songs in it. I loaned it out to a colleague and never got it back. So, to this day, I don’t know whatever happened to it.
In 1996 I started my first book called There Is No Plan B: A Collection Of Short Stories, Journals, Lessons, And Ramblings. It was pretty much all autobiographical. I drew on real-life experiences that I had with my fellow human beings. I wrote a play in that book called “God For Granted.” I didn’t know it at the time, but God would be a recurring fictitious character in much of my material for the rest of my career. I worked on and off on this book for the next 10 years.
As I wrote that book, I also wrote another book in Los Angeles called Stories From A Refrigerated Truck…#7 To Be Exact. It is a book made up of three stories written for the screen. The title comes from real-life experiences of writing it in a refrigerated truck. I was delivering food to private planes in southern California at the time, and in between deliveries, I would park the truck in a parking lot and hop in the refrigerated part and write. Then when it was time to head back to the kitchen, I would continue to write while stuck in the congested traffic. I would write with my right hand, and steer with my left. The traffic moved at a snail’s pace thus making the process very simple. The stories were mostly true, but I also added a wild imagination. Years later, in 2016, due to privacy reasons, I unpublished it.
My daughter was born in Santa Monica in 2005. I continued to write until 2006 completing both aforementioned books. Then my ex-wife and I took my daughter, and ourselves, to Las Vegas. There would be no writing for me for the next year and a half. Then we moved to Denver where my son was born. Again, no writing for the next year and a half. Then we moved back to Minnesota where for much of the time I was an at-home dad. Again, no writing for quite some time. I didn’t miss it at all, and in fact, I never really thought about it.
Fast forward to 2013. It had now been seven years since I had written a word. I found myself living in Mankato and was now working at a small convenience store. It wasn’t that busy of a store, so I found myself with a lot of time on my hands. I saw this as a great opportunity to start writing again. I had recently met a man who was passing through town and he gave me a Kerouac CD called Blues For Haikus. This inspired me to do the same. My work wasn’t Haikus in the traditional sense. I just wrote vertical lines of whatever came to my mind. I went at it like a man possessed. I also wrote parts of it high on cocaine and drunk in my apartment at 109 Hanover St. The book is called Horizontal Repetitive Lines Of Twisted Metal. It’s pretty damn good if you ask me, but it can be both punishing and annoying to the reader.
I wrote another book while at the gas station. Like I said, I had a lot of time on my hands. I wrote about my everyday life at the station, and not only did I include every regular that came into the store, but I wrote about EVERYONE that came into the store. It’s also a work of wild imagination. I dig it. It’s called Altered. It’s aptly named because I was literally altered the entire time I wrote it.
So now at this point in the time line I had four books completed and I had no idea what to do with them. Sure they were therapeutic, and they helped me kill some time, but I simply had no plans for them.
Then in the summer of 2014 I found myself out west again. I started taking notes the day my wife Erin and I left for a novel that would eventually be called Eight Months Eight Days. The title explains it all; that was the exact time Erin and I were away from Minnesota. It was an account of our travels detailing every nook and cranny of our trip. It ended up being 401 pages long. Due to personal reasons, I decided not to publish it.
So let me take you to March of 2015. Erin and I were living at the Searle Motel in Long Beach, CA. She had told me about a friend’s daughter, who at the age of 12, had published her first book. I couldn’t believe it, and to be honest, I was outraged. “How can a 12-year-old get published before me? I have four books ready to go. Who is her publisher?” I asked Erin.
Erin asked her friend who the publisher was, and she said she had done it all on her own through createspace.com. I hopped right on the internet on our phone, and sure enough, there it was. It was real simple, and free. I now had to get my shit together and self-publish. There was one problem; we didn’t have a laptop. But I was now bound and determined to get one.
The next day I was strolling around the neighborhood like I always did. I was down and out and was walking with my head down. Just then a woman walked by me and asked me why I looked so gloomy. I told her the story and she said, “well, I have a laptop you can buy for $40.” I looked at her to see if she was full of shit. I decided she wasn’t, and my frown turned upside down. I was ecstatic. There was one problem; we didn’t have the $40 to spend. Every dime that we had, had to go to keep a roof over our heads. I told her this, but she said, “well, why don’t I bring it back to your room and you can at least try it out.” So I gave her my room number and quickly returned to tell Erin. She repeated to me what I already knew; we just didn’t have the money. I paced the floor. I had to get the damn computer and publish my material. Five minutes later the woman showed up to our room and handed it to me. She told me, “give it a spin.” We did, and it worked marvelously. The issue of money came up again. Erin and I knew we just couldn’t afford it. Then I had a great idea. My idea was to take the woman shopping for groceries and have her spend $40 from our food stamp money. Erin thought this was a great idea. I then walked over to the woman’s home (she told me where she lived), and told her my plan. She said yes. We talked for a little bit and then she said, “OK, now give me your card and PIN number, and I’ll return it when I’m done.” There was no way in hell I was going to do this and I told her so. “Believe in humanity Brian, believe in humanity,” she said to me. So we then talked some more. I became anxious and was sweating bullets. I shifted my weight while looking at her pale skin and blue eyes. “What the hell,” I said to myself and gave her the card and the PIN number. She said she’d call me at 7 p.m. When I returned to the room, I explained the situation to Erin, and much to my surprise, she wasn’t mad at all for what I had just done. So…7 p.m. rolled around and the woman didn’t call. At exactly 7:01, I made a beeline for her house. I was nervous and was shaking. I thought for sure she had screwed me and spent the majority of what we had on the card. I arrived at her home and she was speaking very calmly to some friends on the street. I was anxious and nervous as I asked her for my card. She lazily looked at me, reached into her back pocket, then handed the card to me. “How much did you spend?” I asked her. “Call and check,” she responded. I did, and she spent exactly $37. I felt relief for the first time in hours. She gave me a great big hug and said, “believe in humanity Brian, believe in humanity.” I then gave her a great big hug and we said goodbye. She was a true angel. It was now time to be a published author.
For the next three weeks I was on fire. I was in the zone. I did everything very fast for I felt I had to prove a point to certain people. It was balls to the walls, and my attitude was simply, “fuck the mistakes!” And that’s exactly what went down. I published two books in March, and one in April, and had one in the can. It was marvelous. I had now felt as though I had accomplished something. I was on top of the world. Then we returned to Mankato and I released Altered in July. So, after a decades worth of writing, I now had four books under my belt. I was on my way to fame and fortune I thought. It was relieving, and I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted.
Fast forward to October 2015. I was going through a maddening time in my life. Not only had I just published four books, but I had just finished Eight Months Eight Days. I was exhausted and had a breakdown. My days driving cab were maddening. I would take a left turn and feel on top of the world. Then on the same trip I would make a right turn and feel as if the walls were caving in on me. I went through this anguish for two weeks before taking some time off. I just couldn’t handle it anymore. After spending a day in the ER, I came home and didn’t know what to do. I looked on the mantel and saw my notes that I had written for a book that would eventually be called Magic Eight Ball. I sat down and thought, “wonderful, this will be my first published novel.” I didn’t even come close. I worked my ass off on this book for 3 ½ days and it ended up being just a little over 50 pages long. It is a book written by a madman with a great amount of imagination. Sometimes a writer can tell a lot with very little. When all was said and done, I had that sucker ready for sale in two weeks. After it was completed, I went to work the next day feeling fine. It was exactly what I needed. Again, very therapeutic. To tell you the truth, I think I’d be in the nuthouse for good if it wasn’t for that book. It was my best work thus far. Goes to show you that pain and anguish can turn into brilliant art.
I didn’t write for a few months after that, but the unpublished novel kept itching me. “There’s got to be something I can do with all this material,” I said to myself. So, basically, to tell part of our story, I came up with Full Circle, a book of free verse prose that was very much inspired by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. In my opinion it told the story without getting too personal. I had, in some way, achieved my goal in making the story come to life.
After Full Circle, things started to get fun, but I didn’t know what to do next. I then started looking through my unpublished material. I found a lot of great stuff and put together a book called Transparent. I knew this was my most revealing work to date and I didn’t care what people thought of it. My life, at this point, was literally an open book. The day after I published it I decided to take it off the market. I woke up that morning with a sick feeling in my stomach and I knew that I just shouldn’t share that much information. I went a little nuts on that day trying to unpublish it. I am glad no one will ever read it.
Now, I’m not that much of a reader. There are only a handful of books that I’ve read cover to cover. My friend Al Johnson had turned me on to Another Country by James Baldwin. I fell in love with this book and another one of his called Giovanni’s Room. After Transparent, I started reading his material again. Halfway through one of them I got the great idea of writing a story about an interracial couple. I put the book down, and, once again, thought I was going to publish my first novel. I called the story “Two Shades Of Love.” I hopped on createspace.com and started. I had everything in order (I even designed the cover), and went right to work. The story is a combination of real-life events and a wild imagination. The story is about a narrow-minded white man, who, at the beginning of the story is a racist. The character, Colin Hagerty, finally comes around and overcomes the obstacle that has been plaguing him for years. He finds himself falling in love with a black stripper, and the two run off to Hollywood in search of a better life.
So the story only ended up being just a little over 40 pages long. I now found myself in a conundrum. “What the hell am I going to do with such a short story? I can’t make this into a book,” I said to myself. So, after three days, I still didn’t know what to do. On one of my days off from work I again looked through all of my unpublished material, put it all together, and came up with my eighth book called Kernels Of Truth.
Now at this point I started to understand that most of my books were simply a bunch of chapters put together containing short stories and journals. I still couldn’t seem to publish a novel. I was a little discouraged and frustrated, but I understood what I was all about as a writer. Up to this point I still didn’t really know what I was doing, and I was going back and fixing all the “mistakes” in my previous books. It was driving me nuts. So with my next book, Writing For Nickels, I finally took my time and I feel that it came out pretty damn good. I was now hitting my stride.
So here I was, June of 2017, and I had nine published books and an unpublished novel. Not too bad. I worked my ass off. At times it was very therapeutic, but other times it was complete and utter anguish. Things started to have an adverse effect, and I felt, at times, that I would completely lose control of myself. But I hung in there.
NOW, will I go down in history as a great writer? No. Will I ever win any awards for my writing? No. Will I go down in history as a persistent hard-working writer who simply told good stories? Absolutely! To sum everything up, I will share a letter with you that I wrote to my dear friend Al Johnson. It was never sent.
Here are the four books that I said I would send to you. I realize you have a degree in English Literature. I am sure you will find several “mistakes” in my material. Please keep in mind that I am a simple man with a limited education. With the exception of yourself, I find literary scholars to be both stale and boring. While they spent their time getting their degrees and talking at cocktail parties, I spent my time studying myself and humanity.
I am a self-published author. Every comma, period, indention, and exclamation point is all me. No other person has touched my material. I belong to no institution, nor do I identify with any living authors.
Please take care of yourself and remember that I love you.