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  • Writer's pictureJacob Stehman

Why I decided to write: This is me!

Who I am:

If you had told me four years ago, as I sat in front of my PlayStation 3 playing FIFA 20, that I would be writing a blog about why I became an author I would have said you were nuts. Writing, let alone reading a book, was not even close to the first thing on my mind. Yet, as I think back to my pre-pandemic existence, I start to realize that I was already preparing myself for this opportunity.

My high school days trying to figure out what I really wanted to do with my life, along with my failed attempt to be an accountant at Drexel University, led me to a small liberal arts college where I would find myself finally putting it all together, at least to the best of my ability at the time. Not only did I meet my amazing wife and inspiration for my writing at Lebanon Valley College, but I also got a chance to make new friends, reconnect with old ones from high school and begin to build a network that would set me up for my future in business.

For me, a professional career in business was something that just appeared to be natural. I was the first in my family to go to college, and my parents worked every day to give me opportunities they themselves never had. Recently, I only began to realize how many sacrifices they made along the way, and I can say that at times I probably took this for granted. However, between my high school and college career, I did learn that I was able to tell a story. This, along with my love of networking and public speaking, sent me away from the debits and credits of accounting and into the world of HR and Recruiting.

While accounting had not gone the way I wanted it, the fact that I had knowledge of the industry allowed me to get my first job in an accounting and finance recruiting role. I would spend the next eight years of my life progressing both my professional and personal life right where I grew up, in Central PA, living out a path I felt was only logical for the man I was.

Covid-19 Pandemic and the start of my writing:

Like most that I know, the Covid-19 pandemic changed my life forever. I went from working forty to fifty-hour work weeks to doing nothing at all. My family had also grown. My son had just started daycare and the overall pressures of being unemployed, keeping my family afloat, and supporting my wife who was in the medical field every day weighed heavy. As mentioned earlier, I tried to go back to what made me happy in the past. Video games with old high school friends seemed like a way to detach from the outside world, and after I would put my son to bed, I started to sign on for late night games. However, unlike before, I felt completely unsatisfied from the experience. Not only was I terrible at the games I used to play, but I also found little joy in actual gameplay. All I really liked was getting a chance to talk with the guys that signed on to play.

So, my writing career began. I can thank my wife for noticing my mental health spiral and challenging me to do something different. Her strength of working in the medical field during unprecedented times drove me to try new things. Reading, an activity I avoided for years, was one I jumped into. While I may not have loved all the books, Sarah J. Maas litters her nightstand regularly, I did begin to feel a spark that intrigued me.

In high school I struggled to find a genre of reading that kept me “hooked” like others. Being someone always involved in sports, those types of books generally were what I settled on. However, during a contemporary issues class my senior year, I came across a book that always stuck with me. A fantasy novel that told multiple perspectives and intertwined the world we know with a fantasy realm all its own. This backdrop, along with my constant love for sports, had me sitting down in front of my computer after my son went to bed. The short stories I began to craft were terrible, yet I found comfort and a sense of self-worth again that I had been missing since I lost my job.

A Game as Old as Time:

I will admit I was nervous the first time I handed over my writing to my wife to read. She did not know at the time that I had started this hobby and to me, her approval was all I needed at that very moment. I would be lying if I said I did not watch her every expression as she read my short stories, and while I know she probably hated most of what she read, her support and words kept me writing each night.

That support is what drove me to pen, A Game as Old as Time. This self-published work was one that I relied heavily on past experiences, molding my years playing football with the world of musicals. Now I can say for certain I was never a musical person myself. However, my brother, along with friends that I had in high school and my wife’s family were regularly active in plays. This is what had me using that setting as my backdrop for the book. The entire story was my way of thanking my wife while also, to some extent, showing how characters and people can grow over time.

I never intended for anyone other than my family and friends to read the book. I made a few quick posts on Facebook that quickly spread, and within months I started receiving emails and connections from individuals I had never met. While the book itself was far from perfect, I appreciated what it brought me. The world of publishing started to become a reality because of this story, but more importantly, my wife LOVED it, which made everything else that came with it a bonus.

A Battle for Fire:

After my self-published book I started to dive back into my professional career as a recruiter. I bounced from my past company to a non-profit and finally settled where I am now. Along the way though, I never lost my love of writing. I would spend many nights after everyone went to bed putting together new stories, but I struggled to figure out what my next steps would be.

My wife and I can be incredibly competitive. Not only is this one of the reasons why we got married, but it is also a wonderful way for us to continue to push ourselves. Once again, my wife read me like a book, no pun intended, and challenged me to write something in the fantasy genre. While at first, I was skeptical, after a few weeks of thinking through what I might write about, A Battle for Fire began to materialize.

Music has always been an escape for me. Whether it is 90’s and 2000’s alternative rock or hip-hop and rap, I always enjoyed jumping around to different artists depending on my mood. One day while I was grappling over a fantasy story, my son got hooked on a rock version of Carol of the Bells (yes, I know this is odd for a three-year-old, but he has my taste in music). For some reason, this song spoke to me and over time, as we repeated it again and again, I began to play out the different themes and scenarios that now appear in the book.

Once I had completed the rough draft I again ran into a dead end. While self-publishing was fun, the thought of going through it again seemed overwhelming at the time. Through new connections I received contact information of agents and publishing companies. And while the rejection letters came fast and furious, they did lead me to the team I now work with today.

A big thank you:

While there is much more to my story, I feel I must take a few minutes to thank all those who have helped me get to this point. My friends have always been amazing test readers and have been a dedicated support system when needed. To be able to speak openly with individuals you have known for years makes a significant difference when you have tough decisions to make, and I cannot thank them enough for all the help along the way.

To my family, I cannot express enough the support you have shown me. Not only have you been my biggest cheerleaders, but you also have been the best babysitters when I need time to focus on deadlines. That quiet time alone to concentrate means more than any five-star review or royalty check that may come in the mail.

Katie, my beautiful wife. Times have not always been kind to us. Days, months, and even years have not gone the way we wanted. But your support has meant more to me than anyone else. Whether you know it or not, you are the inspiration behind every strong-willed character I put on paper. And while you may not see it in yourself every day, you are the definition of what we tell our children every night. You are smart, you are strong, and you are beautiful.

Finally, to anyone who is reading this and to those who have read my stories, thank you! Sincerely thank you for giving my books a chance. I hope you have as much fun reading them as I do, and if you have read any of this blog you know that is a feat to have me read a whole book. I hope my stories can encourage those who may never have thought of reading to pick up a book. I hope my stories help those needing a new story to keep reading. And I hope my stories allow all my readers to get away for a while, because let us be real for a second, we all could use a chance to get away from reality from time to time!

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