Origin Story

Origin of Chris Travis Author

It started with a midlife crisis, and maybe some magic. Yes, I think magic is the way to think properly about the forces that broke forth into my life, as if Narnia overflowed the wardrobe, shortly after my 40th birthday.

Very cliche, I know, but at least I didn’t buy an overpriced sports car or have an affair with a much younger woman or throw any of the other silly tantrums middle-aged men sometimes do at the dawn of life’s ending. Here’s what I did: I started asking myself some serious questions. Questions, I’m beginning to understand, that reach more deeply into the psyche than I would have dared, had I known the terrible and wonderful personalities down there. Questions, it turns out, that behaved much more like a summoning circle or invocation spell than like anything else I can think to compare them to. Perhaps they were more like prayers.

Questions like: If I died today, would I have any regrets?

Or: Have I left anything undone?

If you honestly ask and answer questions like that, then hold onto your butt, because you’re about to tumble face first down the rabbit hole. Or maybe Cheshire Cat and the Queen of Hearts and God-only-knows-what-other Jungian archetypes are gonna crawl up out of it.

But maybe you will rise up too. Maybe you’ll meet the you who you haven’t really allowed yourself to get to know very well yet. The real you, released at long last from her implacable patience. That’s what happened to me, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

I had recently been let go from my job as a pastor of a church in Manhattan (don’t get excited, nothing scandalous, just budget constraints), and welcomed my second son into the world, and turned forty, and I had no idea what the hell I was doing with my life, and I finally asked those questions and finally truly answered them. And here’s what rose up:

There was this fantasy novel I had been meaning to write ever since I was in high school. I had gotten a few dozen pages into it a few times over the years (ahem, decades), but never further. Perhaps that novel is the reason you’ve come to visit my site. The seed of that story— the thing I had in mind when Bill Clinton was President and I was playing trombone in the high school marching band— is unrecognizable from Stonefoot, my debut novel. It was trite and derivative, inspired mostly by the misadventures of the Dungeons & Dragons campaign I played with my friends into the small hours of the night, fueled by Mountain Dew and Marlboros. But it was a seed that survived, dormant through fire and freezes and floods, all those long years until age and misfortune shook the soil of my life and opened a fissure through which the sun and the rain could reach it. The fruit doesn’t look like the blossom, and the blossom doesn’t look like the plant, and the plant doesn’t look like the sprout, and the sprout doesn’t look like the seed, but it was all in there all along. The second draft was unrecognizable from the first, as was the third from the second. Those earlier drafts are painful to read and sometimes funny, and perhaps I’ll post some of that material here: Extras.

Two weeks after I committed to write 250 words a day, every day, come hell or high water, and much more important, actually did write those words every day, I received a call out of the blue with an offer to return to teaching math at an inner city charter school in the gritty neighborhood of Manhattan in which I had worked for years as a pastor. Weekends and summers for writing.

I think that’s how it began… how I cast the spell that sparked the change. Beginnings are tricky, and it’s not always clear just where to place them. Looking back, it was the act of writing those few bad words everyday that cast the spell.

Three years later, the thing is an actual book. It’s mind-boggling to contemplate how something can move from formless potential to definite manifestation, and the role we get to play in that alchemy, through something as seemingly mundane as hard work. But that’s what made the difference, and the more I do it, the more it seems like a kind of magic. I wrote mostly on my phone, on the train to work, or whenever I could snatch a few moments. Sometimes I wore my newborn in a carrier and typed on my laptop while I paced the room. 

I also started to pray in a new way (new to me, not at all new to the world)– to listen more deeply to what’s inside than I ever had before. I’m not prepared to share more about that now, but I hope to in the future. There’s some powerful stuff down there.

There’s quite a bit more to this story after I began writing those 250 words a day. Finishing and revising and workshopping and beta readers and querying and publication. There’s so much to learn, and I managed to learn some of it. But there were also unseen forces and people who came to my aid, through unlikely and random channels. Remind me sometime to tell you about how the tweet that landed me an agent, The Rights Factory, who represents me now, was something I drafted frantically in the waiting room for the doctor while keeping one eye on my wild 2-year-old. If you’re interested in my thoughts about writing and getting published, stick around. I’m hoping to post some writing advice in the future too.

And of course, there’s also a lot more to the beginning of this story, those first forty years before I started writing fiction, in which even deeper magic was at work. I’ve written a little about that here: Deep Magic.

It means a lot to me that you’ve read this far. I think about the people who read my stuff, and wonder about you. I hope you’ll stay in touch. If you haven’t yet, please join my email list and follow me before you go.

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