Thursday, December 13, 2018

My husband doesn't know I wrote this

Hey all, Robin here. Since Michael "called me out" in his last post, I thought I would hijack his blog...and yes, I'm working on a bread post...just have to get a loaf I'm proud of.  We are in the middle of a holiday sale (which is going quite nicely, thanks for the support) but as such, I'm in Michael's email checking around for any "shipping related" messages and so I'm snooping around a bit.

No, I've not found any emails to "the other woman" (I think he'd be smart enough to use a separate email for such things), but I did find this response to a reader, and I must say, I teared up (just a little) while reading it. So, while Michael is downstairs making his morning coffee, I'm sneaking on here to share this with you, dear readers.  I found it touching. I hope you do, too.

Michael J. Sullivan

Dec 11, 2018, 10:24 PM (2 days ago)
to chanapatterson81
When I first started writing I never thought anyone would ever read a word. I was thirteen, and I was right. Ten years later I was still at it, still writing. People were still not reading. Ten years after that, guess what? Still writing—writing every day, producing a novel a year. Readers, zero. There were no encouraging comments. No one bought me a thesaurus for Christmas, a pen set, or a T-shirt that said: The only way to fail is to stop trying. Most ignored what I did. My wife was always supportive. Busy making all the money while her lazy husband stayed home watching the children and doing "that writing thing". She didn't have time to read what I created but never made me feel what I was doing was foolish or a waste of time. 

Eventually, I figured that out for myself. 

I quit writing. I locked that dream in a drawer and went to work in advertising. For twelve years I pioneered computer graphic design. Did pretty well, but I got bored. So bored I opened that long-forgotten drawer. You see, I had this crazy idea in my head that refused to go away. Every time I took the dog for a walk I kept thinking about these two guys, a pair of thieves. I reminded myself that was stupid. Writing was bad. Writing had sucked up twenty years of my life and given back nothing. Then I'd go for a bike ride or drive to the grocery store and the two guys would pop back in my head. I saw them climbing a tower to steal a sword, but when they got there they see this dead body, and a crown and—no! Writing is bad. No one—no one will ever read any of it, and if no one reads it, what's the point?

One day I had nothing to do. I sat down at the computer and started typing. It sort of just poured out. I wrote all day, went to sleep, got up, wrote all the next day. I kept doing that. One month later I finished a novel. I called it Heir to the Throne. I kept going. The following month I finished another novel. I called it Avempartha. I kept going. The next one took three months because it was the holidays by then. I called that one Legends and Lore. Then I started Emerald Storm. I got half way and we moved from Raleigh to Washington DC. I stopped writing for several months during the transition. We weren't doing too hot financially and I had to get a job. I knew I would never finish if I worked a full-time job. But I kept going. 

I finished Emerald Storm, and then Wintertide. Finally, I finished Percepliquis, and I became depressed—really depressed. What I had feared finally happened. I had spent another handful of years writing and no one was going to read what I made. This time it was far worse. This time what I wrote was good—real good. I knew it. I knew it so deeply. If only someone would read...but no one would. This. too, would go in a drawer and be forever forgotten. 

My wife noticed I was depressed. She figured out why and in an effort to make me feel better promised to read the books. Her grudging kindness gave way to interest and then obsession. She skipped work to read the last book. She loved it. I was happy. That's all I really wanted, just someone to read and like it. That wasn't enough for my wife. She got it published. A small press, a real small press. No one noticed. Then the publisher's financial problems forced us to get back the rights and self publish. 

For years few noticed. The only ones who read the books were people I asked. Some seemed to like the books. They said things like, not too bad for a self-published author. Then I started selling more and they said things like, this is one of the best self-published books I've read this year. Finally, as Wintertide was released someone said: This is the best self-published book I've ever read. I was proud of that. It only had one qualifier. 

Then I was picked up by the New York publisher Orbit. Suddenly people were saying: This is not bad for a debut author. Then: this is one of the best this year. Finally, this is the best book I've read this year. 

People were reading my stories and liking them. They liked them so much they wrote me emails. And those messages kept getting better. 

"These are some of the best books I've ever read!" 

"You are one of my favorite new authors."

Then one day: "I just wanted to let you know that I love your writings you are my fav author and I hope you have a very Merry Christmas. Thank you for your books, they have made me laugh, cry, and have opened a new world to me. Please do not ever stop writing."

No qualifiers. No reservations.  

It's been more than forty years. Thanks for reading, thanks for giving me a point. Thanks for saying I'm your favorite author. It means a lot.

Thanks for the Merry Christmas. 

Merry Christmas to you. 

I'm still writing. 


  1. Just last night my son and I were waiting for my other son after his school band concert, when suddenly my son said, "That guy is reading 'Age of Myth'" Sure enough, a guy across the foyer had it tucked under his arm, the title clearly visible. I wanted to run over and introduce myself but decided against it--it might come across too weird. And there was a chance the guy wasn't as big a fan as I am (after all, its a 'first in series', not like he was reading 'Age of War' or 'Heir of Novron' where you'd know he had only read that far because he really wanted to).

    I can't say I know a lot of Sullivan fans around here (I live in Brandon Sanderson's backyard), but my brother and his wife are fans, and they hooked me. And now all three of my kids are. I talk Michael's books up with anyone who wants to talk books with me, and I've hooked at least one friend that way. I knew exactly where he was in "Revelations" when he suddenly posted on Facebook one day, "DAMN YOU, MICHAEL J. SULLIVAN!"

    But as meaningful as Michael's stories have been to me, his personal story (as outlined above) has been an inspiration to me. I'm a writer who wrote a lot when I was a teenager (and DID get read and rewarded, at least by the yearly school district judges), but later convinced myself writing could never pay the bills. I wrote a few things for fun here and there, but about seven years ago decided to try NaNoWriMo, which got me back into it. I was introduced to Riyria and Michael not long after that, and Michael has been one of my primary inspirations ever since. (Not to mention the big shot in the arm I got from being a "Death of Dulgath" semi-finalist.)

    It's strange to think that we almost didn't get Royce and Hadrian, Arista, Gwen, Myron, the Pickerings, Thrace, Sir Breckton and Wesley, Hilfred, Amelia, and so many other characters who have become as good as friends to me. So, thank you Michael for writing them, and thank you Robin for dragging them into the daylight. Thank you for being the people and the team you are that makes it so easy to talk you up and throw in my support. It's always a bonus when the people who tell my favorite stories turn out to be some of my favorite people, too!

    1. Thom...thank you for taking the time to write. It's long been a dream of mine to see someone...somewhere...reading my book. It's not happened yet. But your story...where three people who have read my book are in the same place at the same time gives me hope!

      I'm so glad you and those around you have enjoyed the books. And thank you for helping to spread the word. It's because of people like you that they have found their legs, and I'm eternally grateful.

      I'm so glad you have been writing...I hope it brings you as much joy as it does me.

      It is an amazing thing that the stories got "out there." Along the way there were so many obstacles and the road was oh so long. I've said it many times before, but I think it bears repeating...writing is its own reward, but hearing others have enjoyed my scribbling takes a good thing and elevates it to new heights. It's messages like yours that I print out and put in a folder in my right-hand desk drawer. When I get down, I pull them out, and find inspiration that the stories are indeed loved by people out there. And that puts me back in my seat on the days when a particularly bad review or other setback makes me wonder at my ability. So thank you for that as well. I'm truly the most fortunate of writers to have people like you reading my books!

    2. I have been talking up Riyria to my siblings for over a year now, and they have been talking up Brandon Sanderson's collection. Now that I have read through all of Riyria twice impatiently waiting for the next book, we have finally gotten around to a book swap and are both so excited as the other explores and falls in love with our favorite worlds and characters.
      Thank you.
      Keep writing (faster, but at the same quality).
      Stay inspired.

  2. I know Robin wrote this post (thanks for sharing this, Robin), but my comment below here is for Michael:

    You are my favorite author too. ;) And I think more people should say that.
    Merry Christmas from me too! To both of you. :D

    1. Why thank you, Christomir. I'm honored by such a distinction. The fact that even a handful of people have said such a remarkable thing is beyond my imagination. I daydream for a living, and when I started writing my stories, I "thought" I might find some people who would read them...but being someone's favorite? That was more than I could ever hopeful. Thank you for the great Christmas gift. I hope you and yours have an excellent one as well, and here's hoping for a safe and healthy 2019!

  3. Royce and Hardrin are some of my favorite book characters ever, I love them and the world created in your books so much! I've shared with with my husband, my book club, and several friends.

    1. Hey Keisha, please tell your husband I said hello, and extend my thanks to him...and also your friends. People like you bestow on me such a generous gift. I'm so glad you have enjoyed the books so much as to share them with others.

  4. I wholeheartedly agree and when I write Michael I always thank Robin and the family for all their hard work. I have Michael as my 2nd Favorite but he is seriously bumping against Glen Cook for my top spot. Michael and Robin, tomorrow I am testing the bread recipe Michael posted for my wife :) Happy holidays to you all.

  5. Why thank you! I still think of myself as sitting at "the kids table" and never thought I'd hear my name mentioned alongside those I consider real authors so you've honored me with your very kind words. Robin and Sarah have been an amazing help over the long years. I'm so grateful for both. I do hope the bread recipe comes out well. Robin has made two loafs in the last two days and they both came out amazing...Unfortunately, she is still struggling with the sour dough, but she's persevering on. Hopefully it won't take her as long to master it as it did me to get the hang of this whole writing thing.

  6. I don't put a lot of stock in the numbers (she's number one, he's number two, etc.) but I certainly know what I like. Michael, you may very well be my favorite author. I'm very grateful for your books and have never inhabited someone else's fictional world more easily than when I am reading Sullivan or Rothfuss. You have a gift and I am a tremendous fan. I hope it always brings you joy and that the rest of us will be able to share in a little of it. Merry Christmas and happy holidays to you and yours. :)

    Don S.

    (Also, the Sullivans sure seem like good eggs. So great when talent intersects with that manner of quality and when support is deserved …)

    1. Thanks, Don! I'm so glad you enjoy your visits to Elan. I'm certainly having fun there, and glad you are too. Here's hoping you and yours have a great holiday season as well. Thanks, too, for the kid words regarding character. It's greatly appreciated.

  7. I read fantasy novels years ago. I read Tolkien, Le Guin, Brooks, Eddings, Zelazny, and others. I loved the fantasy genre back then. Then I got busy with life and read very little fantasy, actually very little fiction, for 25 years.

    One day, I decided to jump online and check to see how many books Shannara had grown to and stumbled upon a 'Theft of Swords' excerpt. I read it and thoroughly enjoyed it. I then read all the reviews and saw how much everyone loved Royce and Hadrian's story...if not the characters themselves!

    Well it turns out, I loved their story too. A few months ago I purchased all of the novels and downloaded the two remaining short stories (a couple being incorporated into the books). I'm now almost done with 'The Death of Dulgath', having read the books in publication order. Thank you, Michael and Robin, for reinvigorating my love of reading fiction/fantasy! I'm looking forward to Legends!

  8. Post from 12/17/18,1:59

    From- Jeff S

  9. I stumbled upon Royce and Hadrian when Avempartha was a free e-book on Amazon. When I read that, I was like "there's got to be more to this" and then I started collecting the other e-books so I could read them all. The worst part was when I got caught up on what was published and had to wait for the next installment. :-)

    Michael, you are definitely one of my favorite authors. Whenever you publish a book, I purchase it since I know it will be good. I've shared Riyria with a close friend of mine who likes a good fantasy story - actually I got him the first book as a Christmas gift and he liked it so much he bought the others so he could read the entire series. Next up is sharing the series with my daughter (she's only nine so she may need a few years to improve her vocabulary).

    I think the best part of Michael is his humility of his success and his sincere appreciation to his fans. I've emailed him numerous times and it always makes ME FEEL GOOD when he replies as that makes me, the reader, feel valued.

    Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays Robin and Michael! Keep on writing so I can keep on reading! :-)

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  12. I’m not a reader or a writer but I’ve listened to several of your books on audible( Ryria several times) and they are by far my favorite. They made those long hours at my job fly by and am always looking to see if a new one has released. I have several people I work with listening to Ryria and they also love it. Can’t wait for more. Have a Happy new year!

  13. So, I do have a qualifier. For YEARS all I would read were books from my favorite author, Diana Gabaldon. She is an amazing, extremely talented Author. After catching up on all her books (and re-reading the Outlander series countless times), I had to find another Author that would capture my imagination.

    I started your books, (audio)and let me just say this; If she is the Queen of Authors, you are the King. A sense of humor, great characters, and a truly wonderfully crafted work of art. Thank you for sharing your beautiful creations.

    PS. I know everyone falls in love with Hadrian, but I am in more in love with Royce.

  14. Michael - I want to validate your hopes for appreciation. I grew up reading Brooks, Goodkind, Jordan, Tolkien, Anthony, Mccaffrey, and so on and so on. I'm an avid fan of Sanderson, Martin, and I especially love Jonathon Renshaw's fledgling series (oh how I love Dawn of Wonder). Your books sit among these on my shelf, in my audible collection, and in my heart. In fact, many of your books sit considerably closer to my heart than many of those by the authors I listed.

    You, good sir, are no longer at the "kid table." The real craftsmanship in your work is appreciated and loved by everyone I've shared your name with. I know you likely have enough encouragement to feel validated in your writing, but I hope you have the courage and foresight to never allow a deadline or publisher to compromise your excellent work. Also, I truly hope you and TG Reynolds continue to partner - that arrangement is fortunate for us all.

    I sincerely thank you for uplifting and inspiring me with your work.

  15. Michael & Robin, you are both awesome and I'm thrilled for you both. Big hugs from a fan/friend (and now debut author) who has loved your books for a decade.

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  19. Thank you for posting this. It brought tears to my eyes! Not only are you my favorite author I discovered in 2018, but reading about the history behind what it took to get here reminds me not to give up. I'm a photographer, and I often get into my depressed periods because it feels like my work sucks, I suck, everyone else thinks I suck, or even worse, they see it and dismiss it without even a second of thought. I'm so happy your work finally got attention so that people like me could come and find it. I think all of November and December 2018 was spent reading or listening to all of your books. Lots of love to you and your family!

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