Please Welcome Author Michael Roth!

A new guest today!

Please welcome Michael Roth, author of River's New Friend:

River is a puppy in search of a new friend. When Mom and Dad bring home a new, little sister, named Willow, River expects Willow will be the perfect friend. But Willow steals food, slobbers on toys, makes messes all over the house, and takes away from River's time with Mom and Dad. River is sure there has been a terrible mistake. Willow isn't a new friend, she's a MONSTER! River does not want to play with her sister, she will find a new friend instead.
"A humorous, heartwarming, and honest story about learning to appreciate a challenging, new sibling."
River's New Friend highlights that relationships with siblings can be challenging sometimes, but through the story, River learns to appreciate her new sister and by the end River is glad that her sister is part of the family. River's New Friend is full of humor and has fun read-along elements like animal sounds and actions. It is perfect for children with siblings, children who love dogs, and readers, children and adults alike, looking for a fun and engaging story.

Welcome, Michael!

I am not supposed to be a writer.

Really, I'm not. I didn't write stories as a kid, nor did I have any lifelong dreams of becoming a professional writer. In fact, the thought never even once crossed my mind. Creative Writing was one of my worst courses in school, and a high school English teacher once told me that I would never amount to anything in life if I didn't learn to "apply myself."

What that teacher didn't see was that I WAS applying myself in the math and science classes that were far more interesting and came much more naturally to me. I wasn't supposed to be a writer, you see; I was meant to be an engineer. My mind liked formulas, identifying patterns, and finding creative solutions to interesting problems, all things to which a career as an engineer seemed well-suited.

I graduated from university with an engineering degree, and for much of the next ten years, I worked as a data analyst, putting my pattern recognition and problem-solving skills to use. At the age of 28, I founded a technical consulting company specializing in data analytics, and by the time I turned 34, I was running a successful small business and had not written a single word of a story since high school English class.

Fast forward to one year later, I had sold my business and retired from engineering to focus on becoming a professional writer. Wait… what??? I know, a rather shocking and drastic pivot.

It started in the Spring of 2019 when a TV series I had been enthralled with delivered a disappointingly and perplexingly bad finale (maybe you can guess the show...). It triggered something in my brain, and I suddenly found myself obsessively rewriting the ending to be more to my liking. I didn’t know what fanfiction was, but that was what I was creating in my head as I plotted a new ending.

I didn’t have the words for it at the time, but as I was crafting my fanfiction, I was using writing tools like setup and payoff, story structure, try-fail cycles, and character arcs. But as my engineering brain saw it, I was identifying patterns and finding creative solutions to an interesting problem. This wasn’t that boring, unpleasant “writing” thing they made me do in High School; this was “story engineering”!

I was having fun with my story engineering, but I couldn’t help feeling a negative energy. I was being creative, but I was tearing down other creators’ art in the process. I don’t think that is the case for fanfiction in general, but for me, I was motivated by frustration and spite towards the original story that I was determined to “fix”. I didn’t want to feel that negativity anymore.

What if I took all the time and energy I was dedicating to rewriting someone else’s story and instead wrote stories of my own? It would be a much more positive use of my energy for sure, but there was one major problem: how was I supposed to write a story? I was not a writer.

My “story engineering” had been limited to plotting only; no actual words had been written, and turning a plot into a story felt like a daunting task. But I liked making stories in my head, and I wanted to share them with others, and that meant somehow actually, you know… writing them down.

So, in the words of my least favorite English teacher, I “applied myself”. I started writing all the early, lousy words a writer needs to get out of their system as they practice and improve their craft. I listened to podcasts on writing (highly recommend the Writing Excuses podcast), attended writing conferences, and joined a critique group to receive feedback on my work.

In the midst of all of this practicing and learning, I discovered that I had a passion and talent for writing children’s picture books. Picture books had interesting constraints like page limits, word limits, page turns, rhythm, and (optionally) rhyme, and writing one was akin to solving a fun logic puzzle. Picture books were “story engineering” taken to a whole other level.

In the fall of 2020, my wife began working a job that was the culmination of ten years of training and the fulfillment of a dream she had since she was a child. She told me that since I had supported her dream, she would like to return the favor. She asked if I had any dreams that I wanted to pursue.

My whole life, the answer to that question had been, “no”. Engineering had been an interesting pursuit, but I never would have called it a “dream”. But now, for the first time, I did have a dream. I wanted to be a professional writer.

With my wife’s support, I sold my business and retired from engineering to focus on writing and publishing picture books. Two and a half years later, I sit in a dining room overflowing with boxes and boxes of my debut picture book, “River’s New Friend,” wondering what I got myself into, but also excited that the dream has become a reality.

I learned that it’s never too late to find a new passion in life and that, if you are open to it, what that passion might be could surprise you. If I could end up a writer, then who knows what improbable journeys might await you. And if you find yourself being led in a new direction, don’t forget to “apply yourself”. 🙄😂

Thank you for visiting, Michael! And it's true, fanfiction can be such a positive thing, an exploration of the story and characters, and an extension of the wonderful word that already exists!

Find Michael on his website, Instagram, and Twitter.

And here's a lovely interview by Kim!


J.L. Campbell said…
Wow, that's quite a turnaround from engineer to full-time writer. It's wonderful to be immersed in something you enjoy.
Deniz Bevan said…
Thanks for coming by, Joy!