The Story Behind the Neiko Adventure Saga Part 1: My Secret Life As a Teen Novelist
Today’s post is going to explore my life as a teen novelist (I wrote novels, but they weren’t published until later) and writer. This story actually has a light and a dark side, but for today, we will look at the bright side of it. In case you are wondering, I am not a teenager (maybe in the number of years I have been alive, but I will always be a kid/teen at heart). I am in my 30’s at the time of this writing. This is a part of the story behind the story behind The Neiko Adventure Saga and who A.K. Taylor is should anyone be curious.
I was a teenager back in the 1990’s. I turned age 13 in 1993 for a frame of reference for you. I hadn’t begun my journey as a novelist quite yet. At this time in my life, I still lived in a very rural area where I had my pretend adventures in the woods and in the back yard with my fictional Indian Tribes (look at the last post) and my action figures. Being a tomboy, I didn’t really like Barbie even though I had some. They became giants and would fight each other rather than play dress up. Now and then, I would get a wild hair and change their clothes.
However in the late summer/fall of 1995, we move to the suburbs, and the life that I knew came to an end. While I was closer to a lot of my family, there wasn’t much else that was great about my life here. In fact, my life really sucked. This became one the darkest times of my life, which we will explore later in another post in detail.
The life that I had grown up to know was gone. I was bullied almost every single day. Everything I said or did or anything about me was cannon fodder, and everyone was a bully. I dealt with bullying early in life, but in that place I had a “safe zone” to go to: the woods and home. This time the woods were not available to me. The place known as “home” was that in name alone, but my heart wasn’t there. If home is where the heart is, then this is not home. I had just been formally introduced to the rat race. I had been accustomed to slower country life. After a few days, I became physically tired and didn’t know why. It was weird.
We lived in a subdivision on an acre lot. I had been accustomed to having access to hundreds of acres (my parents didn’t own that much, but I was allowed to venture there by the landowners and the neighbors). The world seemed like it was closing in. My parents looked at the house where we were going to live, since they were looking for a place to live. We were staying with my grandparents. We were homeless at the time due to an abrupt, unplanned leave from the previous home–well, there was an apartment during the transition before we left Rome, GA. As soon as I set foot on the property, I hated it, but I didn’t know why. I hoped my parents wouldn’t want to live here, but then that’s what happened. When we moved in, I had never been as depressed as I had been at that moment in the 15 years I had been alive.
It seemed like everyone at school hated me for some reason, but I never really knew why. I didn’t have any friend even though I tried–I really did. At best, there were acquaintances that would tolerate me and be nice to me when they felt like it, but they would turn on me in a New York minute, and I knew it. I no longer had a safe zone or an escape, except for my action figures and what little of a yard we had. Yes, I was a teen and still played with action figures. Sue me. Nintendo also became another friend of mine, and I had a lot of the classics: Tetris, Mega Man, Mario Bros, Zelda, and a few others. My mother said I really need to stop playing with action figures at my age. Really? My only escape from the wretched life I now have, and you want me to stop doing the thing that gives me release and peace? What then? I know she was trying to look out for my best interest, but it wasn’t helping. It made me more miserable and depressed, and I rebelled by refusing to lay them down. She said people would talk about that. So what? If it’s not that, then they will find something else. They always do. If not, they will make something up and start a rumor. If I contest it as lie till the cows come home, then it never matters. It’s not like anyone really freaking cares anyway.
I graduate middle school and on into high school; we had moved when I was in 8th grade. My life really didn’t get any better upon entering high school. If anything, it was worse. In addition to being “fresh meat” (common moniker for freshmen) for the upperclassmen, I was still a piece of meat for my fellow freshmen. I turn 16, but it was not-so-sweet-sixteen for me. My family has a party for me, and I get my learner’s license. Big whoop. No one else gave a crap.
Sometime during this time, I have a 7 year old cousin who thinks I was so cool. Well, at least someone did, even if she was family and a little kid. She really loved my action figures. Then I began playing with her; it gave me an excuse to play with my action figures again despite my mother’s protests. New characters and new ideas began to flourish that had never been there before. Later on, she invites me to her 8th birthday at a local skating ring. I go even if there are a bunch of little girls there. Heck, I was invited to a party where I was really wanted for a change.
As was skating around, I had the coolest idea: just what if some of the characters from my pretend worlds walked into this skating ring? What would I do? Would I be just like my counterpart back in my woodland warrior adventures? Then something inside me began to form. I’ve always loved creative writing back in school. Then I remembered the old computer sitting in my mom and dad’s bedroom they had purchased from my step grandfather, which had Microsoft Word installed on it along with Windows 93. I had learned how to operate some stuff on the computer like Microsoft Word in 5th grade and in middle school. I had just taken a keyboarding class in the fall semester, so I could type pretty well. So maybe I could write my way back into my imaginary worlds? I could still play with my action figures with my cousin. A few skating laps later, I decided I could try writing a book.
Then a personal challenge came into my head: Could I write a novel? Hmm, I had never attempted anything that big before. At the most I had written a short story or a poem for class, and I previously had no need for writing, because I lived my adventures as I imagined them. I loved science, so I decided to do an experiment on myself.
I had basic knowledge about how the writing process works. I have a grasp on basic grammar rules. I did have an idea about how to use quotation marks. I had to look at books about how to handle dialogue on a basic scale or any other things I may be a bit hazy on. I also had this weird thought about what I didn’t like in books–even the ones that I enjoyed–that I would like to change. It’s not like anyone was ever going to see it anyway. I wasn’t intending on publishing anyway. Who knows how that works anyway? It’s probably hard and complicated. Self publishing as we know it today didn’t exist then. The internet was very young at that time. This was when dial up was the only way to connect and when computers were still very expensive. We had this one, because we got it for a deal from a relative. My parents have been poor all my life, so we didn’t have a couple grand to blow on a computer like most people did. Even a few hundred was pushing it.
So with that I began to write the first words to Neiko’s Five Land Adventure (it was called something else, but it makes me cringe). I never once set foot in a creative writing class, a writers group, or anything. I never have a mentor. They wouldn’t bother with me anyway if there are any. After I start, all these ideas just start coming out of nowhere. New characters, new places, and the story just opens itself up. Then ideas for new stories just arrive. Holy crap! I had just discovered the motherlode. I planned on keeping this a secret. Nobody would like it anyway. If anybody saw it, they would just make fun of me and say it is stupid and ugly like I was. I might tell my cousin. My parents will probably know, but it’s not like they would make a big to-do about it. It would be as exciting as my rock and coin collections probably were to them. Meh. They didn’t share the same elation as I did for a new video game or action figure either.
I tell my cousin about it, and not only do we still continue our action figure sessions, we start making stories together–orally and via role playing. More awesome new characters, worlds, and ideas come. Everything grows exponentially. I keep my parents up at night into the wee hours on weekends and on the summer as I hammer away at the keyboard and from the glare of the monitor. They beg me to go to bed. It’s two a.m., but I want to finish this chapter/paragraph/sentence. They have a hard time pulling me off the computer. so I would eat supper or take a bath. I would have to grudgingly comply. Writing is not like a video game where I would just hit pause. I would get so mad at my teachers, if they loaded us with homework which meant less writing time. They were invading my writing time! Ugh! It was just annoying when they loaded us with homework, and I got less time outside or playing a video game, maybe worse. My parents and I fought over the computer. They want to play Taipei or Solitaire, but I want to write in my story. I finish Neiko’s Five Land Adventure and dive right into Escape from Ancient Egypt shortly after at the age of 17.
During all of the times I am sitting by myself at lunch or on break, I am now brainstorming as I people-watch. I am not thinking as much about how much my life sucks and how much people suck and are jerks. Being left out on purpose only gives me more time to write even though the pain still hurts and is just as real. After finishing Escape from Ancient Egypt, I start skipping around in the stories in what I felt like writing at the time. It’s not like I am ever going to publish. No one is ever going to care.
I never share this with anyone else. I never breathe a word about it at school. Not even to my teachers. They would probably say, “That’s nice” with half-hearted insincerity. I don’t talk about it at church either. My parents and some of my grandparents would sneak a peek over my shoulder now and then while I was busy on the keyboard or drawing pictures of characters and maps. I start keeping a notebook. My cousin starts drawing pictures, too. A character she created is part of the series. Some pieces of my life are in the story, even the place where it all began: at the skating ring in the first book. Even the part of still playing with action figures even though I made Neiko a little older than I was at 18. It really didn’t make a difference to me, since 18 for me probably wouldn’t be much different, except for being older and having more freedom and be eligible to vote maybe. I didn’t care anything about being legally eligible to smoke. Besides, it may make it a bit more realistic for Neiko to be out later if she were 18 as opposed to 16. When you are 16 you do look forward to being 18. I also go back and add things from later in my life like the place where I work at and the birth of my little sister. I always wanted a sibling since I was an only child who was alone a lot growing up, and it wasn’t by choice all of the time.
I am hardly invited to parties, and even when I go, the whole thing is awkward. I am uptight and want to be at home writing, but if I don’t go, it may be another year before I am invited anywhere again. I am never invited to a dance. Who wants to be with the dork of the year at the dance? I don’t go to the prom either. I am never invited. I don’t go get a $500 dress just to stand around and watch everyone else. I can sit in the car at the local Wal-mart to do that for free. My parents couldn’t afford it anyway, and it was a waste for something I probably wouldn’t enjoy, since I was the school loser judging by how I was treated by others. That’s every day at school when I am not being surrounded by the bullies who hunt like velociraptors. Get a date? Who am I kidding? While everyone else is getting dressed up, riding in limos, dancing, etc, I am at home going on the next big adventure and writing in my top secret books.
I graduate high school, but I take a couple years off to decide on my major as well as save. So, then I am writing after work and brainstorming when things are slow. My cousin and I are still making stories together. We do this for hours and even stay up late doing this. I hardly go anywhere with anyone at work either. I am just there, and my boss is a total jerk, but I do my best anyway.
Something happens between here and college but I will talk about it in another blog post. My secret life is no longer a secret. Now that I now tell it on my blog, it will be here for anyone in the world to discover should they wish. Also the writings I thought I would never publish and keep a secret…two of them are now published works. Till next time…
About the Author
AK Taylor is an award winning YA author who has been writing novels since age 16. Beekeeper, outdoor sportsman, avid adventurer, and animal lover. Taylor lives in the backwoods of Middle GA where she continues to write stories.