Imagine rolling out of bed, puttering your way to the in-home office, writing, eating when hunger calls, writing more, doing the laundry, then sleeping when the needs washes over you.
Such can be the life of the stay-at-home writer who does the work because, well, it gets food on the table. And it also beats getting a real-world, someone-else-is-the-boss job.
One of the lucky few allowed to live in such a manner is Texarkana’s own Garon Whited, whose passion for science fiction and fantasy have inspired so much success that he’s sold thousands of copies of his main book series, “Nightlord,” which is now in its fifth volume and, this past week, had its Audible version released. “Void” is that latest volume.
Whited, a Kansas native who was born in 1970 or ’69, depending on which version of his birth certificate he shares with you, turned to full-time writing just a few years ago after being laid off from an IT job. He turned something he worked on during his spare time into a full-blown career, all with self-publishing.
His inspiration for this career comes from writers like Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, J.R.R. Tolkien and Isaac Asimov.
All rumors of me being a vampire are blown way out of proportion.
They helped Whited prepare for creating a series like “Nightlord,” which tells the winding tale of a physics professor who becomes a vampire and a reluctant king. They helped Whited envision Rethven, one of the worlds in the “Nightlord” series.
“Nightlord is the main series so far. It’s basically the diary of Eric. He’s a computer programmer, physics teacher, that kind of thing,” Whited said. Eric doesn’t believe in the supernatural, but lo and behold he’s turned into a vampire. That will change one’s perspective, but becoming a vampire is the least of his problems.
A lot happens in “Nightlord.” Eric, unwittingly, becomes a king. He didn’t mean to do so, the author says. But it’s just one of the permutations in a series that has multiple universes.
“He winds up in more than one of those. He winds up with a pet rock. It’s a mountain,” Whited said, flashing his ever-present dry wit. “Blazingly fast for a pet rock, but the bar isn’t that high.”
Eric also gets married, another thing he didn’t intend to do. “There’s a lot of stuff that happens to him, which he’s not very pleased with,” Whited said of this protagonist. He’s a man who feels put upon, in many ways.
Eric isn’t autobiographical, but the author and his character share knowledge of physics and computer science in a write-what-you-know manner.
“As a writer, I have to fake it convincingly,” Whited says, also saying, “All rumors of me being a vampire are blown way out of proportion.”
He’s been doing the writing thing for 43 years. “I started when I was 5,” he admits. But professionally? About 10 to 15 years. And now he makes a living at it. “I’m a professional author,” he said. Then, gesturing to the hardcover copies of his books on the shelf, he said, “Those things there, that’s all I’ve been doing for the past three or four years now.”
He went through Amazon to get his books out there. All of them are on Kindle. The “Nightlord” series also got picked up by Podium Publishing, and so audio books give him additional income. They’re more expensive to produce, but that means he gets a bigger cut from each sale.
Other Whited books include “Luna,” which Whited describes as a “straight-up post-apocalyptic science fiction novel.” In fact, “Luna” may just be the most cheerful such novel you can find, he says. “Dragonhunters,” his other book, is a fantasy with noble heroes venturing out to kill a dragon and get eaten, as he put it.
“And then the story really starts,” Whited said.
He ventured out into the full-time writerly work because he lost a job at the Northeast Texas Workforce Board. The federal funding stream for the job disappeared, and he was presented an opportunity. With a nest egg, he didn’t need a job that instant, and he was in the middle of the next “Nightlord” volume.
“You know what, let me finish book two. I can pull that off. I’ll finish it much quicker because I’m not going to be distracted by a job eight hours a day,” Whited recalled of his thinking at the time. “Let me get that done, then I’ll look for a job.”
Book two came out, and he survived. He started the next book, vowing to look for another job when he got below “X” amount. Didn’t happen. He kept writing. And selling his books. Finding a person to market his work helped a lot; gaining traction went slowly, but it happened.
Fantasy and science fiction have been integral aspects of his life for a long time. “The Lord of the Rings” was junior high reading. His copies tend to fall apart from paging through them so much. “I played D&D back when it was first edition, and a variety of other role playing games,” Whited said.
Running a D&D game, he’s making up a story, so in that sense it’s similar to writing. It’s part of the appeal. “It’s also kind of a mental exercise,” he admits. He’s also dealing with what other people think, want and choose to do during the game when they play people in the world he creates. That makes it more difficult, in a way, than writing a novel, where his characters will do what he compels them to do.
For “Nightlord,” Whited created several worlds. His author website even has a map of Rethven, the first world Eric finds himself in during the course of events. Eventually, Eric learns to move from one reality to another.
“Rethven is basically a pretty typical fantasy world. You’ve got guys in armor. They’ve got swords. You’ve got wizards who throw spells. In that respect, it is pretty normal from a fantasy standpoint,” said Whited, who adds that his first book is “a third of a million words.” He says he’s sold “hundreds of thousands” of books, mostly digital, the cheapest way to get a copy.
“I don’t think I’ve broken a million yet, but just you wait, just you wait, there will come a day,” Whited said.
Sitting in a bookstore and perusing, then reading deeper into, one of the latest vampire novels he pulled from the shelf, that is what motivated him to write the first “Nightlord” book. What he read failed to impress him. He waited for it to get better. It didn’t. He could do better.
“To be blunt, I thought I could eat a pen and tomorrow I could produce a better book,” Whited said. “So I did.”
He hopes to take “Nightlord” to book seven, four books beyond the original trilogy he anticipated. Eric’s story has become more organic, Whited says. “He grows and as he’s growing things change for him because he sees things differently,” said the author.
Although as a self-employed writer he, with tongue-deep-in-his-cheek, calls his employees lazy, what he does remains satisfying, in certain respects.
“The thing is I’m creating a world, multiple worlds, actually. I’m telling stories, and there’s something fundamental about the human psyche that says, ‘I want to tell stories,'” Whited says. “People also want to be told stories. I am a storyteller. There are a lot of people who want to be storytellers. But we also want to hear the stories, want to read the stories, want to be part of the stories.”
And the fact people become delighted with his stories—”and want to live in them”—this is what satisfies him. He has fans all over the world. He heads out for book tours.
And advice to give to someone who wants to be a writer?
“Don’t quit your day job. Write but work. Always carve out time to do that. Write your book. Write your next book. Write the book after that, because if you don’t write it nobody’s going to. And then when you have some traction, when people are starting to notice, that’s where you start going, you know, maybe I don’t need to be a full-time whatever it is you are,” Whited says.
Wait for that moment. Find a comfortable middle-ground where you “land in the water and swim.”
“Carve out time time to write. If you’re meant to be a writer, you will find a way to write,” Whited said.
(On the Net: GaronWhited.com.)