first, some background
hi, my name is scott, and i’m a complete fucking idiot. allow me to explain.
i’ve worked as a freelance translator (japanese to english) for the better part of ten years. it’s a great gig that has given me an enormous amount of flexibility, in that i can live and work remotely from anywhere in the world. i’ve lived in japan, spent extended periods of time traveling (working as i go), and ultimately settled down in san francisco. briefly, anyway.
the not-so-great thing is that as a japanese-english translator i’m paid in yen. so when the yen recently plummeted in value, i basically took a massive pay cut. last time i checked, 100 yen was worth approximately zero dollars. that means i was living in one of the most expensive cities in the world on a dwindling paycheck. armed with determination and a complete lack of other marketable job skills, i set out to do something about it.
i was in san francisco, so of course i tried a startup. it’s just what you do there. some friends and i started a hardware startup in san francisco to build a motion-activated bike alarm. only, none of us had any real expertise with hardware, and it soon flopped when we couldn’t solve any of the difficult engineering challenges we encountered along the way.
but the attempt gave me enough material to write a book lampooning the experience, and the broader tech scene in sf in general. i may not have real-world job experience or knowledge, but man am i good at telling dick jokes. some might even say it’s all i’m good at.
all in all, i loved writing the book. getting back into writing and doing something creative was a great experience, after so long performing the simple input-output of translation work. i finished the book, self-published it to amazon and … nothing. a few friends bought it, maybe a few other people who stumbled upon it did too. but it mostly sank like a stone.
why didn’t it sell? because it was a bad book? because my writing was pretty amateurish? because i suck at marketing? because there’s not much of a market for comedy books? probably yes to all of those. by the time i had decided to abandon comedy for a genre that people actually read, i had already finished a second book in the series. i probably won’t even publish it.
but i was hooked on writing. not just the creative aspects of crafting characters and plots, but also the entire notion of becoming a full-time author. amazon has recently revolutionized the publishing industry with self-publishing, whereby anybody can write and publish books on their platform (and now other sites too). with no gatekeepers between writers and readers, authors are free to publish anything they like in the hopes of attracting a readership. i would love to work on writing full-time, to spend my days being creative and getting paid to do it. besides, all i had to do was write a bunch of awesome books and build a dedicated following of readers. and really, how hard could that be? fucking hard, it turns out. but i’m getting ahead of myself.
so with this in mind, i moved on and wrote a psychological thriller called in the dark. the basis for the book was a single idea: a man wakes up in a room with dead bodies but no memory of who he is or who killed the others. his attempts to solve this mystery are complicated by the fact that he’s hallucinating badly, and can’t tell what’s real or what’s in his head anymore. i outlined, wrote, and published the roughly 400 page book in four months, and was pleased with how it turned out.
it did better than my first book, but nowhere near bestseller or even consistent-seller status. i decided against heavy promotion. the book is a standalone, so even if readers like it, there’s no sequel or nothing else of mine for them to buy (unless they wanted to try a shitty comedy). better to wait until i had more books out. which brings me to …
tokyo noir. i had a few ideas for a noir / crime thriller, which i basically rolled into one massive narrative and sprinkled liberally with crazy. it’s basically the sopranos or game of thrones of dystopian crime thrillers involving the yakuza in a near-future tokyo that absolutely nobody was clamoring for. seriously, nobody. but i loved the idea. i wanted to have multiple complex, well-rounded main characters, each with their own story lines that overlap in an intricately interwoven plot set against a unique backdrop. it was my attempt to take the depth of the best television dramas and rework it into the guise of crime / thriller genre fiction. there was just one problem.
as i sketched out the plot i realized the book was going to be massive. like, nearly 1,000 pages massive. it would take me at least a year to write all that in my spare time on nights and weekends at my current pace. so i started thinking of ways to speed the process up. i loved living in san francisco, but it’s one of the most expensive cities on earth. i realized that if i wasn’t paying so much for rent there i could work less and write more, and ultimately get this book out quicker.
this is where being a fucking idiot can get you into trouble. because despite knowing that most authors never earn enough to support themselves as writers, i decided to go for it and make the switch to full-time author status. i knew it was a chance, but i’d regret it if i never gave it a shot. besides, i’ll refer you back to my previous comment about not having any marketable job skills. it’s not like i’m really qualified for much, besides maybe bath salts sommelier. but that’s not a real job (yeah, i checked).
so i decided to take the plunge. i packed up everything i would need into a backpack and put all my other belongings in storage. it wasn’t much, actually. because even when i’m settled down i’m never far from saying ‘fuck it all’ and leaving to live out of a backpack. there’s something refreshing and liberating about breaking your entire life down so that it can fit into a backpack and go anywhere with you.
i had 200 pages of manuscript done when i boarded a plane to costa rica for a four-month stay to finish the rest of the novel. that was in june 2016, and i’ve been traveling and writing ever since. i plan to keep traveling until i can make the switch to full-time author. or until i die trying. you know, whichever comes first.
this travelog will detail my journey, including the many stops along the way in cities around the world. i’ve broken it up into destination cities, with my reason for visiting each one, and fun facts and recommendations for each one based on my experience.
the road to becoming a full-time author has taken me to some interesting places so far. places like: