The idea for The Demon in Business Class came at a weird time. I had a good job, opening overseas offices for the internet company AOL. I had just finished a six-month stint in Tokyo, a life-changing and confidence-building experience. I was waiting to start my upcoming assignment in Sydney — waiting far longer than expected. After the energy and focus of startup life overseas, I suddenly had very little to do at what had become an enormous company. I felt like a snowboard in summer.
I was still processing a bad relationship from the year before — or, really, back to processing it, cleaning out the emotional junk I had ignored while working in Japan. Many friends had settled down while I was away, so social life was hard to find. I ate a lot of dinners, at home and in restaurants, alone with a book.
My dear friend Erik Bennett was working as an actor in Los Angeles. He and I had created a short-lived arts magazine some years before, and he was my only connection to my early creative dreams. At one point Erik had said, lightheartedly but with a sense of real possibility, that I should ditch my job and come make movies with him. As the boredom of waiting had grown, it was on my mind.
One evening I wrote him a letter — on AOL Japan stationery, with a fountain pen given to me by a London colleague.
Indie movies sounded fun, I wrote, but I was in a navel-gazing place. I could write about corporate life, but while I enjoyed it from the inside, it wasn’t exciting from the outside. I’d probably need some big plot, maybe something archetypal and fantastic. Like, if Good and Evil were rival companies, and two people who were on either side of that somehow fell in love.
The great juggler Michael Moschen once talked about how he might pick up an object, like a bent piece of rebar, and feel a sickening in his stomach. He knew from that single heft he could do something with it, and that it would take him a year of hard work.
I understood that feeling, then.
It took me more than a decade. I did go to Sydney, and after that to Hong Kong. When I stopped living in hotels, life was waiting for me: my mother’s illness and death, meeting my wife, starting a family. I wrote some screenplay scenes, but I liked fiction better — even though I had to relearn how to write it, and learn more. I wrote 400 pages, tossed them out, and started over.
What surprises me still is how I didn’t let go of this basic idea, or it of me. Now I have new books in me, but this is the book that made me a writer.
Welcome aboard. Fasten your seat belt. Bon Voyage!