At the end of May, Eastside natives Mike Thompson and Jake Skorheim released their first two self-published books — The Foundling and The Queen of Oz — on Amazon. Both seasoned Hollywood screenwriters, the two decided to co-write and self-publish the Young Adult thrillers, which allowed them to have more creative license over their work.
Both books are published under the pseudonym W.F. Sawyer, a name the two of them created to honor their children — both have sons between the ages of 2 and 4.
“We had an idea for a script and thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be incredibly freeing and liberating if we just decided to write a novel instead of a movie?’” said Thompson, 50, who has spent his entire career as a screenwriter. “If it’s a novel, we could pursue it with the creative control that only comes with writing for literature — nobody else weighing in, no more cooks in the kitchen than the two of us.”
Skorheim, 35, has been mentored by Thompson in screenwriting since he reached out to him about seven years ago in response to a screenwriting poster Thompson ran in the Seattle Post Intelligencer. Skorheim had been pursuing screenwriting independently while working at KIRO until he linked up with Thompson.
“He let me come and talk to him about screenwriting,” Skorheim said. “He’s mentored me in breaking stories and writing scripts.”
Since then, the two have written films and TV scripts for Universal Pictures, Fox Television, and more. When they had the idea for The Foundling — a teenage girl who discovers she was abandoned as a child by time-traveler parents and must find her way home to the future — they decided to try their hand at writing a book instead of a screenplay so that, Thompson said, they could “creatively control the franchise from beginning to end.”
About a year after writing The Foundling, the two had the idea for The Queen of Oz, a contemporary take on The Wizard of Oz, and dived into writing that together as well.
“It’s obviously a different craft than screenwriting, and we have to be mindful of YA thriller genre,” Thompson said. “But it’s been incredibly gratifying to be able to come up with our own ideas and see it through from beginning to end. When we write a screenplay, we give it to agents who send it to producers in Hollywood, and if they’re interested, they take it in to studios, and if they’re interested — if you’re lucky — someone wants to buy it. You’re at the mercy of the powers that be. They all have to sign on and share your vision.”
In the world of self-publishing, however, the two have had much more control over their vision for their work. They decided to self-publish through Amazon, which, they discovered upon doing some research, controls about 80 percent of the self-publishing market.
“Without a great deal of difficulty, we could do everything ourselves,” Thompson said. “Our two books are available on Amazon to be read by anyone and everyone, and that alone has been incredibly gratifying.”
“Coming from the world of screenwriting, where it takes so long to get anything going, the idea that we can have people responding to what we’re doing and reading our work is really exciting,” Skorheim added. “The freedom of going straight to the reader is amazing.”
“As silly as it might sound, one day each of our kids can sit on their beds and read a paperback for pleasure that their dads wrote,” Thompson said. “You know, no one pulls out a screenplay and reads it. They just want to see the movie.”
While book-writing and self-publishing remain a side gig for Thompson and Skorheim — their bread and butter is still screenwriting — they hope to continue writing novels together: The Foundling is intended to be the first book of a trilogy. If their readers want more, they said they’re more than happy to deliver.
“We’re open to whatever it becomes,” Thompson said. “We follow the demand. If there’s demand for this side of our career, we’ll pursue that as it evolves.”
In navigating the world of book-writing, both writers learned a lot, including the accessibility of self-publishing through a company like Amazon. It made them excited about the immediacy and the ease with which they and others like them are able to share their work.
“There’s a community of people who create books and art, and there’s also a community that chooses to celebrate those people who are daring enough to put their art out there for consumption,” Thompson said. “The only way we survive in a self-published way is for an audience to catch fire and celebrate that this material came to them through an individual who wanted to entertain them. And that’s really all we want to do. Entertain.”