A nibble comes in, one admiring but not entirely won over, and yet again you find yourself crafting a book proposal to suit a particular audience of one. You like this audience of one, and you take their comments seriously, but you resolve not to internalize those comments at the expense of your own vision for the book. It's hard work, especially with a novel on hold for a week or so, but at last you find a way back inside the material. What comes out is a blend of the new, the old, and the very old. The one temptation you can't resist is the temptation to throw a piece of it out there the moment it rolls off your virtual platen.
So that's one place you could say it all started, my first day as a missionary in Canada. But you could also rewind a couple of years if you wanted, to a lonely back road somewhere east of Victorville in the California desert, and say it all started there. That's where, late in 1984, my father sprang a terrifying question on me.
"Son," he asked that afternoon, "do you want to serve a mission?"