Kelly Mack McCoy is a lifelong Texan who currently lives in San Antonio. He was a professional truck driver for most of his career because he loved being on his own.
For him, driving his truck gave Kelly a reason to escape from his very dysfunctional family. Unfortunately, the dysfunction followed him wherever he went.
Starting at the age of 2, he accompanied his father on regular booze runs from “dry” Tyler, Texas, to Dallas so dad could stock up on liquor.
“My dad remained a drunk for 25 years straight. I remember him literally falling down drunk on the steps of my elementary school,” Kelly explained. “My mother was in and out of mental institutions the whole time I was growing up.
“Back then, when somebody had a nervous breakdown, it was common to treat the condition with electric shock therapy,” he added. “My mother knew she was losing touch with reality and it terrified her. I saw tears in her eyes because she knew that was going to happen again.”
Kelly had two older brothers and a younger sister, but he pretty much had to care for himself. The children basically lived on the streets most of the time, so Kelly pretty much raised himself.
“I didn’t have any direction, a mentor or anyone like that,” said Kelly. “I grew up during the hippie era, but I never called myself a hippie. Drugs were readily available and I was exposed to every drug known to man. I swore up and down I’d never be like my dad, but that’s where I wound up.”
A dormant dream
When Kelly was in his 50s, the trucking company he worked for went bankrupt. But, rather than be disappointed, he decided it was a good time to take his writing seriously. It was a dream he harbored in his heart since childhood.
“Nobody in my family, or even my neighborhood, worked any kind of white-collar job. That wasn’t something I even though was possible,” he explained. “So, when trucking came up, I decided it was something I was going to do just to get away.”
Although Kelly had no formal training as a writer, he dreamed of being one someday. When he traveled, he loved to visit Barnes and Noble bookstores. For him, it was like visiting the library.
“I would go down the aisles and pick out a book at random and read it,” he said. “I’d be so impressed with the prose, but I would tell myself I could never write like that. So, I’d put that book back and pick up another one.
“Then, I thought to myself, ‘Man, this is really bad writing.’ After a while, I began to think if this person could get that book on a shelf, then I knew I could do it, too,” he added. “All this was before self-publishing made it much easier to get a book out.
“Henry Ford once said, ‘Whether you believe you can or believe you can’t, you’re right,’” said Kelly. “Somehow, I always had an idea in my heart that I could be a writer.”
Success in ghostwriting
Starting in 2008, Kelly decided to put his passion to work as a ghostwriter by writing books and manuscripts on behalf of other people. Although his clients paid him for his services, they would get all the credit. Kelly also wound up editing material prepared by others.
“After I started rewriting things for people, I discovered I was good at it,” he explained. “I couldn’t help myself. Whenever I got their material in my hand, I could see how it could become so much better.”
Kelly transformed good writing into material that was more engaging and better organized. Kelly also found ghostwriting to be a great way to write other people’s stories.
“People have some fantastic stories which need to be told, but they wouldn’t write them down,” he explained. “They start with good intentions, but soon realize how much work it takes to write a book.”
About 90% of people say they want to write a book “someday,” but someday never comes. Or, worse, they start writing a book, but get busy, distracted or discouraged with all the work it takes, and quit. The unfortunate result is that great stories never get told.Kelly Mack McCoy
“Non-fiction is easier to write because I’m just telling someone’s stories. They supply the facts, and I assemble the words,” said Kelly. “But, I can write fiction as well. In fact, my first book was a novel. People have an idea in their heads or an outline they’d like to follow, so I’m not writing it out of thin air.”
When Kelly knew he wanted to earnestly pursue writing, he joined a Christian writers group in San Antonio and connected with some awesome people. During meetings, he would meet very good writers who had been published multiple times.
“They kept telling me what a good writer I was, but I didn’t believe any of it at the time,” he added. “But, their input gave me encouragement to keep pursuing my desire to become a writer.”
Eventually, Kelly teamed up with John Floyd Mills, a former writer at the San Antonio Light newspaper, which later merged with the San Antonio Express News.
“He liked my writing style. Because I had a background in trucking, he had an idea that we could partner together on a project,” said Kelly. “We planned to co-write a series of books about a pastor-turned-trucker who hit the road after his wife died.”
After a while, the two men realized their writing styles were too different and they didn’t mesh together. So, they went on their own. John Floyd Mills started his own company called Franklin Scribes Publishers. Kelly, on the other hand, liked the series and wanted to continue the project.
When John Floyd Mills died suddenly in 2015, that prompted Kelly to pursue his dream in earnest.
“It was the final motivation I needed to pick up my pen again and see that novel through to completion,” said Kelly. “‘Rough Way to the High Way’ was my first book, and I plan to write several sequels to it.”
The Sojourner’s Road Home
Kelly’s experience publishing his first book opened the door to writing another one titled “The Sojourner’s Road Home: A 40-Day Journey to the Heart of God.”
He originally envisioned it as a sequel to his first novel and even started writing it that way. However, when COVID turned everyone’s life upside down, Kelly realized that Christians and non-Christians were equally in despair about life.
“The number of suicides just accelerated tremendously. Along with all the civil and social strife, as well as the discord in families, it was a horrible situation,” said Kelly. “People lost their jobs, homes and savings. It caused me to change course as well to write The Sojourner’s Road Home.
“I realized we are all sojourners in life in some way,” he added. “I wrote the book to remind myself and others that even though we are going through trials, we’re just passing through.”
The book is a 40-day devotional to help people get to the heart of God.
“We don’t need to focus on the world and all the terrible things going on in the world’s system,” said Kelly. “Many of us believe a great awakening is underway. People are waking up and realizing things aren’t as they seem.
“For example, politics is a whole world system. But the stories we’ve been told for years just don’t add up,” he added. “People no longer believe the media or the powers that be. There is a great division going on between light and darkness.”
The book is designed for people to read a brief devotional each day. The opposite page is a journal for readers to write down their thoughts, reflections and prayers.
“They can come back and read their entries later and see what progress they made. I can almost guarantee they’ll see tremendous change in their own lives and the lives of people around them,” said Kelly. “The goal is to encourage people to turn their focus away from this world, which will stress anyone out, and turn their attention back to God.”
The book was targeted specifically toward people who travel and are often away from home, their families and the ability to enjoy fellowship with others in a meaningful way.
“There are millions of people who fall into that category. But the book is really for anybody because we’re all sojourners in this world,” Kelly explained.
Coming to faith
Growing up, Kelly never went to church and had no Christian background. The only time he set foot in a church as a child was when he and a buddy would sneak in to get a free meal. But, all that changed in 1985.
“I lived through the Jesus Movement of the 1970s, but didn’t come to Christ at that time. Yet, I was always thinking about God,” he said. “In spite of my background, I had a lot of intellectual objections to faith. But, I was seeking something.
“One day, my wife and I met a man who was an associate pastor and a very unconventional type of person, which is exactly what God knew I needed,” Kelly added. “He explained the gospel in a way that was as clear as day. I could not deny it.
“However, I wasn’t ready to make a decision, which was rather foolish,” said Kelly. “But, God moved upon me and had me in conviction all night long.
“After a quick shower the next morning, God gave me a vision of a father and a son,” he explained. “I knew at that point the person who died on that cross was God in the flesh. When I realized that, I was completely and totally broken.
“To understand the omnipotent God and creator of the universe would allow himself to be nailed to a cross and die for me, it broke me,” he added.
By associating with other writers over the years, Kelly developed a lot of connections.
“I was taking part in ghostwriting groups where people explained they had too much work to handle on their own and wondered if I could help them,” said Kelly. “I just did that the other day myself by referring someone to another writer because the project and client weren’t a good match.”
He occasionally looked for ghostwriting jobs on sites, like Upwork, where he found some diamonds in the rough.
“Once you put yourself out there, things start happening,” said Kelly. “I have the personality where I can talk to anybody. The No. 1 thing we need to do is just get out there and network.”
Many writers realize that, regardless of how many times they review their own work, they need someone with fresh eyes to read their material to ensure it makes sense to others. For that reason, Kelly also provides editing services.
“I’ve learned to write something and set it aside for a week or two, then go back and look at it. I’ll see things which I can’t believe were there the whole times. Sometimes I can’t believe I wrote it,” said Kelly. “Every time I sit down to write I have to overcome some degree of impostor syndrome.”
Good writing is really a rewriting process, Kelly explained. To make something good, it has to be rewritten, and often several times.
“Even Ernest Hemingway once said all first drafts are (fill in the blank) and you can fill in that blank,” he added. “So when famous authors say that about their own writing, it works to encourage the rest of us.”
When Kelly wrote his first novel, he rewrote parts of it over and over again to the point he thought it might never be ready for publishing.
“Then I would give it to someone else to read, and that person would tell me it was so good it really needed to become a movie,” he explained. “When you read it over and over, it becomes too common because you’ve seen it too many times. But, when you step back and read it again, you often get a better perspective.”
Overcoming self-doubt about his own abilities was Kelly’s biggest challenge.
“I was around some very good writers and I often thought I didn’t belong in that group,” he explained. “I persevered, but it really took the death of my mentor, John Floyd Mills, to push me forward.”
Advice for people over 50
If Kelly had to start over, he said he would change just above every aspect of his life.
“But, if I could really go back in time, I would pursue the things God put in my heart much earlier than I did,” he explained. “I knew I was made to do certain things. But I had to go through some things that molded and shaped me first, in order to have the ability to write like I can now.”Kelly Mack McCoy
“I went through so many things in my life that I am not intimidated by anybody. Nothing surprises me,” he added.
“People come up to me all the time and say things like, ‘Don’t judge me, because you’re not going to believe my story,’” said Kelly. “I just smile to myself and think, ‘If you knew all the things I went through, you wouldn’t worry about me judging you. That’s God’s job.”
Kelly understands many people over 50 still have family responsibilities or a job which requires their full attention. Yet, even if they have a vague idea about what they want to do with the rest of their lives, they should take a baby step toward that vision.
“Just take a small step. If it’s writing, then start writing. The same with singing, art or whatever you feel called in your heart to pursue, just take that step,” he explained. “You might not think what you do is very good when starting out, but that’s okay.
“There are all kinds of opportunities available out there. Just hook up with some people who are already doing what you want to do and connect with them,” said Kelly.
“I can do coaching as well. I’ve been through the whole writing process,” he explained. “So I can lead you through the process and connect you to people who can help you get published. Whatever help you need, just let me know and we’ll get ‘er done.”
If you order any of Kelly Mack McCoy’s books from the links above, Forward From 50 may earn a small commission.
After closing his business and enduring several painful years of uncertainty regarding what to do with his life, Greg founded Forward From 50 to help men and women over 50 to live more purposeful lives by pursuing things they are passionate about. A Wisconsin native, Greg currently lives in Arizona.