Spring on the York College campus

Risk Taker

By Colleen Karl
Miles Watson and a female actress pose for a photo on the red carpet.
Miles Watson '97 with actress Jennifer O'Dell at the Writers and Illustrators of the Future Awards in Hollywood.

Taking risks are in the nature of Miles Watson ’97 and led him to where he is now. “I always knew I was going to be a writer,” he says. “One day it occurred to me that many of my favorite authors, like Orwell and Hemingway, had lived dangerous, exciting lives prior to becoming famous, and that those experiences were what made them such great novelists.” Watson considered careers other than writing and chose to major in Criminal Justice. He saw it as a way to “gain a lot of life experience quickly, so that my fiction would have more grit and authenticity.”

After graduation, Watson worked in Criminal Justice for seven years. In 2004, he returned to the College to study History, another interest of his. “I had a very successful career, but it’s not the sort of work that leaves a person with a lot of energy when the day is over, and I started to worry that my literary ambitions had fallen by the wayside.” He found himself working closely with his mentor Professor Kay McAdams.

In 2007, Watson decided to take another risk and moved to the West Coast to work in Hollywood’s entertainment industry. “It was a very eye-opening experience, because in this town, plagiarism, exploitation, and double-dealing are considered normal behaviors,” he says. “But for all that, the experiences I’ve had out here have been incredible.”

His first novel, Cage Life, was released in 2016 and has received numerous awards. The book received a Runner Up medal in Shelf Unbound Magazine’s Best Indie awards. Zealot Script Magazine named it Book of the Year in 2016 and awarded it the Best Indie Book award in the category of Mystery/Suspense/Thriller in 2018. Watson has subsequently released a sequel, Knuckle Down, and his short story collection Devils You Know is an Eric Hoffer Awards Finalist for 2019.

“I haven’t lived a conventional life and there have been times when others have questioned my choices – and times when I’ve questioned them myself,” he says. But, the experience he’s gained from being a risk-taker has led him to a fulfilling life and career.